Entering the Ukrainian Village home of artists Jared and Jessica Joslin is like teetering on the edge of a dream—a place where creatures have skeletons fashioned from Victorian chandeliers, wings composed of antique candy dishes. Jessica modifies and combines the bones of birds, cats, turtles, and other animals with decorative metals to create fantastical beasts; it’s easy to imagine the sounds they’d make if they could move—the creaking of tiny gears, the tip-tapping of metal claws across the floor. They’re surrounded by Jared’s surreal paintings, mostly portraits set in bygone circus scenes.
The Joslins met in 1992 at SAIC and first bonded over the dead birds in their freezers; both were collecting specimens that had flown into a mirrored building and fallen into a fountain below. “They just looked like these little jewels, and they would scoop them up and dump them in the trash,” Jessica says. “I thought that was just so horrible.” “We both respected the birds we collected,” Jared adds, “and we wanted to give them a different life.” Jessica offered Jared taxidermy lessons, and the pair has been together ever since.
The Joslins spend their days working a few feet apart in their living room—Jared painting at his easel, while Jessica does metalwork at an antique watchmaker’s desk, creating her intricate creatures. Sharing a work space “is about sharing ideas,” Jared says. “It’s a support network between the two of us; we encourage each other.”
When Jessica was growing up, her family had a cupboard of natural curios like seashells, pressed flowers, and animal skulls (some of which she’s used in her sculptures.) The couple now has their own cabinet of found wonders and circus-themed figurines. Sometimes these objects end up in Jared’s paintings. “Acquire what you love,” he advises. “With anything you live with, there’s gonna be a constant narrative.”