Eugene Weekly : Visual Arts : 8.4.11


Chewy Dystopia
The art of Jud Turner
by Dante Zuñiga-West

Take H.R. Giger’s aesthetic and smash it into the carcass of a Francis Bacon painting. Lace this combination with the science fiction landscapes of movies like 12 Monkeys or Children of Men. Put a little bit of steam-punk on it, then sprinkle some psychedelics in there: What results is the visual art universe of Jud Turner. 

Photo by Trask Bedortha

A homegrown Eugenean, Turner creates gorgeously disturbing sculpture and mixed media assemblages that, though not necessarily didactic, are far more than what meets the eye. 

“My artistic intent is to make sculpture that is both visually engaging and cognitively disruptive,” Turner writes of his work. His latest series of assemblages on display at Maude Kerns Art Center accomplishes these ends and more. 

House of Once-ler, the second installment of a trilogy Turner refers to as his “factory series,” is perhaps the most loaded in regard to his dystopian projections of first world industrialism. The assemblage, which Turner says is “like Donkey Kong, on acid,” is constructed from plastic model railroad parts, wood, model trees and iron oxide finish — it serves as Turner’s statement on the industrial forestry practices of clearcutting. A labyrinthine intermingling of copper-colored ladders and platforms represent the cogs of an insatiable conveyor belt-like machine, processing green trees and leaving torn stumps behind. The House of Once-ler’s namesake is even more telling — for those not versed in the realm of Dr. Seuss, the Once-ler is the greedy resource-sucking tree-chopping factory-building villain from the children’s book The Lorax.

Turner has work hanging in galleries all over the globe. One of his pieces is even displayed in the Ripley’s Believe it or not Museum of Australia. Eighteen of his pieces are hanging in Maude Kerns. 

Skulls, mirrors, cameras, skis and the replicated skeletal remains of ancient sea life are all part of the creepy apocalyptic aesthetic Turner wants the viewer’s brain to “chew on,” as well as appreciate visually.

“My work takes a sort of alarmed approach to the concept of the machine,” Turner says, at work in his cavernous studio. “It sort of asks the question of whether or not the future is going to be as romantic as some sci-fi representations make it out to be,” he says with a grin while strapping on welding gear. “Is it going to be romantic? Or is it going to be a little more like Mad Max?”

Jud Turner will speak on his work and process 7 pm Thursday, Aug. 4, at Maude Kerns Art Center.