What happens when art meets anxiety? Quite a lot, in the case of Phoenix artist Christopher Jagmin.
For his newest body of work, Jagmin is channeling the collective angst of American society through a creative residency called "Safe and Sound."
He’s also embracing his own anxiety, and inviting community members to do the same by giving them a safe space to share parts of their personal histories they rarely reveal to others.
“There’s fear in the world now,” he says. “It can get overwhelming, wondering how you can help.”
For Jagmin, supporting others is an integral part of his art practice.
The artist launched a participatory arts installation called Your Secret is Safe With Me at Canal Convergence, a four-day event presented in February by Scottsdale Public Art.
He created a hollow wooden cube, then elevated it atop a stand flanked by two chairs. And he invited visitors to have a seat at the desk, facing one another as they shared a personal secret.
The installation was inspired in part by Jagmin’s Catholic upbringing, and the traditional confessional that’s central to the Catholic faith. That created the foundation for the creative residency in Scottsdale.
It’s making a comeback, at Tilt Gallery in Scottsdale, on Thursday, October 19. Jagmin will be at the gallery from 7 to 9 p.m. that night, presenting Your Secret is Safe With Me for interested community members. From 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. that day, he’ll have the project set up at The Livery.
Here’s how Your Secret is Safe With Me works.
Jagmin provides blank slips of paper and pencils for people who want to participate, then gives them time to write a secret they’re willing to share with someone else that night.
Then two people sit across from one another and share what they’ve written. For Jagmin, it’s a way to help people process and share memories in a safe space.
Jagmin knows what it’s like to worry that others won’t accept you. “We were poor and I was gay,” he recalls of coming to terms with his own identity.
Your Secret is Safe With Me is one of four community activities he’s doing this month at The Livery, which is located on Brown Avenue at Second Street in Scottsdale. That’s just minutes away from Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.
The Livery is home base for his creative residency with Scottsdale Public Art, which launched on September 1 and continues through October 31.
Using a typewriter, he’ll be presenting something called Phobophobia on Thursday, October 5. Basically, it’s a chance for people to type out their fears.
He’s hoping the process helps people identify their fears, and feel some measure of comfort by sharing them. The fact that others will be doing the same thing sends a powerful message, he says.
“It’s all about helping people realize they’re not alone.”
Jagmin plans to save the typewritten statements, which will become part of an artwork designed to “show how our fears seem bigger than they are.”
On Friday, October 12, he’s putting on an activity called I See You, which challenges strangers to make extended eye contact, with a bit of a cell phone twist.
During a final project, called P.S. Thank You, community members can create personal certificates to share with people they want to recognize for acts of kindness.
The projects are all grounded in Jagmin’s love for graphic design and text. His text-based work was featured earlier this year in a solo exhibition for Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art in a Roosevelt Row shipping container gallery.
For that exhibition, he created works with Dymo label-maker tape. It’s a medium he’s also using for The Livery residency, where long strips of words typed using handheld label makers hang from various walls.
Jagmin also created a temporary text-based mural on an east-facing wall at Modified Arts.
In some ways, it’s a departure from his previous art practice.
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For many years, he focused on painting, often creating abstract works with bright colors or a black and white motif. Last year, he collaborated with Patricia Sannit for an exhibition at Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum.
The Scottsdale Public Art residency is giving art lovers a rare opportunity to spend time with Jagmin, and learn more about his work. He’s holding open studio hours from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. every Tuesday and Friday through the end of this month.
Jagmin admits the work has personal therapeutic value, but he’s hoping it helps others as well.
“We all have fears, we all have secrets,” Jagmin says “But we’ll get through it somehow."