OCEANSIDE — The exhibit “An American Dream” by Gregg Jabs currently on display at the Oceanside Museum of Art humorously depicts the pull felt by many Americans between collective identity and individuality.
Jabs’ rough-textured ceramic installations are set up with walkable space around them that allow viewers to enter the installation area and get a close-up look.
“It explores another way the media can be used,” Beth Smith, director of development at the Oceanside Museum of Art, said.
The pieces mix symbolism with Jabs’ deeply personal experiences in reaching for the American dream.
The signature installation, “An American Dream,” contains faceless American Gothic figures, pink vultures and broken antlers. The faceless farmers symbolize the artists’ vision of how hardworking Americans have become complacent and fallen victims to the “vultures” of dishonest politics and corrupt business ethics.
“The dream needs to be redefined,” Jabs said. “It’s still available, but not so simple as it used to be. To buy a chunk of land and build on it is way off in the distance. I don’t feel I can get there.”
Antlers used in “An American Dream,” and several other installations are reminiscent of Jabs’ hunting in Wisconsin. “Deer hunting was a coming-of-age experience,” Jabs said. “Now I’m questioning the ideals I grew up with.”
The striking center installation depicts Jabs’ rough road recovering from alcohol addiction. A figure hanging from a rope and another being pulled up by angels is a tribute to two friends who did not make it.
In a lighter piece, toys dance around a lemonade stand, showing the American entrepreneurial spirit soured by politics, lies and power.
“The beautiful thing is you can understand the symbols and message of the piece as the artist designed it,” Skip Pahl, executive director of Oceanside Museum of Art, said. “The narrative process the pieces are created with also allows you to write your own story.”
In his personal quest for the American dream, Jabs has remained sober for 17 years. He also spent nine years studying architecture, engineering and fine arts. He graduated from San Diego State in 2007 with a MFA in art with a ceramic emphasis and now lives and works as an artist in Mill Valley.
On Sept. 24, Jabs will guide a walk-through of the exhibit and speak in detail about the pieces on display.
“An American Dream” is on display at the Oceanside Museum of Art through Jan. 10. For more information, visit www.oma-online.org.
To see video footage of “An American Dream,” visit www.coastnewsgroup.com.