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Insights of an Eco Artist

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In conversation: Jacob Yandle

Insights of an Eco Artist Team

Jacob Yandle is a talented artist whose work delves into the depths of American archetypes and their intricate connection to classical representations of timeless emotions.
Jacob's artistic endeavors are deeply introspective, exploring the intricate relationship between American archetypes and the timeless, universal emotions that pervade humanity. He is fascinated by the cyclical nature of history and the profound connections that can be forged between our contemporary understanding of the world and the historical perspectives communicated through art.

25 May 2023

I was born in Tennessee and received my BFA in painting at the Middle Tennessee State  University in 2019. During that time, I was fortunate to work as a educational supervisor at  the Frist Art Museum in Nashville and as a committee member for the Murfreesboro Art  Crawl. I was then accepted for a Graduate Assistant position at Southern Illinois  University in Carbondale where I am currently working towards a Masters of Fine Art with  an emphasis on Painting.

My current work is introspective of American architypes and their relationship to  classical representations of "timeless" emotions - or rather the characteristics that are  ever present in people. I am interested in the cyclical nature of history and the connections  that can be made between our perception of the current state of the world and historical  perceptions recited to us through art.

Artist Statement 

Identity, for me, has always been more about reactions and less about heritage or  superficial markings. I realized that this definition come out of my own experience as an  American far removed from my cultural lineage and as someone raised in the Catholic church  by two people whom I suspect didn’t really believe in God. I felt, as many around me did, a  sense of disillusion growing up in the South during the early 2000’s. We were burdened by the  commodification of dopamine and the cult of efficiency turning us into machines. In our  personal lives and on the local news, it felt that everything was becoming more complicated,  and we were without suitable role models. 

I prefer to think of us as beings in constant flux. Previously, my interest was events that  enticed us from our sense of individuality and made us one with the moment. I felt this  abduction from individuality strongly at the funeral of a dear friend’s grandfather. I was not  there to tend to my own grief, I was there to commemorate a man I didn’t know, yet I felt that it  was important to be there. This desire to explain the triggers of self-reflection followed me  into my current work. My work has become still frames of people in deep thought, their  dialogue collaged around them. Specifically, I hope to address moments of heightened  awareness of the absurdity through that lens of pseudo- American exceptionalism.  In my current series, I represent the frustrations of Americans through a series of  humorous ‘streams of consciousness’ focused on the interlacing of the absurd and the  mundane. Absurdity, as defined by Camus, is the ‘truth’ that we must all eventually face in our  lives. He concluded that someone who can come to terms with the absurdity of life and lack of  determinable meaning will also become free. I investigate liminal moments when one is  overcome by a sense of disillusionment and sensitive to the absurdisms around them.   Inner narratives such as freedom, anxiety, death, and social responsibility are  represented through historical references, commodities, and text. Appropriated artworks and  symbols contrast contemporary figures as failed role models in a cycle of ever-changing yet  recognizable human problems. Through the figure’s reflections, I highlight cognitive  dissonance in a present-day American landscape. I believe that the event defined by Camus is  not a singular episode, instead a series of intermittent gasps for breath. It begins with  cognitive dissonance that develops into disillusionment to then be either forgotten or accepted. The figure silently rebels within a system that they are helpless to fully disengage. My work  becomes a recoiling from the banality of a false life and an escape into the absurd.

To begin, tell us a little about yourself. How did you get into the arts? When you first became interested in art, did you realize you wanted to be an artist?

I was definitely one of the art kids since kindergarten, but I became committed to art as a career path in college where I was originally studying audio production. Before that, painting was a great outlet for me to speak without being heard. It is very therapeutic to get things out on canvas and I’ve continued to think of it that way, which really evolved into the style I have now. I start out each painting as a writer. My sketchbook has a lot of loose poems and notes from different things I have read throughout my week. The decision to start translating something into a painting happens when I can’t get it off my mind and I feel like I know what I’m attempting to say. Collage really helps me play into this feeling of trying to resolve something while also allowing me to directly reference my research notes. Really, my paintings are like those walls of polaroid’s and red yarn that obsessive detectives have in movies.

In your bio, you mentioned that your work" is introspective of American archetypes and their relationship to classical representations of "timeless" emotions - or rather the characteristics that are ever present in people". Can you deconstruct these ideas for us?

When I say archetypes, I’m refereeing to Jung’s 12 categories you could divide people into – especially fictional characters that portray a certain aspect of humanity. A few of the ones he names are the innocent, lover, jester, and hero and most people are pretty aware of these types of characters even if they don’t know that Jung sort of organized this list. What I really like about the list is that it doesn’t, in my mind, assume to be absolute and as time goes on, we can see them develop and adapt as we do. In my latest series, I focus on an archetype that Shakespeare was very good at, the “tragic hero.” Basically, when I think about my perspective on Americans, I see a lot of truly virtuous, even sometimes very courageous, but flawed people who can’t seem to escape circumstance. The work is sort of a love letter to people in my life as well as a critique of a system that crushes humans into crude oil.

Timelessness was a consideration I made using direct references to art historical paintings. My intention was to impose a situation that we could separate ourselves from and look at objectively like a painting of the bubonic plague and relate it to a narrative that exists in our time. Although we have all this great artwork, film, and writing about things like death and love, each one of us has to work that out for ourselves and that self-confrontation is a timeless act that everyone must experience.

Hue by Jacob Yandle. Image courtesy of Jacob Yandle.

What role does humor play in your current series, and why do you find it effective in conveying your message?

Humor is definitely an escape mechanism when things are getting too serious. I really like having moments in paintings that break the tension of everything else happening. It is important to not take things too seriously and I think that personal philosophy requires you to be able to laugh at even situations that cost you a lot of reflection.

One of your submitted oil paintings is called "A Face in the Crowd". What can you tell us about this artwork? What was the motivation behind it?

“A Face in the Crowd” gets its title from a 1957 film of the same name. In the movie, this really morally corrupt person gains fame for his musical talents and then absurdly lifts himself to a high position in government and as a voice of the people. I really recommend it, especially in the current political climate. The painting shows myself eating fast food and reading a newspaper that is filled with events of about 2021-2022 when we all felt like the world was going to end any day. On the wall behind me is a painting from the roman empire telling the story of a man who is found out to be plotting a coup against the senate. The painting is a statement about the embedded corruption of Western culture and a statement of guilt for my own complacency within it.

A Face in the Crowd by Jacob Yandle. Image courtesy of Jacob Yandle.

How do you balance historical references with contemporary figures in your artwork, and what effect do you hope this has on the viewer's perception of the present-day American landscape?

Going back to the idea of timelessness, It feels like Westerners are raised on narratives of how great everything is and the mysticism of our own exceptionalism, so it feels that having historical references manifested as hallucinations of a mind trying to work through issues was important. It is hard to perfectly sum up in words, but I mean to say that for me to understand myself or for me to work towards a sense of authenticity, I have to separate all of these instincts that come from being raised in a nationalistic Christian environment. We use other people to figure out our own identity, and unfortunately, we don’t get to pick who those people are for a large part of our development

Can you speak to the concept of cognitive dissonance in your practice, and how it relates to the theme of absurdity?

Cognitive Dissonance is having two conflicting notions exist in your mind at once. I think of it as the beginning of personal progress. Absurdity in the work is this feeling that the way things are currently is wrong or unreal, a feeling I think many people can recognize happening to them when they started to reconsider how they interacted with the world. I reference back to Camus’ “the Death of Sisyphus” where he says that everyone will at some point come to this realization that our everyday existence is absurd, and then they must choose to give in or get out.

Native hue of Resolution by Jacob Yandle. Image courtesy of Jacob Yandle.

Do you have a specific piece or series that you feel particularly proud of and what inspired it?

My series, “Ad Nauseum” which I’ve been working on for the last three years in grad school is one of the most complete reflections I’ve made. One painting in it called “Native hue of Resolution” plays off of the monologue from Hamlet. To be or not to be…. I was really happy with this painting because it felt like it best summed up what I wanted to say across the whole series. Optimistically, we should accept that suffering is a constant thing but manageable by taking authority in the way we choose to live. My Hamlet figure bids adieu and looks over all the madness around him before leaving the stage in search of something more fulfilling.

In your opinion, what are some of the most pressing social issues facing Americans today?

Just within the scope of social issues, I think that our generation is currently trying to untie a huge knot of misconceptions, xenophobia, and easy lies that have existed for a long time in Western culture while also trying not to make new mistakes. The biggest problem is that we have too many people who think that if they change their minds, it is an admission of being wrong and that is an uncomfortable thing to do. I can admit that I have had to unlearn a lot of things and it is very uncomfortable to confront issues that you have invested so much time pretending isn’t there.

Hindsight by Jacob Yandle. Image courtesy of Jacob Yandle.

How has your background in education and involvement in art organizations influenced your artistic practice?

It has mainly been just a long stream of conversations and perspectives that have helped me evolve as a person and an artist. I can’t really imagine who I would be if not for all the friends and colleagues I have met.

Lastly, is there any artist, podcast, book, or platform you would like to recommend?

“A Face in the Crowd” is a good movie!

Know more abou the artist here.

Cover Image:

Saturn devouring General Tso by Jacob Yandle. Image courtesy of Jacob Yandle.

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