Mella Jaarsma

Dutch-Indonesian artist Mella Jaarsma (b. 1960, Emmeloord) creates drawings and handmade garments that explore social tradition and its uncertain future. Her work addresses some of the central questions that arise when cultural identity is assigned to objects or when authority is assumed over others by creating division between one thing and another through ethnic or folk stylization. Jaarsma’s constructions of occupational and ruling class regalia—the tourist, refugee, or soldier—operate in a way that facilitate the study of power by positing new associations which challenge time-honored ones. She sews together material elements that speak to the vulnerability and defenselessness in human existence as a burden and possible illusion. She questions the male/female/human psyche through costumes that express the complexities and fleeting insecurities core to being mortal while living in a screwed up society. Her wearable sculptures testify to the hidden subjugations found in culture, especially those located inside Jaarsma’s own contemporary Indonesian life, by pinpointing their codes and associations.