Jacolby Satterwhite: Mixed-Media Madness

Extreme mosh posh was the phrase that first came to mind when I saw some of the pieces in Jacolby Satterwhite’s online portfolio. Some initial research had informed me that the New York native graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Masters of Fine Arts in Painting, so I was initially expecting to see something classically influenced or proper, and I was surprised at what I saw to say the least. Satterwhite’s pieces were a collaboration of drawings, colors, sculptures, and really just about anything he could use to make something new. His art was random and lively but still well thought out and meant to make a point about anything from emotions to society.

jsa3Satterwhite was exposed to the many walks of life by his two older gay brothers at an early age. In an interview with Out Magazine, a magazine that focuses on a gay and lesbian perspectives, Satterwhite credits his queer sense of style to his brothers. Satterwhite said, “They cared about Thierry Mugler, fashion, clubs, and the city. I basically learned what it means to be gay by the time I was eight.” His brothers would bring him dance tapes that they would play at family gatherings and the tapes became one of many sources that contributed to his later works.

Satterwhite first started making art seriously in high school and later studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art. For his graduation thesis, Satterwhite took inspiration from some of his mother’s sketches and, with encouragement from his professors, he continued incorporating elements from his past into his surprising creations.

jsa1His Island of Treasure solo show at Mallorca Landings Gallery contained many images of animated, neon-colored structures thrown together in impossible ways. And, as if this weren’t intriguing enough, these structures resembled anything from pyramids and funnels to body parts, specifically reproductive organs. When I moved on to his Venmo videos and watched this animated structures come to life, the phrase extreme mosh posh was replace by X-rated Alice in Wonderland and I was instantly wondering what was up with this guy.

On his website Satterwhite said quite simply, “I use video, performance, 3D animation, fibers, drawing and printmaking to explore themes of memory, desire, personal and public mythology” to explain his work, but this is all pretty obvious when looking through his pieces. Both the mixed-media materials and the themes he uses are present, but the real mystery was what the foundation for all of it and what was the meaning of it?

The answer: his mom. But not in the way one might think. In an interview with Yale Literary Magazine, Satterwhite explained, “I was influenced by her [his mother] vigorous output of drawings when I was 5, 6, and 7 years old, and she showed me how to draw and to use the materials that my father would buy for her. She influences me because she has a lot of taste. She also helped me build my queer sensibility, from our habits of watching soap operas, reality television and fashion shows together. And designing objects together.” He goes on to say, “I had every console and I played them 90% of the time especially when I reached adolescence. And television. Pop culture raised me. And, eventually, art.”

Now that makes more sense. He was influenced by the art that his mother made, that he and his mother would make together, and the media that surrounded his everyday life. In one word: Creation. And looking at his art  from that perspective suddenly made it all make sense, or at least for me it did.

jsa2Why was his art riddled with reproductive organs? Why does it focus on things like memory, desire, sex, and mythology? Why does it incorporate so many different styles and types of art? I think it does all this to create something totally and completely new. It creates something different and bold that is bound to stir things up and get people talking. It doesn’t always sit well with some people, but his art is new, it’s different, it’s loud, and it says “look at what I made.”

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I look forward to seeing more of Satterwhite’s work in the future. His art is already so different that I am seriously wondering how he can push it even further outside of the box, but if anyone can keep coming up with new means of innovation and creation, it will be Satterwhite.

~Shannan Rivera