Mysterious and enigmatic, the wooden figures that occupy Jaime Molina’s imagined world appear to be in perpetual states of meditation or slumber. The Denver-based artist (previously) sculpts small characters atop angular bodies and large heads that split open to reveal inner objects like a cactus, honeybee, or small, worn house. Many are then pierced with nails of various sizes and ages that frame their faces with blankets of spikes.
Molina adorns each figure with closed eyes, a serene, solemn appearance, and striped clothing of ambiguous shapes, and he sees the variety of textures and dimensions as part of their unique narratives. “To me, (facial expressions) are like syllables of a word or a unique note in a song,” he says. “These ideas of isolated language and invented slang are portrayed through the figure’s expressions and the patterns in their hair and bodies. These patterns are like an imaginary quilt made up of their histories and memories.”
His sculptures broadly evoke folk and outsider art traditions, particularly in their use of found materials—a partial logo remains visible on a bench for one character, rusted and bent nails are mixed with newer fasteners, and a gnarled hunk of wood becomes a stage—and he shares that he gravitates toward pieces “made purely for the sake of creating.” The artist explains:
My great uncle used to make a lot of different things when I was younger. He’d paint on old pieces of wood or old saws and even carve things out of wood. They were all over his house and some at my grandmother’s house, and I used to love seeing them. I guess it made an impression on me that you could just make art with what you had around you. You didn’t need to go to school or wait for an opportunity. You could just make things when you had the urge.
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