May 1 – May 28, 2021
It is with great pleasure that the Slide Room Gallery presents our current exhibition, CARYATID. This solo exhibition by visual artist Jessica Ziakin Cook (Victoria, BC, Canada) explores the decaying fragments of ancient, Greek pillars in female forms. In this new body of work, Ziakin Cook interprets the strength of these lasting structures through fragile mediums: ink, chalk and graphite on paper. Her thoughtful work investigates these symbolic statues in a methodical, repetitive and contemplative way, inviting us to join her as she seeks to know her subjects on a deeper level, addressing the tradition of the female form in Western art history and confronting the enduring vulnerability of these crumbling structures.
Online Artist Talk
CARYATID by Jessica Ziakin Cook
Built around 420 BCE, the Erechtheion, or Porch of the Caryatids, is adorned with columnar supports carved in the likeness of draped women with baskets of offerings on their heads. These are caryatids: columns shaped like women.
Athena, the goddess of wisdom, is also the goddess of renouncing femininity; the goddess of integrated masculinity and femininity was at ease in the deeply patriarchal world of ancient Greece. The porch faces the Parthenon, her principal temple and crown of this original ol’ boy’s club, the Acropolis, perpetually processing towards her feast.
Teaching Western Art History, I have become aware of the resurgences of regressive attitudes towards women that attend periods of neo-classicism, and the silent witness of the caryatids to 2,400 years of Western history. My studies of the porch contemplate beauty, freedom, subjugation, tradition and ruin. The concept of a Caryatid transforms arcades of columns in temples and cathedrals alike into a vast multiplicity of monuments; evidence of women’s presence in men’s institutions. Rows and rows of columns of quietly faithful women who’s silent guidance and protection led history’s heroes to success. Goddesses and maidens quietly bringing the feast, holding up the sky, delivering victory. Caryatids all.
My drawings animate an awkwardness with and ignorance of our classical heritage/baggage. Blind contour and perseverant doodling allow me to linger contemplatively over ancient sources of Western tradition and/but result in garbled images that betray my unease with the subjects. Absences, erasures, imbrications, distortions — all are allowed into my drawings to give witness to the ambivalence towards the subject, towards my tradition; a lack of ease combined with an inexorable attraction. The silent ornaments bear structural weight.
Jessica is passionate about art, history, human dignity, and belief. A practicing Anglo-Catholic, she studied Art History, Religious Studies and Psychology at McGill and the University of Victoria. She earned a diploma of visual arts at the Vancouver Island School of Art, where she now teaches art history, creative development, and drawing. After seriously considering applying to the Vancouver School of Theology to pursue ordination Jessica has recently accepted a fellowship to study art history at the University of Victoria, where she will be researching the intersections between theology, art, and activism. She lives with her husband and two young children in Saanich, BC.
CARYATID by Jessica Ziakin Cook
Thank you for viewing CARYATID, a digital exhibition by Jessica Ziakin Cook. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Please stay tuned for new exhibitions coming soon.
©Jessica Ziakin Cook. Images courtesy of the artist.