Jordan Deal’s metaphysical storytelling in sculptural assemblages at Fleisher-Ollman Gallery

Artblog Radio's has a new host... Logan Cryer! We know, we're excited too! Their debut interview is with hot emerging artist Jordan Deal, one of three artists in Fleisher-Ollman's current exhibition "Hissed gently in silence, a dream of Flight." We love this thoughtful and exciting conversation and we know you will too.

Jordan Deal on a gray-blue background with green and pink graphic designs.
Jordan Deal. Original photo courtesy of @death_by_femme on Instagram. Edited for Artblog Radio.

We are THRILLED to present Artblog Radio’s newest host, Logan Cryer, in their debut Artblog Radio interview with hot emerging artist, Jordan Deal! Logan speaks with Jordan about their current exhibition at Fleisher-Ollman gallery, Hissed gently in silence, a dream of Flight, in which they exhibit alongside Philly artists Joy Feasley and Paul Swenbeck. Logan and Jordan’s conversation is expansive and insightful, touching on spirituality, alternate dimensions, the Black (and Black artist) experience, and more.

You can catch “Hissed gently in silence, a dream of Flight,” works by Jordan Deal, Joy Feasley, and Paul Swenbeck, at Fleisher-Ollman through March 13, 2021. Reserve a socially distanced visit here!

You can listen to Artblog Radio on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Thank you to Kyle McKay for composing Artblog Radio’s original podcast intro and outro!


Logan Cryer: [00:00:11] Hello friends, you are listening to Artblog Radio, recorded in Philadelphia. My name is Logan Cryer and I am hosting this episode and interview with artist, Jordan Deal. Jordan Deal’s interdisciplinary practice merges sculpture, performance, video, painting, drawing, writing, and poetry, to create interactive performance installations that investigate the ways the introspective landscape interjects into the material world. Deal’s sculptures and paintings consist of assemblages of found and recycled materials– from metals, fabrics, household objects, jewelry, and trinkets– to act as vehicles for time and space travel, assessing memory, ancestral footprint, and understanding dialectic placement and function.

Jordan’s work is part of a current exhibition at Fleisher-Ollman gallery, and is showcased along with artists Joy Feasley and Paul Swenbeck. Their show, “Hissed gently in silence, a dream of Flight” is on view until March 13th, 2021. You can reserve a time to visit the gallery by visiting Fleisher-Ollman’s website. I started my conversation with Jordan by asking what childhood influences inspired them to become an artist.

Jordan Deal: [00:01:27] Yeah. When I was a kid, I was really into watching a lot of movies, specifically like animated movies, and playing a lot of video games. And they were always all like very fantastical, very surreal. It really pushed the imagination of our worlds. And I think that, seeing that, and seeing how these worlds could transform, but also relate to the real problems of today– societal problems, problems of power, love, relationships, friendships– I always thought that was remarkable. And I was always inspired to kind of create those same juxtopositions myself.

Logan Cryer: [00:02:07] When you first started making artwork, were you doing– like, you’re talking about animation– were you doing drawings? Were you making characters and fantasy worlds, or?

Jordan Deal: [00:02:16] Yeah (laughs) , I loved final fantasy, like the whole series, and Kingdom Hearts and … Yeah, when I first started off, I was always drawing these characters and worlds and a lot of spaceships (laughs) and trying to create like character development behind it. What will happen in these worlds? What was the landscape like? And so I would just constantly draw pictures and pictures to kind of create … almost manifest it real, and give these names. Yeah, I would go ham on it.

Logan Cryer: [00:02:50] What I was curious about is, I know you went to UArts as an illustration major, and at some point you switched to fine arts. What was your work looking like when you were transitioning between the two?

Jordan Deal: [00:03:05] Yeah. Well, when I first started at UArts there was a grace period. So freshman year you don’t declare a major. So you get to bounce around. It’s kind of like an opportunity for students to kind of see where they’re being called. And when this was when I was already starting to make the transition, I decided not to do any painting or drawing because I just wanted to try new things and see what else was calling me.

So during this time I was doing a lot of sculpture, I played around with some performance, and yeah, I think it was. It was creating sculptures in the way. I think it was still kind of creating some form of character– not necessarily like a character, like before, like to live in a world– but a form out of a lot of objects and … and learning that language a bit.

So it was, it was very different than how I was painting and drawing.

Logan Cryer: [00:04:01] Were there particular artists that you were looking to who were working in kind of a hybrid form of character, and sculpture, and storytelling, and abstraction?

Jordan Deal: [00:04:14] Yeah. There’s a few artists at the time that I was looking at Kara Walker, Kerry James Marshall, but one that really stuck to me was Trenton Doyle Hancock. And Trenton Doyle Hancock’s work- I mean, it was a similar, like creating these worlds is very surreal and building on it. And so. You know, there will be some comic strips, or drawings and illustration that all were contributing to this world. And there was some physical manifestations, like sculptures or like fabric work.

So it was constantly like this dialogue between these two very different languages, you know one was on paper. One was like had a very harsh physicality to it. So it’s very inspiring.

Logan Cryer: [00:04:52] That’s interesting that the artists you named are black artists, because there’s nothing necessarily explicitly black about what you’re describing, but I’m curious, like, was it just having black artists to look to? Because I know there weren’t a lot of black artists who were at UArts at the time.

Was that what was really inspiring you? Or do you feel like there maybe is something intrinsic about the black experience that maybe lends itself to creating these worlds?

Jordan Deal: [00:05:18] Yeah. I mean, like, especially for the artists that I named , creating these worlds where a way to breathe a different life into what the idea of black life was. And what the everyday lifestyle was. And I mean, even, especially with Trenton Doyle Hancock’s work, it was farther than that, it wasn’t just like examining the everyday life, but the imagination of just a black person and …

I think, at the time I was inspired by so many different artists, but I think there was a part that was very seductive. Was just being able to, to relate to the stories and the narratives that were surrounding these black characters. And I started to disengage with some of these artists– just with what I wanted to relate to and how– but just the narratives around blackness, seeing blackness, and even having a sort of verbiage in dialect that was similar to mine.

It was very attractive.

Logan Cryer: [00:06:14] Yeah. And I don’t want to assume why you kind of veered from these artists as you continue to make work, but I know for me looking back on a lot of black artists that I learned about in college, the more I engage with their work, the more the way they represented blackness just didn’t feel as fresh to me, maybe?

Like it didn’t feel like it had everything I wanted it to have. And what’s interesting is looking at your work at Fleisher-Ollman, something that really separates your work from theirs– while it does have so many elements in storytelling, and it’s so much about identity, and character– your work is way more abstracted and the image of the form isn’t there as frequently.
But, there is still really a lot of images and references to the body- so you have sculptures that have mannequin pieces, you have sculptures that in themselves, represent a body, you have head dresses, masks, things that go onto the body…

Can you talk a little bit more about the way you think about the body in your work, in that show? And maybe that’s specifically the black body or maybe that’s specifically your body. But how were you thinking about how to approach that representation in your work?

Jordan Deal: [00:07:32] Yeah, I was, I was thinking about just “The Body” and the body as sort of an all encompassing gateway into the world.

So almost that I was looking at an almost metaphysical way and that’s the body allowed for certain perspectives to see yourself and your role in the world, yourself in your relationship to yourself, or even your relationship to the people around you.

So a lot of the forms aren’t necessarily concrete or exact, I mean, they’re, they go in and out and, and travel through space and change as well in this space. So there’s some sort of abstraction to it, but it’s almost trying to think about the translation. Of how can the body , how does the body exists in multiple dimensions all at once, in time, all at once? And how does it change in time, all at once?

So capturing how this movement of the body as it’s still, and as it’s as it’s there.. Cause it’s constantly changing. It’s constantly in motion. It constantly interacting with the world, with the self and with everything around it.

Logan Cryer: [00:08:43] That’s really interesting. And it makes me think about your material use in the work because you use a lot of found materials and you’re assembling materials together. So there is sort of that kind of transformation and multiplicity happening in the materials as well.

Can you talk a little bit about how you choose materials you’re going to work with, for the sculptures? And maybe give some examples of some things you’ve worked with in the past?

Jordan Deal: [00:09:10] Yeah. It kind of take some on form in itself. So a lot of times I’m constantly gathering and collecting and creating a database of materials of these different tactalities of the language of the energy that the, the object in itself contains. And You know, a lot of times, like some of these objects that sit in my studio for months, years, or it might just be for the day.

And throughout this time I’m constantly building a relationship to it and understanding it. And I think what’s important about these objects is where they come from. And what history they have. So you know, a lot of times the work that’s, the objects that exist in my sculptures retain , they’re from like household, or past relatives, or even it might be even from people that I don’t know, that it gives me a glimpse into that.

Logan Cryer: [00:10:01] So looking at a piece like “Jeweled Eyes in transverse to the port of interstellar seas ” which is made up of found fabric, objects, hair beads, wire, glass horn — and also it sets it’s energetically charged through performance, which I think you were talking (laughs) a little bit about that too– so the hair beads, for instance, are those hair beads that come from someone, you know, or from yourself, are they purchased and why, particularly that object for this particular sculpture?

Jordan Deal: [00:10:32] So the hair beads, they were purchased . and they were just purchased that a beauty, a beauty supply store. And there was something about the beads that I was so attracted to. And I’ve used beads in a lot of different work in my, in the past a year two. And that’s something about the fragmentation of beads or that it creates, the pixelation of beads, and also just the nostalgia that it has for me, and even growing up with my sister and my mom and…

I think even with, through using it, it’s still trying to understand my relationship to them and how they how it changes with me. So that is still even an ongoing conversation with the beads. I mean, I use them pretty often my work and even just like its shininess, its glossiness and they’re easy to kind of create form with . I, I kind of like the very tediousness of the act of it.

But what’s also with this work – this was the first piece that I did outside the studio and it was during COVID, so it was in my bedroom. So I was kind of just using whatever that was in my bedroom at that time. And I kind of, I moved a lot of things in their fabrics. I collected old, like candle, like candle holders and trays and things like that.

So a lot of a lot of the ways that I assembled this piece was with those materials that was around. This piece was already intended to act as almost– I knew I was going to want to be in it and not necessarily perform in it, but to experiment with even meditating and just a personal internal look as I wear it.

So I knew I was going to use these t o amplify the way I would observe and meditate . And see what energy it would conjure, where it would take me and where, where could I travel with this?

So it was almost creating this traveling device. So with that, I mean, using these ornaments and some of the things that are already kind of used in my spiritual practice, it already translated. Already, it found its place within the piece.

Logan Cryer: [00:12:35] I want to talk about what’s the kind of largest, most capturing piece in the show which is “Crystal formations line the eye-lids of one’s gaping lips and grasps the wings of the STVRSHP.” It’s this really beautiful, huge piece. When you first walk into the gallery, it’s the first thing you see. It’s made up if this huge metal armature that has a ship boat, like shape in the room, and there’s an assembly of objects that are under, within the armature, including a bathtub. And there’s also mannequins in the tub and also on top of the armatures. So they really do feel like passengers on what is kind of, I think described in the title as a,starship. And there’s also just so many more elements (laughs) that it would be impossible to talk about all of them. So people would really have to kind of be there and see it and walk around it to really see everything that’s going on.

But I’m curious about how this work as like the big largest piece maybe talks about some of the broader thematic ideas that you had for this whole body of work?

Jordan Deal: [00:13:41] Yeah, this piece was super fun. I was thinking about like these worlds, and almost these landscapes, that I would want to build and build on top of and embed different narratives within This allowed me the space to do that and play around with that.

One of the central ideas that motivated this piece was traveling and traveling to space and trying to think about memory, think about rebirth, and death, and think about land and how does myself, how do, people relate to land? How can memory even act as resurrection? And how do we travel between these times?

So this spaceship- like structure , it’s created a gateway for me to even examine my relationship with my father. My deceased father that passed away, we have a very interesting relationship because it was never intimate. It was never physical. He was never in my life and because he wasn’t in my life and passed away when I was 16, it created this like again, this figure that was almost, I was in embodiment of them.

We shared the same name and, you know, I only know them through stories and what other people share. So it allowed me to– at least created the space to — go into examining my relationship with that.

And what, if I am being an embodiament of him, what am I taking on? And how can I almost … what can I explore? And there’s photographs, there’s different books and things that I’ve read that was that my mom had of his, that allow me to almost try to create an apparatus , more of a physical apparatus of them.

So that was one of the entryway ideas I had towards this. And through that, it started to interact with different things like how do we celebrate life? What is our relationship to death? And do we ever die? And, and trying to talk about that process of of thinking about change and how death relates to change , what are our fears towards it? And how do we celebrate life?

So as this started to morph and play around with all these ideas I kind of was thinking about how they relate on different dimensions. And when I think about dimensions, I’m also thinking about all in this plane. So, you know, the dimension of the self within the self, you know, that relationship to the self or the dimension of relationship to your family or your friend the interpersonal relationship, or the relationship to society as a dimension, or the relationship to the world, and how you exists in the world as the dimension as well.

And so examining myself, examining my relationship to my family and my relationship to death and even celebration , I think all of these share interconnected importance to them. I think that as we examine our relationship to ourself, we are examining our relationship to the world.

So throughout the exhibition, it kind of tries to expand investigate how these different consciousness are existing on these different planes. So you know, this piece, the centerpiece “Crystallized formations” it’s more autobiographical examination, examination of myself and examination of transmution and land.

And you know, as it starts to expand throughout the space is taken, it is thinking about celebration, thinking about the consciousness of what people are thinking today elsewhere. So even we want to look at the, the video “Primordial supper” it’s a conversation between myself and my grandmother.
And it’s overplaying me, creating these , encasing these photographs, these family photographs that I’ve had in these honey, saltwater-vinegar, baths and creating moats around that. So as I’m talking to my grandmother, It was a very interesting conversation.

We’ve talked about so many things about her memory and her relationship to community. How that, how did those things interweave into each other, and influence each other , and thinking about even her relationship to death, and what did she think about that? You know ? BEcause things are always in motion.
She talks about her own mother and home grandmother as well, a lot in the interview. And in our conversation and, you know, it’s, it’s almost like remembering the scent of her mother, like so viscerally as if she was there. So this transportation almost as a vehicle to move and you know, thinking about celebration.

And as I was thinking about in the video “Seas, which are then lavished and graced by the efforts of delusion “, celebration started to expand to that. And I was thinking about celebration on a more societal and grandiose scale of what are people’s relationship to celebration. And that video in particular inspired by – It was when Joe Biden, Kamala Harris won, at least in Pennsylvania.

And I mean, as soon as that day, everybody was out, I’m never I’m I’m in West Philadelphia. At the time, like University City, and I just remember walking out and there was celebrations all over the city, you know, big, huge gatherings, people dancing, taking up space. And I had a lot of questions about it.

I was wondering like, why are we celebrating? You know, and what are we celebrating? And, WHO is celebrating? I think it was a very we had people had this idea that everybody was celebrating that day and for the same cause, but there wasn’t, and it was only a few people and it was very white-dominated. And, you know, so in this video, you know, it’s thinking about it’s juxtoposing so many things about celebration.

Also, as black people gather and there’s videos, you’ll see clips– some found, some personally took — and there’s even riot gear and police, you know, all that was happening at the same time during the summer, last year and even into the fall, like, as this was happening.

So, you know, throughout the, the exhibition, a lot of these works are examining all these themes and trying to investigate and expand on them on how they relate to these different dimensions and how they all relate to each other and to the self.

Logan Cryer: [00:19:46] Something I’m curious about as you’re exploring these themes and having put together the show– which is really great, by the way, I think it’s really amazing work– have you found there’s moments where… you have an idea and you make the work, but maybe it’s not quite there? I guess what I’m really asking is, having seen the show now and knowing its successes, are you thinking ahead yet about, “okay, and now how am I going to push it?” and “where am I going to go next with it?”

Jordan Deal: [00:20:21] Yeah, I think, I think these questions never end, I think because they’re always changing ! you know ? Even when I hink about myself, I’m constantly changing. And when we even think about, about society in America, a lot of people’s consciousness, our changing, in relationship to race, and history and, and even generationally, like, how are we relating?

So there’s always, there’s an unlimited amount of questions to ask and to explore and to almost track to see what are people thinking and, and moving with this . Especially as we move into the new year with the new president.
And so, yeah, throughout this exhibition, I think it was one of the first times I explored video and the way I did and it, again, it allowed me to kind of play with, you know, the overlapping of a different reality to another reality. I guess, another truth. And see how they dance with each other, how they relate to each other.

So I’m already thinking about wanting to work in more video and performance in that way. And I mean, I think my mind is always running and always questioning things. So even with this exhibition because sometimes the work can constantly keep evolving, evolving, evolving is nice that there’s a fixed point that has to stop so that I can then take those ideas and keep running with them in another work. Cause I can keep working on something because it keeps changing for a very long time sometimes. So yeah, definitely. Think about the next work.

Logan Cryer: [00:21:51] Yeah. Like having that hard deadline sometimes it’s just like “Okay! End Of chapter (laughs) now let’s go to the next thing.”

Yeah, something that was really great , being able to see the show was seeing how your work was relating to the other two artists who were showing , Joy Feas l y and Paul Swenbeck. And I’m curious how that the show kind of came together, how the name of the show came to be, and how you all were thinking about having some thematic relation to each other?

So I know one thing you mentioned at some point was talking about land, and I know that’s visually kind of a really heavy reference that happens throughout. But could you talk a little bit more about how the three of you came together to put the show together?

Jordan Deal: [00:22:35] Yeah. I knew Paul Swenbeck from my time working as an intern at ICA. And Paul has been following my work over the years since, I mean I was in high school, when that happened. And when he invited me to be a part of this show. It was fun because, you know, we start just talking about what were we thinking about, you know, what were we reading? What were we experiencing?

And a lot of things that we were thinking about was dreams, our dreams and these landscapes that would happen. And. And we was thinking about our dreams. We just, it was of fun talking about them and seeing like, Oh, like what did we think about him? How did they relate to us now? How do they relate to what is happening now? And things like that. Another connecting thing was water, and how water was important to us in the work and what we were thinking about how they related.

So. We during the time, like we, we talked sometimes and briefly about what were we thinking about experiencing with COVID and, you know, with the uprising and things like that. But for the most part, it was just like, we just trust each other. We was also wanting like interested in improvising with the space. Once we came together.

Logan Cryer: [00:23:41] Yeah, I know that the show was initially going to open a little bit earlier than it did because of COVID and that allowed for more time for you and everyone to kind of figure out a little bit more like, “Okay, exactly how do we want to put the work into the space?” and “how do we want to make these lighting decisions?” And I think that extra time really comes through because in your section in particular, there’s so many elements and they really kind of coheed together really, really nicely. The, the different lights and objects and, you know, there’s sculptural elements happening that aren’t necessarily discrete sculptures, but they’re just kind of filling the room.

And it makes it feel like a really full experience. What’s next for you, do you know? And where can people follow you online to see what you’re going to be doing next?

Jordan Deal: [00:24:30] Yeah. Right now I’m trying to try to get some money so that I can play more around with this video work. And I’ve been, I’ve been writing a lot, and been crafting these poems together. So hopefully there’ll be a book coming out soon or some type of work concerning that soon um, which I’m excited about.

But I’m really interested in trying to Play around and get messy with some sound and with trying to perform live with that. So that’s in the works.
Yeah, you can some of it, I followed the process and you can, you can follow the process o n Instagram I’m pretty active on there is @JordanDealArt and my website,

Logan Cryer: [00:25:15] Sounds great (laugh) I really look forward to seeing what you do next. Thank you so much for recording this interview and for taking the time, I’m really excited that you’re showing work and getting… you know, gallery time and that people in the public get to see what you do. And I’m really excited for that. And for people to learn more about you, generally, through this podcast (laughs) .

Jordan Deal: [00:25:34] Yeah, no, thank you. And I’m super grateful for you to having me. It was super fun.

Logan Cryer: [00:25:40] Thank you for listening to Artblog Radio. Please be sure to check out our other episodes, and also to visit for more content on Philadelphia’s arts and culture.