Jonathan Schork

Born and raised in New York State’s Catskill Mountains, followed by another quarter century in a solar house on the end of an island in the Florida Keys, Jonathan Schork’s life experience has imbued him with a deep love of the beauty of nature. An education in the classics has inculcated in him an appreciation not only for the totality of things, but also with a profound sense of stillness. Creating artworks across a broad spectrum of media, from literature, film, & music through couture and cuisine to sculpture, painting, and photography, Schork has won awards in all his major media, and has enjoyed a successful, if eccentric, career path. He shares a condemned home he renovated into his current studios with a stray cat, a stray girl, and his mum.

Thaliodomide #12

Midway Plaisance

2019
The Dance of the Nereids

Lincoln Park

2020

Following up on tree-carving work I did in the Florida Keys during the 90s & 00s (partly inspired by the Ewing book, “The Body” [Chronicle books, 1994]), I was interested in creating the latest in a series called Thalidomide, this one number 12 in the series. The trunk and major branches are reduced to create a hand with fingers that have the appearance of a limb influenced by the pregnancy drug thalidomide, the concept being two-fold: 1. by questioning subjective notions of the beautiful and the grotesque, thereby destigmatizing anatomical deformities & amputations with a sculpture that celebrates unconventional morphology; and, 2. to continue to draw attention to the deleterious biological effects of drugs, toxins, and environmental pollutants on humanity, and especially on children and the poor (which is more timely now, as the EPA & FDA are increasingly neutered by current politics). During construction I met many interesting people eager to chat with me about the project, but the standout was a little girl named Lou: inquisitive and attentive, she visited early in the process and returned just as I was completing the sculpture, fascinated by the dimensions and features of the “organs” of my work. While I do not expect many children to derive the same understanding of the work as adults, the involvement of children in public artwork may be our most important contribution to community.

As a lifelong classicist—not only in sculpture, but even in literature & music—I derive a great deal of inspiration from classical sources. The Dance of the Nereids is derived largely from classical Greek mythology, in which the nereids are the daughters of Nereus, a primordial deity of the sea, and represent everything that is beautiful and desirable about the sea. The nereids make appearances in The Iliad (Thetis, the mother of Achilleus, is a nereid), and in the Aeneid (the nereid Opis, as directed by the goddess Diana, kills an Etruscan in revenge for the murder of Camilla, a legendary warrior-woman). In modern Greek culture, the nereids have become interchangeable with all supernatural “faeries”, diluting their ancient association with the sea. As a former fishing boat captain, the fickle, mercurial nature of the sea is often much in my mind, and the nereids remain an interesting metaphor for the personification of it. What I have attempted to accomplish in The Dance… is thematically to transform the “earth-element”—wood—into a “water-element”—sea—and add my abstract steel figures to that scaffolding as a personification of it. The figures are formed entirely from steel cut-offs and scraps recycled from the cutting room floor, and demonstrate the “stretched-out”, elongated form I prefer to use for many of my human figures in both clay and steel. At its heart, The Dance… is intended to be a playful piece, but it also offers us the opportunity to visit some of the formative myths and stories of our culture, to encourage children in a curiosity about those myths and stories, and to celebrate the continued presence of Greek culture as a vibrant element in our own current society. Meantime, the Jews have a wonderful tradition of leaving a pebble in memoriam to a lost loved one, and in that spirit, I invite you to leave some small token of the sea—a shell, a bit of coral—to add to this sculpture and remember someone you love…