Recently we’ve followed Jason Campioni as he prepared and created his newest work for display at the Cummer Museum and Gardens. In our earlier installment, we reviewed Campioni’s ideological foundations (inspiring questions through social commentary) and saw recent examples of their manifestations. In this piece, we’ll show their continuations, primarily revolving around his newest series, “The Many Adventures of the Child Actors”.
The motif featured in the article’s main image begins a series of two dimensional works, acrylic on canvas, following two iconic ‘everyman’ symbols- one male, one female. Their relationship seems to be one of co-experience; the series focuses on, in the artist’s words, “the symbols for naiveté, whose childlike (minds) are challenged by their situations.”
These characters represent the ‘abundance of people who never grew up, yet live adult lives, stumbling through existence’. In the first image, the characters are effectively introduced in isolation. Their hand holding seems to imply their unification through common experiences; their gender relationship seems to suggest universality, an attempt to call to the broad audience, a reflection of the permeation of these cross-cultural adventures in all of our lives.
The most finished large image in the series, titled 'Child Actors in ‘Communications Failure’', portrays the main characters exiting image top left, after a golden path led them through a highly monitored staircase surrounded by ominous storms. The mirrors, eyes, and cameras all suggest a 1984-esque experience of action; the broken heart between characters sets up some future discord and insinuates some present disenfranchisement. The questions that arose in my mind, as an observer, before I interviewed the artist, revolved around the journey and the struggle contextualizing it. Is the disconnect of the children a result of the monitored nature of the path or the harrowing circumstances through which the path led them? Does the golden stairway imply an economic commentary as it does in ‘The Wizard of Oz’? Is the heartbreak one of a personal nature, an indicator of a separation of the two co-adventurers, or is the heart representative of the shift in consciousness both adventurers experienced as individuals relating to their overarching social structure?
When I raised these questions, Campioni seemed satisfied, not with the questions themselves, but with the action of asking. This seems to be the most fundamental theme of his work; as I overheard (and gained permission to quote) during one of his intermittent conversations with fans, “(the work is) a little bit of commentary, a little bit of question”.
Another debuting image, “Local Warming”, also carries this intent. The paper cut into leaves for this collage was all taken from a local publication and all refers to local events. The colors visually mirror the idea of warming, even down to the shading of the individual marks constituting the trunk of the tree. I couldn’t help but ask myself, ‘Does this image refer to the national conversation about global warming or is this a metaphorical commentary on the local art scene, currently blooming into a nationally recognized talent factory?’ This type of ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ observer response is central to Campioni’s work.
One observer noted aloud, upon taking in the entire display, “I see growth.” As I had Jason off to the side at that moment, I was able to ask him immediately if he was satisfied with this response. He beardedly explained how this was an ideal response to the work; from what I gathered during the rest of the interview Campioni’s work seeks to raise a basic question of whether technological advances for their own sake are social growth or social pragmatism- are they advancing us functionally or are they simply self-evidencing their own necessity? Is technological advance truly growth at this point? Do we need an iPhone 7?
Growth of society falls secondary to what I surmise is Campioni’s unstated intent- the growth of the mind of his audience. In talks, we’ve learned about the artist’s intent to present both question and comment; it is this ambiguity among asking and telling which serves the art’s intended function of growing the perspective of the observer. By simultaneously asking and telling, Campioni invites both the assertive, stating minds and the observant, asking minds to participate in the work. It is this participation which Campioni strives for, not any particular result deriving thereof. We’ll track these themes of participation and growth through the evocation of question as Campioni finishes the Child Actors series, reconnecting with him in the near future at Native Sun Natural Foods Market, where the final image in the series debuts.
Finally, a correction- in our first article we titled an image ‘The Useless Eaters’; this image actually contains two works, firstly the sculptures of the above title and secondly their backdrop- a multimedia work titled ‘Wave of Mutilation’. See slideshow for clarification.