There’s something more than a little bit scary inside artist Marika Jemma, who spends her days constructing a series of pieces that depict a certain beast. “The beast refers to the darkness that lives inside us and how it comes out,” she says.
Jemma is part of a visual arts collective called Enriched Bread Artists, and some of her work, including a few of the beastlier pieces, will be on display at the collective’s 22nd annual Open Studio. For two consecutive weekends, the public will be invited into the group’s home base — two floors of a renovated bread factory — to peruse art and meet the 22 artists that make up Enriched Bread Artists.
When Jemma contemplates why she’s so obsessed with the idea of an inner beast, one thought comes to mind: “I’m a parent,” she says. “I know they’re not evil, but they’re becoming teenagers, and there’s nothing like children to offer you the opportunity to confront every part of yourself, whether you want to or not.”
Jemma’s female partner brought two kids to the relationship, and Jemma brought one. “It’s not an easy thing for anybody,” she says. “The older one, who is 13, is heading into high school and having serious issues with fear around being ostracized because she is in a same-sex family. That’s in addition to all the other issues that come up when you have a blended family.”
“I’m out, and my partner is out, and we’re almost being forced to be careful and closeted and thoughtful about [our sexuality], and I don’t want to. I’m kind of mad about that,” she says.
Jemma creates art installations from found materials, man-made and otherwise, and she will sometimes incorporate sound or video. One of the manifestations that may be on display at the Open Studio is a 1960s hairdressing chair that she’s doing a variety of sinister things to, such as covering it with fur and makeshift quills. “It has a big dome dryer on it. There’s still an ashtray in the armrest,” she says. “You sit in the chair and you can pull the dome part down, and you look out through some eye holes and it’s like a beast mask. It’s very beastlike.”
She looks forward to seeing what people think of her creations. “It’s a thrill when we welcome people into our studio — when they come in and ask, ‘What were you thinking?’ or ‘What’s going on here?’ and we share a story,” she says. “Then they invite me over to pick up their rusty junk.”