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Fleshy, Squishy Fantasy Heap

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Gregory Jacobsen’s creations are not for the squeamish

Flags in butts, drippy cunts, shit beaks, and fleshy chunks of meat caught in seemingly intimate moments: these are the images Chicago artist and musician Gregory Jacobsen chooses to render in his awkward acrylic, confidently sensual world. “I was always interested in weird, fucked-up imagery and I always made ‘shocking’ little pictures,” Jacobsen says, “but it took me a while to really push it in a direction where it transcended ‘shock-art.’”

Jacobsen’s paintings are a trick: the candy-coated colors draw the viewer in, only to confront them with a heap of labia coupled with mangy flesh slabs in a chunky meat heap, or a cheery young girl toppled over with a flag stuck in her vagina, a voyeuristic pig smirking behind her. The viewer doesn’t exactly know how to feel, confronted with these awkward, intimate affairs rendered in unsuspecting hues, an effect Jacobsen is after, although he “wouldn’t say that is the only purpose of [his] work.”

Much like the piles of fleshy, gloopy shapes that walk a fine line between vagina and open wound, the exact purpose of his work is difficult to pin down. Obsessed with failure, ambiguity, and comedic tragedy, Jacobsen appears to care for the characters he creates without fetishizing them. “There’s some misanthropy there…but it usually is a reflection of myself… rather than it being some one-note mocking of something or someone,” Jacobsen says. “Women respond to [the paintings] more than men; men seem to write it off as shock art.”Gregory Jacobsen

Jacobsen’s work, both in painting and in his rabid performances with band Lovely Little Girls, fit cohesively into his ideas of ambiguity. He performs in what appears to be a woman’s ice skating costume, a little pee dribbled on his lycra crotch, a pile of lovely curls atop his head. In his paintings, he often portrays women and children in what some might call depraved or degrading positions in a cheery, childish, unassuming palette. “Someone once gave me a great compliment from my last [paintings] show where they said they really weren’t sure whether or not a woman or man made it. I’m doing something right if I’m able to blur that.”

His performances with Lovely Little Girls are a little less tricky to navigate, though not any less mischievous; throaty Polish lullabies are littered with images as disturbing as Jacobsen’s paintings, though the non-Polish speaking listener would not know. Jacobsen often handles the lead vocals: screamy, warbly, at times yelpy, maybe even a little scary. He’s accompanied by two slinky shirtless men with dreary baby bonnets, a drummer covered in sprinkles and icing (though costumes are subject to change), and a charming Polish woman who punctuates her operatic trills with staccato, guttural growls.

“I am trying to do the same thing on different levels,” Jacobsen says, of the relationship between his paintings and his performances. “But they supplement each other. I get ideas from each that eventually show up and influence the other.” This is nowhere more evident than in the titles Jacobsen chooses for his songs and paintings; paintings with titles like “Blustering Bullies Embark On Bare-Bottom Drill For Doughnut Muscle Diaper Bulge Thrills” and “Sweat Stained Fancy Heap For First Rate Ladies,” sit easily alongside song titles such as, “Dance of the Retarded Girl Slumped Sideways,” and “Pathetic Dance of Failure.”

Gregory Jacobsen“The titles come from doing text cut-ups culled from pulp novels, cookbooks, encyclopedias… I have an old encyclopedia that I have been trying to fill up with these things. I whitewash the pages and paste them in. It’s going to take me forever to fill it.” Which is not to say that Jacobsen is not thoughtfully putting words together. “Turd in mouth rhythms and spluttering alliteration is very important,” he says. “Sometimes more developed writing is based off of the cut-ups, or at least a refining. Despite what people think, I can’t pull this shit out of my ass. This is also how I write lyrics to my songs.”

Though the encyclopedias may serve as a catalyst for painting and performing, Jacobsen describes his approach to painting as “organic. I rarely plan things out and I’m constantly rearranging and changing things. Sometimes I take things from sketches, but it’s never a straight copy, as that would bore me to death.” Jacobsen’s paintings have been described as “grotesque” characterizations of “failure and imperfection,” but Jacobsen, whose artist statement proclaims, “EVERYONE LAUGHS! FAILURE IS FUNNY!” seems to be revisiting that sentiment. “In school I wrote a couple papers on the virtues of failure. These days I am struggling to back that statement up.”

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