I've always liked to refer to Candy Jernigan as a “Collection Artist.” I just like the way it sounds. I was exposed to her work about 10 years ago, when a friends dad loaned me her book “Evidence.” By that time she'd been dead 10 years. She was a little known artist during her life, popular in the avant garde scene in Manhattan. She obsessively chronicled her life in scrapbooks, collecting any and all bits of her existence-ranging from subway tickets, package wrappers, soda pop tabs, to food smears, road kill, and drug viles. Nothing was off limits. She found beauty everywhere. I've read someone likening her work to a forensic pathologist. After contracting liver cancer she died at the young age of 39. At the time of her death she was married to Phil Glass. Two books of her work are available the aforementioned “Evidence” and “The Dead Bug Box.”
Jernigan’s amazing ability to turn trash into artistic treasure with accents of beauty and humor became over time her signature way of creating.
According to fellow artist Chuck Close, in a foreword of "Evidence: the Art of Candy Jernigan," "[Candy] took the old saying ‘Art history is to art what ornithology is to birds’ and stood it on its head. This is what Candy had to say about “Evidence:” “In 1980, as I set out on my first trip to Europe, I decided to make a book that would contain any and all physical proof that I had been there: ticket stubs, postcards, restaurant receipts, airplane and bus and railroad ephemera. On successive trips, these collections grew to include food smears, hotel keys, found litter, local news, pop tops, rocks, weather notations, leaves, bags of dirt--anything that would add information about a moment or a place, so that the viewer could make a new picture from the remnants. Objects emerged for me as ‘icons’ for particular cities and these objects became the material for EVIDENCE.”
Ken Tisa, a friend and fellow artist, offered this comment in the book, "Everyone who wants to see art in New York looks up. Candy looked down."
She was defiantly an inspiration to me as an artist. Over the years I have felt her presence in my work. I would repeatedly check out "Evidence" from the Berkeley Library. One piece of hers that really struck me was her collection of dope vials that she found during a 16 day period around her neighborhood.
In 2004 I paid homage to Candy by creating a similar piece of weed bags I found around on my walk to the BART in Oakland. It ended up in a show at the Fake Cake Gallery. And like Candy's piece I included details as to when and where I found each bag.
Candy Jernigan's work is magical.