The Land and the Fog

Jones uses both oil and industrial paints – oil for intimate portraits and clearance house paint for more flat, composite landscapes, setting up a dichotomy of intimacy and distance, with both kinds of measurement offering a visual comfort. Her subjects are varied, from a bedroom portrait of a woman, head turned, to a series of refuse, from garbage bags to large bins to a candid shot of recyclable bottles. There is both a closeness and distance in the latter subject, a mystery in presentation that plays in light and shadow, intimacy and repulsion within the quotidian expense of everyday living.  

Jones’ landscapes bear an influence of early animation as a kind of modern classicism. One is based on an emoji image of the iconic Great Wave of Kanagawa painted by Hokusai. In another a cartoonish cow skull sits in a lime green color field in a spare landscape save for a dinner table in the foreground. The ecological imbalance is further brought out in a couple of larger paintings that pair points of view from a home, a bedroom and a kitchen window, with shadowy landscapes of oil and fracking equipment and workers. The pairing disrupts the serenity of comfort with an anxiety over the sources of modernity, which physically reap an environmental toll.

Two paintings focus on larger household appliances, a washing machine and an air conditioner.  The washing machine is cropped closely, creating an almost claustrophobic air, and gesturing to the beholden-ness and worship that these devices have come to represent in daily life. There’s a sleekness and longevity of modern technology that dominates compared to the portrait of the human subject. The washing machine would not turn its head away in modesty as the figure of the woman does, and instead appears on a scale that dwarfs the canvas.

Meanwhile, the air conditioner only takes up half of its painting, with the top showing a leafy outside world that cannot quite be discerned in much detail due to the blocky necessity of the appliance. The objects are not necessarily unsympathetic. There is a joy and wonder to them as well as an alluring pristine, but also a concern expressed in the magnitude that each object takes up in reference to the landscape around them, as if the natural world is slowly receding into an obscurity that becomes harder and harder to discern. Jones’ usage of different methods, working from both photographs and life, adds a familiarity and a longing to each work, of moments captured and yet far away, at times in an opposition of what is natural and what has become natural but isn’t, and which may be replacing the world as we know it for an addictive convenience that shouldn’t feel quite as belonging as it does.

The oil industry is a subject that Jones has returned to time and time again and again in her work, informed by her family history and her time spent in West Texas and New Mexico. In The Land and the Fog, she intertwines imagery from a recent visit to an oil rig outside of Carlsbad with subject matter close to home, taken from her apartment, where she paints, in Clinton Hill. The paintings were made during the unusually hot summers of 2022 and 2023. The lone figure wears a bathing suit. The a/c unit was necessary as the temperature rose.

Jones’ materials echo with environmental reverberations. Latex (plastic) paint depicts wave after wave of blue water. Oils create the slick surfaces of plastic. Ceaseless flows of trash are not unrelated to distant drilling sites thousands of miles away, as the fossil fuel and plastics industries are deeply interconnected.

Rather than depict the horizontality of place, Jones repeats, collages, stacks, and layers imagery like roots. Inherent in this sense of time is the fossilization process that gave birth to the oil industry, a byproduct of which is fear of the corrosion of the present in order to extract temporary power. Jones’ works, however, are not fearful. They are confident, precise, and often colorful, offering painting as a way to see and remember.

Text by Edmund Berrigan