Need to detract unwanted advances? Just tell ’em, “Sorry, I’m married to my work.” That’s what USM alumna Jessica Yankura does. As a photography teacher living in Connecticut and commuting over two hours daily, marriage is “not important” to Yankura. She currently has to schedule time in for her art. “Non-Ornamental,” a collection of Yankura’s work, is being exhibited through Jan. 21 at the Woodbury Campus Center Gallery.
Yankura’s parents realized she was talented at a young age and encouraged her to pursue her art. Although she wavered between art and law in her undergraduate years, she settled on the arts and received a bachelor’s degree in art history from USM in 1998.
Yankura showed her work often as an undergraduate and has participated in professional shows for the past 10 years. Although she felt fear and nervousness anticipating her undergraduate shows, her feelings have evolved with her work. “It’s just work now,” she said. “I understand that not everybody will like or understand it.”
Yankura uses Polaroid film, a medium some critics deride. “Without the constantly changing unstable nature of Polaroids, I do not believe these works would exist as they currently do,” Yankura said. Her exhibit includes Polaroids capturing Yankura in the midst of a seemingly ordinary activity. The Polaroids are accompanied by captions expressing the essence of the shot.
One piece included in the exhibit is a black and white self-portrait titled “Ideals.” The Polaroid reveals Yankura in tattered black clogs separating from their soles. The caption accompanying the piece reads, “Ideals upon which I currently stand.”
Yankura’s self-portraits explore identity and self-criticism. “This work is easy to understand on one certain level, but you have, if you want to understand it, to spend a little time with it,” Yankura said.
Teaching full-time at St. Luke’s, an independent high school in New Canaan, Conn., doesn’t allow Yankura a surplus of time to work on her art, but she said she always carries a sketchbook and makes the most of the time she does have.
Although her time allotted to her art is limited, Yankura said, “Teaching is one of the best things that ever happened to me for my work.” Yankura thrives on her role as an instructor and said she has learned a lot in her time teaching. ” I love to be with people who get really excited [about art],” Yankura said. Her current position is somewhat of a dream job. St. Luke’s is a day school for accelerated students, so Yankura’s students are enthusiastic, talented, and motivated.
“I get so excited when kids come in early and stay during study hall,” Yankura said. Matching her students’ enthusiasm, Yankura is generous with her time, going in early to meet with students and sometimes opening up the darkroom on the weekends. Although Yankura loves her job, she doesn’t know what the future holds. “When its time for me to stop teaching, I’ll know and I’ll stop.”
“Non-Ornamental” will run through Jan. 21 in the Woodbury Campus Center Gallery. The closing reception and gallery talk will be held Tuesday, Jan. 21, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.