As part of Herts Visual Arts’ annual ‘Open Studios’ event, Heather Jukes is welcoming visitors into her studio, to explore a fascinating space where science meets art.
With a background in biology, and more specifically genetics, Heather returned to university as a mature student to study Fine Art to MA level. She has a keen interest in the human body, reproduction and the inheritance of DNA, which is evident through her work.
As I walk into her small (but delightful!) garden studio, I’m met with a broad variety of sculptures depicting the female form. Some are quite recognisably human, whilst others are more abstract, but all have that certain ‘something’ which feels unmistakably feminine.
Sitting on a shelf around the top of the room is a row of Modroc figures, which Heather explains are made to sit one on top of the other, in the style of Maori house posts. As Maori sculptures are traditionally male, Heather’s work ‘redresses the balance’.
Other, smaller sculptures are displayed across the worktop, such as Luna, which consists of little female bodies, connected by twine in the shape of a crescent moon. A similar piece, Osseum, depicts a chain of connected bodies, which from a distance look like the vertebrae of a spine. Each head sits between the legs of the figure above, again suggesting ideas of birth and lines of descent.
Heather explains her fascination with mitochondrial DNA, which is a genetic material passed down exclusively through mothers. Whilst looking at her sculptures of foetal development, we talk about the amazing process of pregnancy and how mind-boggling it is that female babies are born with their own reproductive eggs already in place. (Not being a scientist myself, I describe this as the ‘Russian doll phenomenon’!)
Before I leave the studio, one more piece catches my eye. Amongst a set of very tactile, varnished clay Fertility Pebbles, one white pebble stands out from the rest. Its form is again feminine, with breasts, a curved stomach and wide hips. On the pebble’s bottom, is inscribed a series of letters and numbers, which look like a museum serial number. Heather reveals that this is actually the molecular formula for the hormone Oestrone Glucuronide, which peaks in the female body seven days after conception; another nice detail, which adds to the meaning of the piece.
Heather’s studio is open on three more dates as part of this year’s Open Studios event: Wednesday 27th September, Saturday 30th September and Sunday 1st October (please check the link above for opening times).
I really enjoyed chatting with Heather and learning about her work- I would highly recommend stopping by for a visit.
See more examples of Heather’s work at: http://www.heatherjukes.com
Or get in touch at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you visited any studios yet? Leave a comment or tweet @hertfordarts.