Glenna Jennings : 26_declareimage1.jpg

anything to declare? • New Works on Paper by Iana Quesnell • May-July 2010

A burial flag, a warrior princess, an English saddle and an array of Burro brand saw horses are just some of the sites on the larger map of graphite and paper that Iana Quesnell has created for Anything to declare? at compactspace Gallery in LA. Each component in this pains-takingly rendered suite of drawings and sculpture draws out personal narratives that are embedded within the represented objects, creating a palimpsest of myth, memory and legend that traverses familial and national identities.

As an American resident of Tijuana, Mexico, Quesnell knows quite a lot about traversing borders – she confronts the same tired set of questions every time she leaves Mexico to teach art in San Diego: Where are you going? What were you doing in Mexico? Where do you live? Do you have anything to declare? The show’s title is an evocation of this crossing rite, but it is also a challenge to the artist, the art and the audience all at once – interrogating us as to our own thoughts, feelings and experiences in and around the complicated landscapes of Manifest Destiny that she so subtly evokes.

Quesnell’s work has always had a strong relationship to questions of space and place – whether she is recreating the barracks she inhabited as an American soldier in Bosnia or rendering every nook and cranny of her well-worn yoga mat, her drawings are a love affair with objects and places that have come to pass. The work she has created specifically for compactspace draws upon and complicates this former work. She now offers us more than the history of her own body’s passage through time and space – she brings along the whole family – even the whole nation – implicating us all in the journeys including that of her ancestors from Sicily to Florida and man’s own flight to the moon.

She offers us no less than a handspun version of Baudrillard’s System of Objects, conjuring narratives and histories that reside in everyday objects that range from heirlooms like crocheted table cloths to public/private documents like passports and tourist photos. The genius is the work’s ability to match an impressive skill with poignant subject matter, taking us all the way from a grandmother’s place settings to the final frontier of westward expansion that still haunts our culture – the pregnant void of Outer Space.

Iana Quesnell holds an MFA from UCSD’s pretigious Visual Arts Program. She has exhibited throughout the U.S and Mexico, with solo shows at Tijuana’s CECUT and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. She was the 2006/2007 recipient of the San Diego Art Prize in the emerging artist category. Iana teaches art at USD and lives in Tijuana, Mexico.