Jared Theis: Under the Sparkle Sunshine


Jared Theis has just recently opened an exhibition at Clamp Light Gallery, Under the Sparkle Sunshine. I had the pleasure of going to Theis’ home-studio just before his departure for the Berlin Residency Program that he was awarded by Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum in partnership with Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany.

Theis is not an artist you will meet on the typical San Antonio gallery circuit.  His personality leans towards introversion rather than the SA networking hustle; although, he has recently collaborated with mixed-media artist Sarah Fox for a musical accompaniment to a large-scale stop animation projection for Luminaria Contemporary Arts Festival. If you missed it then, the piece Sea of Love will be displayed again at Cinnabar Art Gallery during Sarah Fox’s exhibition Kitty Fisher & The Arañitas in March.

Theis grew up as a military kid, a son of a Lieutenant Colonel. He is a soft-spoken, well-traveled, and a cooking enthusiast. The work that he has currently on display at Clamp Light is an evolution of his practice before Berlin, and I am looking forward to his 2019 exhibition at Blue Star Contemporary to see the artworks inspired by his residency in Berlin.

Theis completed his undergraduate studies in studio art at the University of Texas at San Antonio before working for Catherine Lee, a sculptor living between NYC and the Texas Hill Country for nearly a decade. He moved to California to earn his MFA from the University of California at Davis, where he said the culture suited him well. Before his master’s studies, he was only working in ceramic sculpture and the program at Davis helped push him into new branches of his practice. He explored areas not afforded to him previously such as techno-cultural studies, the history of cinema, and stop-motion animation. He notes Annabeth Rosen as an extremely influential professor who challenged him in all the right ways to push his artistic limits.

For his master’s thesis project, he transformed his previous work of ceramic sculptures to endurance performance. The artist fabricated an incredibly dense and complex suit out of ceramics that looked like muted coral reefs that he adorns.

From there, he started to fabricate worlds of animations and mythologies. And it was only natural to him to also write film soundtracks. He calls some of the videos on his website “music videos.” Inspired by his religious youth, hymnals often appear in his work to “promise a utopian world behind death, and that everything is going to be okay.” Hymnals tie ideas of protection to the armored characters he produces that are similarly shielded. They camouflage into their environment and simultaneously spawn from them as well.

On our visit, we spoke about other artists connected to San Antonio. I mentioned that he might enjoy looking into the ceramic performance works of Andrew Leo Stansbury, and Theis stated his admiration for Jennifer Ling Datchuk’s use of ceramics within her performances. Theis said that he recognized how conservative ceramics had been for so many years (primarily associated with craft and the utilitarian) and he wanted to break that down. He was tired of being called a ceramicist in some derogatory gesture as if a minor subset of sculpture.

He noted Ingrid Torvund as an international artist of influence on his practice. Theis lived in Oslo for four years and they were both awarded a Kunstnerstipend Artist Grant by the Norway Arts Council. Most definitely a connection can be found with their otherworldly wearables, elaborate fictional landscapes, and diverse creatures. There is an element of European children’s programming gone awry that is defiantly a commonality between the two artists.

Ingrid Torvund  Magic Blood Machine

Jared Theis
A literary influence for Theis is Joseph Campbell’s Primitive Mythology (The Masks of God), but he states that he also connects his work to Japanese Noh Theater –because it is without language and offers climatic body movements. Indeed, the massive costuming and slow, poetic gestures correlate. And plots from both are derived from legends and other phantasmagorical worlds.

Under the Sparkle Sunshine is on display currently at Clamp Light Artist Studios & Gallery until March 2nd featuring sculptures, costumes, and multi-media installations by Theis. The gallery is coated in a pink striped environment with flat plastic clouds and contains crocheted sculptures with hermaphrodite features throughout. A sexual fluidity and disturbance are prevalent. Although there are many phallic sculptures, the vagina is a dominant focus. Barricaded vaginas, the flowering vagina, and the vagina dentata. The infamous vagina dentata threats injury to the point of potential castration through the sexual act with the vagina that contains teeth.  The concept has many counties of origin, and its use is tied into Theis’ love of mythology.

In a world of volatile relationships, at least in this environment, the artist steps into the role of a higher power as he not only creates the creatures but also designs their extinction.

To see more works by Jared Theis, check out his website http://www.jaredtheis.com/


Alana J. Coates is a gallerist, educator, and curator.  She is the guest curator at Clamp Light Gallery in March for a dynamic group exhibition focusing on artists working with contemporary embroidery, Thread opens March 9th.  This excerpt was originally published on her blog https://alanajcoates.com/2018/02/28/jared-theis/

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