Some would typically imagine tape as a fast and efficient way to mend what’s been broken. However, with a seemingly mundane tool, Philadelphia-based artist Jay Walker is able to create works of art in a new exhibit at Rowan’s Art Gallery at 301 High Street.
Jay Walker’s gallery “Archetype” opened on Monday, Jan. 23. It is based heavily around the concept of cloaked figures in a series based on the Theotokos (Greek for “Mother of God”), which exists as an icon throughout various cultures and has become an archetype for Walker’s work.
As part of Rowan’s Artist in Residence Program, Walker will be working on some of his pieces while the gallery is open, interacting with students as they visit the location, according to gallery director and curator Mary Salvante.
“The Artist in Residence Program serves to provide students with an opportunity to observe an artist at work and to engage in dialogue with the artist through talks, demonstrations and open studio visits,” Salvante said. “The program also supports the artistic development of professional artists while advancing creative and artistic excellence within the Rowan community.”
In relation to the questions of universal symbolism in different cultures, Salvante notes that they touch on the symbol of “mother,” but also how it can take on various forms and cultural concepts.
While he worked on one of his pieces in the gallery, Walker gave some insight into the creative process behind his use of the cloaked figure.
He noted that within various works of film, literature and cultures, there is a common theme of a cloaked figure having some sort of significance in each.
“It could just be a cultural hangover before we had pants, but at the same time the cloak and tunic seem to be these universal things that every culture has some connection to,” Walker said.
Walker also noted that while his works draw from symbolism every culture has, his works gradually evolved over the course of his career, stemming from a wide range of artists. However, he was soon drawn to creating his own distinct path outside of the influences he learned from.
“When I got out of graduate school, I started looking for that other side of the coin of all this time drawing the figure,” he said. “So instead of drawing any more nude figures I started drawing clothing without figures.”
Walker’s early works began with empty shirts, empty jackets and empty hoodies, giving form to what was a basis for his own artistic blend, gradually incorporating types of tape into his work as well.
“They were clothes that I felt seemed timeless at least to contemporary American culture… I was looking for these archetypes in our own culture,” Walker said.
He noted that the company Duck Tape allowed him to create his own artistic medium in 2008.
“It was a new medium out there and a number of people around the world were doing the same thing,” Walker said, noting various artists from Philly to Australia using tape as an art form. “It became this movement that we all connected with through Instagram with the hashtag #TapeArt.”
As Walker began acquiring different kinds of tape, he noted the origins of his pieces titled “Theotokos,” which stemmed from early religious conversations about the “God-Bearer.”
“It was what they would call the Virgin Mary… She becomes this universal figure for the mother of God, but that honestly has a pan-cultural concept of incarnation,” Walker said. “So then I started working out this cloaked figure as a way of exploring the idea of the ‘God-bearer,’ and I decided to stick with tape as a way to do it.”
Jay Walker’s gallery “Archetype” opened at the 301 High Street Art Gallery Jan. 23 and is running until March 4. Walker will also be hosting an artist talk Feb. 2 at 5:30 p.m.
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