For decades I’ve worked with and written about numerous artists. From sculptors to watercolorists, I’ve seen my fair share of visual artists. To my mind they all fall somewhere between these extremes: those who talk about their art ad nauseum but produce little to no art and those who find it hard to talk about their art but eat, live and breathe their creations every minute of every day. Jacqueline Ehle Inglefield falls decidedly closer to the latter.
For many years now her supplies have consisted of snips, punches, needle nose pliers and found objects such as plastic bottles and containers, rusty nuts, bolts, washers, those old metal pop bottle lids, phone cords, and aluminum cans.
After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, she moved to New York City. There, while applying for a job at the Whitney Museum of American Art, she saw Calder’s “Circus” and was electrified by his use of wire and found objects.
“It was a ‘Eureka’ moment for me as an artist,” she says.
Her first recycled piece was a bear made entirely of old dry cleaning hangers, the screen out of old screen doors, and broken light bulb screw-in ends.
“Ever since, I’ve melded my love of crafts, folk art, and fine art, and nurtured my need to recycle,” she says. “My passion is turning trash into art. I am always finding and thinking of ways to increase the ‘green’ content of my work.”
About a decade ago her work changed from mesh to plastics because she wanted to add color into her sculptures. She uses permanent ink pens to paint on clear plastic and also combines the colors from such things as green Mountain Dew bottles. She cuts the plastic into a variety of shapes, colorizes them and painstakingly quilts them together. Her work is akin to stained glass as light plays an important part in the finished project.
“Plastic is all too accessible,” she says. “We as a species have put convenience above our well being with plastic. So as an artist my mission has been to bring this massive problem to our attention.”
In 2016 she started working on the ying and yang of plastic and marrying that with the loss of Southeastern Louisiana coastline. During a residency at A Studio In The Woods she started making plastic shrines that actually surround you.
“That time was momentous for me,” she says. “Just having the time to sit and think and concentrate completely on the work and nothing else was wonderful.”
Her works have been exhibited from New York to San Francisco and her collectors include Wynton Marsalis, Mary Tyler Moore and Bernadette Peters.
“From the strong hands of this emerging artist come magical metal weavings,” said F. Lennox Campello, the editor of Daily Campello Art News, who chose her work for a exhibit he curated. “I picked her because I have been watching her grow artistically for a couple of years, and I am amazed at what she can deliver with creativity, strong fingers and common objects.”
Like so many artists, teaching provides income that helps sustain her work. She teaches at Upturn Arts, and DiscoveryFest, and conducts a workshop at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
It is through her teaching that I know her best. I’ve had the pleasure to employ her and to also work alongside her. The act of teaching is such a brilliant extension of her art. Seeing her sit criss-cross applesauce with her students as she shares her artistic vision is life affirming and thrilling.
“Teaching is strenuous but working with kids, helping them, helps me come to life and ultimately improves my life and my art.”
The following is one of her favorite quotes. It’s from Hubert Reeves: “Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature. Unaware that this Nature he’s destroying is this God he’s worshiping.”
She says: This quote explains quite simply the question I ask myself when creating for the past decade. Why is plastic in such surplus when it is also what is suffocating our planet?”