St. Louis-based artist Jasmine Raskas is a world builder, creating creatures and environments that are organic in form but alien in nature. Whether on a two-dimension surface or installed outside in sculptural form, Raskas entities have a life of their own, existing in a different plane and world. Inspired by their background in science, the artist is interested in emergent patterns, bringing together their love of systems found in nature and material experimentation.
In this interview, the artist tells us about taking the leap into large-scale sculpture, how their love of the City Museum in St. Louis has inspired their practice, and how they have become a full-on "disaster sculptor."
What materials do you use in your unique sculptural work?
I use a huge variety of materials! I always have my eyes out looking for more galactic bits. My process now begins with the materials search itself, given that I rely upon the objects around me to build my sculptural armatures. I use recycled building materials like PVC, pipes, ducting, drains, lampshades…anything I can find that creates the shapes I’m looking for! The structures are then hardened with a combination of foam, concrete, paper, clay, and mortar so unfortunately, many of these gooey friends are not as light as they look. Lastly, I use a combination of acrylic, texture mediums, and resins to give them their exterior glass-like shell.
I’ve noticed a lot of shapes and forms that exist within your 2-dimensional paintings actually show up in the physical form in your sculptural work—which I love! Where do they first appear first? Do you see your 2D work as almost an experiment/prototype before the 3D forms come to life?
Yes!!! Exactly! Thank you for paying attention to the details here. I began my 3D work as a continuation of creating the forms I sketched in my paintings. I see myself as more of a world builder than either a painter or a sculptor. For many years I was just too scared to make the leap to 3D but I’m so glad I got the courage to do it! Now here I am a full-on “disaster sculptor” with no formal training sticking bits and blobs together and somehow making it work. I’ve since learned so much more about power tools and construction but still really embrace and rely upon my naiveté almost as part of my sculpting style to bring things together in ways that probably couldn’t have been planned by someone with more of a formal sculptural background. I love it when terrible ideas work!
Can you talk about your interest in natural and collective growth? How does this interest show up in your practice, either physically or conceptually?
My interest in natural patterns began as a youngster. If I found a pattern I liked, I would save little magazine clippings and stick them into file folders. I still have some of those folders and create most of my work inspired by these same generative patterns seen in organic growth. I try to create work that could plausibly exist somewhere in nature, but maybe on another planet. I like to keep the forms familiar enough that they could be recognized as biological life. Often folks will see DNA, mitochondria, and neurons and wonder if I created them that way on purpose. The answer is yes and no. Yes, I create them in such a way as to look as if they could possibly be those organic entities, but at the same time, I have no intention of creating them to be those exact entities.
Sometimes your sculptural work is installed outside. Because your work is so influenced by patterns found in nature, do you see this as their ideal placement? If you could install your work anywhere where would it be?
Outside is very new for me! I love seeing the sculptures embedded with nature, but the logistical challenges can be a bit of a nightmare. I think I would have to say I still prefer the outdoors but will have to keep learning new materials and building strategies before I can fully embrace it! Just as much as I love seeing the work within the trees, I love the idea of my art being in a public space where folks can stumble into it by chance. I have one more big solo show on the calendar this fall and then I’m going to be dedicating the next few years to getting comfortable with outdoor installations. It will be another exciting big leap!
What part of your daily life inspires your work the most?
I would definitely say the eery time before I'm asleep, but when I'm not quite awake either. I’ve always been fascinated by the liminal states of consciousness. My work is partial to a remembrance of the type of universal connectedness often found in altered states. I'm captivated by what Carl Jung calls the "unus mundus", a theoretical primordial soup where everything becomes nothing and nothing becomes everything. To me, this "soup" is what I'm exploring with my art. I'm entranced with the idea of how forms repeat themselves at multiple scales and have always wondered if our whole universe might be like a cell inside of a giant organism.
Do you see your background/education in science as a form of creative practice and creation as well?
Yes, very much so! I see the relationship between my science background and the work I make to be one of the same. My inspiration for studying science came from the same source that I make art from: a passion for discovery, exploration, and an attempt to make sense of this strange world we find ourselves within.
How would you describe the art scene in St. Louis?
I was born and raised here, in fact, all four of my grandparents were as well so I am hardcore dedicated to this city! The City Museum will always be my highest standard of art. I think my visits there as a child deeply affected the way I personally define art. The scene here is unique in the sense that all our little areas and niches are quite split up and disconnected both physically but also organizationally. It's like there are multiple mini-art scenes all going on at once and none of them are talking to one another, which being a "floater" I've always found a bit strange. The exciting thing is that there always seems to be a new gallery popping up or something exciting going on with forward momentum. As I've gotten to know the "scenes" more I've become quite interested in finding more ways to integrate local art with the general public. I've found that the more obscure and what I would consider totally-rad-awesome events are nearly impossible for the public to find out about! As a region, we also face some of the country's most extreme injustices in terms of segregation and socioeconomic disparities due to the city/county divide (among many other factors I'm not quite qualified to explain). Anyhow, I do think this unfortunate reality plays a deep role in how the city's art scene continues to remain fractured. At the same time, art here does seem to be a strong place for healing! There's a long way for us to go, but I see good things in our future.
What is ahead for you? Are you working on or towards anything you’d like to tell us about?
I’m currently prepping for a solo show that will be up at the Center of Creative Arts (COCA) opening on October 27th, 2023. The show is called ETERNAL JUNGLE and it will include an immersive site-specific installation, sculpture, paintings, sound, and touch. Strange yet familiar, it will be an embrace of play and an experience of otherworldly desires in the exploration of sentience and a questioning of our relationship to the environment.
Following this show, I'm about to jump in full force into mastering the art of outdoor installation! I'm specifically interested in creating temporary spaces or art experiences for festivals and regional Burning Man events. I love the idea that art can be an experience and I want to take the time to find out what this means for me and my creature friends. If you're near Missouri, come out to find me in 2024 to see what transpires…