Jacqueline Surdell was born in Chicago, IL. Growing up in a family of athletes and artists, Surdell spent her early life between the court and studio. Surdell played ten years of competitive volleyball and was recruited to play at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA where she earned her BFA with cum laude honors. Since then, she has created work fusing sculptural installations with performance, painting, and video. Surdell is interested in states of duality, hybridity, and in-betweenness, attempting to both fulfill and disrupt expectations. In this way, her work embraces diverse forms of expression and connections throughout varied works. Surdell earned her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2017). Surdell lives and works in Chicago, IL. Surdell’s work has been shown at South Bend Museum of Art, Chicago Artist Coalition, Western Exhibitions, Chicago; Boardwalk Gallery, Los Angeles; Weingart Gallery, Los Angeles; and Galerie LeRoyer, Montreal. Surdell was awarded residencies at Ragdale, Lake Forest, IL, Acre Projects, Steuben, Wisconsin, and is currently a Hatch Projects Artist in Residence at Chicago Artists Coalition.
Surdell makes objects and installations hybridizing knotted rope, weaving, painting, and stitching, processes to create structure, shape, and image out of line. A rope’s flexible strength references ligaments, bands of tissues, and tendons, internal bodily ties necessary for motor function. The protruding forms passively sag, lay, rest, and succumb to gravity — defining this sculpture as body, a corporeal canvas — fatigued by the inertia of their condition as they react to contracting and relaxing. The forms speak to exertion -- the exhausted muscles of the body -- while the knotted rope continues to work, the internal ties endure, holding everything together. Making this work is how she draws, how she paints, and how she connects to both personal and abstract lineages of painting. Knotted cotton rope reimagines the woven canvas as a space of undulation and growth, denaturalizing its existence and accentuating its functionality as aesthetic. As knotting becomes brushwork, the actions of hand, body, and exploration of the expanded histories of painting materialize as content. The colors and compositions speak to languages of landscape painting — the landscape paintings of her grandmother (her Oma), and her father. Swollen tendrils and textures of bound rope deny illusions of the classically painted picture plane — successfully confounding distinctions between the two disciplines of painting and sculpture. The slippage of these works between, underneath, and around categorization — subvert the need to classify and divide. The making of something conceptually scattered, personal, abstract, perceivably soft, but incredible strong, challenges perceptions of what it means to embody while welcoming spaces of vulnerability.