In Synapse Jeff Ballard creates a dialogue between the exploration of the dream world and how the mind manifests memories. As a lucid dreamer, the artist has a fascination with the subconscious mind and the workings of our dreams. For Ballard, dreaming offers an opportunity to explore the impossible, as he is able to achieve superhero-like powers. Ballard then materializes these dream time experiences through his sculptures and installations. The pillow plays a large part in the much of his work. Generally a symbol of rest, comfort and sleep, the pillow becomes Ballard’s metaphor for dreaming in general: referencing a surreal realm controlled by inner fears and desires. While it may appear soft and supple, all of his pillows are actually created from blown glass- a medium with which Ballard has extensive experience. He then enhances the blown glass elements with found or fabricated objects made of a wide range of materials. The combined result does away with the decorative stigma so often placed on glass and instead pushes the medium into a highly conceptual realm.
Echoing creations of a mad scientist, the meanings behind Ballard’s work unfold in layers. For example in IMPRINT II, two blown glass pillows are tied inside of an old divided drawer. The rope holding each glass pillow down alludes to the comatose nature of sleeping, as our bodies are rendered immobile in a sort of temporary paralysis. Meanwhile, each half of the drawer is lined with a different classic floral wallpaper, a nod to childhood memories of trips to grandparents’ homes. Ballard fleshes out this idea further by painting the surfaces of the pillows in patterns that mimic but do not recreate the floral prints below, which serves as an acknowledgement of the imperfection of our memories. The latter also touches upon the struggles of Alzheimer’s disease, an issue that Ballard has had to confront in his personal life. The interplay between the dichotomy of waking life and the illogical aspects of dreams is a theme that recurs through Ballard’s oeuvre.
At 38 years old, Jeff Ballard has participated in multiple international residencies, teaching positions, and exhibitions. He has served as a featured artist at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma and an artist of residence at the esteemed Pilchuck Glass school. Today, Jeff Ballard lives in Eugene, Oregon, where he makes his artwork and teaches glass courses at The University of Oregon Craft Center and Eugene Glass School. Synapse will be his second solo exhibition at Abmeyer + Wood.