In Conversation: Jackie Dives
Through photography and installation, Jackie Dives’ ‘Becoming Not a Mother’ invites the viewer into the highly personal process of coming to terms with a life-altering choice.
In this interview, we speak to Dives about how art-making interacts with her experience of the world, experimenting with different mediums, and how the BAF residency influenced the final work.
Tell us about your experience in the BAF artist residency.JD
It was a valuable experience for me to have a studio space to go to every day where I could show up for my art process. Having access to a space that is dedicated to art making was a game changer for me and it has been difficult to adjust back to working without a studio space. Themes of self care and healing were important elements of my project, and the residency ended up functioning as part of that process. It was a space of nurturing for me. It was a space to be fully myself and allow for experimentation, introspection, and growth.
You work in both film and digital photography. What are your different experiences like with these two formats? Do you prefer one over the other? Which did you use predominantly for this show?JD
All of the work created during my residency at BAF was made with film cameras. I grew up making photos before digital cameras existed, and the picture-making I yearn for is the one that connects me back to that feeling. For me, digital image-making is not something I do by choice, but out of necessity for speed and cost effectiveness while on assignment or creating something for a client. When I photograph using a digital camera I get wrapped up in the wrong things, such as technical perfection, instead of the things that actually matter to me.
How does your career as a photojournalist inform your personal practice?JD
What I love about photojournalism is its ability to deepen our understanding of current events. I don’t think anyone would deny the power that photography has to instantly engage us in situations of injustice and power. I think that urgency and possibility is what transfers over from my photojournalism to my personal practice.
You included a quilted bed in your exhibition – was this element of installation new to you? What can you tell us about creating this part of the show?JD
I have been creating textiles since I was a little kid. Sewing, crochet, cross-stitch, weaving and embroidery have always been a part of my life and I guess you could say they’re a silent influence on my practice. Specifically, making blankets has been something I seem to do during times of transition or fallow periods. However, they are usually crocheted. I think there is an immense power in what we generally call “craft” but it hasn’t been until recently that I have allowed myself to incorporate those things into my art. Combining a craft-type installation item with my photography is new for me, but it has opened up a world of possibility and I think it is something I will do more often in the future.
Your show was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Do you look at the works differently now in light of those events?JD
I don’t really look at the works differently, but the COVID-19 pandemic provided me with clarification about who I am as an artist. It became undeniably evident that I make photographs to deal with whatever I am experiencing in the world, regardless of the limitations imposed. Photography is the way I communicate.
Do you think making art about women’s issues is a way to create more space for women who make unconventional choices such as choosing not to have children?JD
Yes. I think art is one of the best ways to open people’s minds to alternative ideas. I also believe that hearing other people’s stories is how to break down stigma attached to unconventional life choices. I create my photos as a way to help me figure out what’s going on for me, but the reason I feel it’s important to exhibit and share the work is to enable a conversation about it. When someone picks up the book I made about my choice not to become a mother they are helping me finish the work. They are participating in the conversation I am trying to have about the topic. My choice made me feel alienated and invisible so I hope that by making work that reflects on unconventional choices I am making work that allows others to feel seen.
Jackie Dives’ ‘Becoming Not a Mother’ is on view at BAF until Saturday, August 1st.