Faculty Profile: Jess Perlitz
August 01, 2013
The following Q&A is part of a series created by the Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences to introduce new faculty. Get to know Assistant Professor of Art Jess Perlitz, who joins the faculty this fall, in the interview below.
Education: M.F.A. 2009, Tyler School of Art, Temple University; B.A. 2001 Bard College.
Research and teaching interests: Sculpture—and within that, drawing, performance, community-based practices, and collaboration.
What most excites you about joining the Lewis & Clark community?
Lots of things excite me about joining this community, including the students and my new colleagues. It’s clear that L&C is about an education that is engaged with the world around us and that’s the way I teach. I had a wonderful experience attending a small liberal arts college for my undergraduate studies. Since then I have attended and taught at much larger universities. I’m thrilled to be back in an environment where there is a close-knit community. It lends itself to the kind of learning, teaching, and cross-discipline conversations that make sense to me.
Describe the current trajectory of your scholarly research.
I make large sculptures that are objects that can be used (climbed, activated by the viewer, spoken through, etc.). They address ownership over space and the ways we communicate about those places. I am as interested in how the artwork can be used and engaged with as I am in the pageantry of participation and the symbolic aspects of that. Recently I have been making more performance-based work as I consider various histories of art-making dedicated to political use-value, such as constructivism, productivism, and the more recent turn in art towards the social. This trajectory has taken me from playgrounds and open fields to clown training, marching bands, and an upcoming trip to the arctic circle.
What kind of hobbies or special activities do you enjoy outside of work?
I have been learning how to play ice hockey for a long time and I play some instruments, though I am remarkably terrible at both of these things. I think my hobbies are a way for me to actively practice humility.
What were your childhood goals/aspirations?
I wanted to be a poet and at the same time I wanted to be the first woman to play major league baseball.
What are you listening to in your car right now?
I keep switching between an Arthur Russell album (Another Thought) and the radio (NPR). Arthur Russell was an American singer-songwriter and avant-garde composer. It’s hard to describe his work—somehow it manages to be equal parts classical music and disco.
What was your favorite childhood story?
That if you ate Fizz Wiz and drank a Coke at the same time, your stomach would blow up.