Goldilocks Meets the Joneses, 2004

Jessica Smith

Location: Seattle, Washington
Click above to view the full-size image

Specializing in the design of textiles, wallpaper, and china, Jessica Smith uses elements of domestic design to explore contradictions. Although her products seem innocuous enough at first glance, upon further study, they often contain highly ironic commentaries on contemporary life, remixed within well-known historic textile patterns.

Smith combines traditional, intricate weaving techniques, including matelassé, Jacquard, and damask, with highly decorative scenic designs emulating eighteenth-century French toile de Jouy and nineteenth-century American chintz. Within historical motifs such as rococo flourishes, landscapes, chinoiserie, and natural florae and faunae, Smith blends in banal elements of suburban life, including garbage trucks and track housing.

Each of Smith’s designs offers a mini-narrative which the designer hopes the users or occupants can “finish from their own memory.” In one series, for example, sea monsters eat Apache helicopters. Her contemporary toile Trash Day depicts the familiar ritual of leaving the trash out on the curb. Smith’s contemporary chintz Suburban Garden is informed by the history of the pattern. Blockprinted on hand-woven, glazed cotton, chintz was imported from India in the eighteenth century, and its characteristic patterns were of flowers, animals, and decorative devices. Although stylistically similar to its earlier incarnations, Smith’s chintz contains images of contemporary suburban flowers, each one representing a narcotic.

Traditional chinoiserie designs on textiles and wallpaper reflected the wave of European imitation and interpretations of Chinese styles—or those perceived to be Chinese—during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The intricate and elaborate decorations on Smith’s Spying on China, however, convey a distinctly contemporary edge. American military surveillance planes fly among the traditional Asian-style motifs. This overtly political statement emphasizes the complicated history between Asia and the West.

Through Smith’s designs, our homes become a reflection of our contemporary psyche, and offer a unique opportunity for self-expression and commentary. As the Seattle-based designer notes, “While often ironic in its interpretation, I intend for my [artwork] to make a more inclusive statement. I hope to make work that sets a stage for thoughtful conversations.”