There is a lot to unpack in the erudite and knowing work of Jennifer Trask: the history of art, a diversity of scientific research including the fields of chemistry, biology and taxonomy, long-standing traditions of European and American decorative arts, changing theories about beauty, a multitude of craft practices, and the evolution of knowledge and taste in the West since the Renaissance. In each of her works, Trask accumulates a disparate mix of exquisite parts, conjuring flora and decorations from antlers, bones, teeth, precious gems, as well as carved and gilded frames among other remarkable materials. She is influenced by the traditions of Vanitas, 17th century Dutch still-life paintings alluding to the transience of beauty and life and the presence of death and decay in all natural things and organic matter. The artist has remarked: “Vanitas is interesting to me because it became an object of vanity itself… Beauty is a lure, I do it in my work and they were doing it in theirs. We use beauty to pull people in.”
Trask studied biology and anthropology before obtaining her BFA in Metalsmithing from Massachusetts College of Art and an MFA from SUNY New Paltz. Her work is collected by the Renwick Gallery, a branch of the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, DC); Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), Museum of Art and Design (New York); CODA Museum (Apeldoorn, Netherlands); and the Powerhouse Museum (Sydney, Australia). In 2011, Trask was named Sculpture Fellow by the New York Foundation for the Arts.