In Picnic, San Antonio-based Jessica Halonen explores and reinvents medical language that pertains to her experience of living with diabetes. Presented at 306 E. Houston Street in downtown San Antonio, the installation is comprised of colorful boxes constructed of woven ribbon stretched over wooden armatures. The arrangement of the sculptures in intimate clusters evokes a group of people enjoying a picnic. The anthropomorphic combinations not only establish the conversational tone of the work, but also refer to the artist’s fluctuating physical condition.
Reflecting on ideas of perception and control, Halonen elicits simultaneously serenity and tension. The sculptures conform to a system of coded colors and sizes that echoes the analysis of her blood glucose levels and corresponding physiological state. The boxes’ color schemes–pink/orange, blue/gray, and yellow/gold–refer to Halonen’s high, normal, and low blood-glucose levels, respectively, similarly to how they appear on the chemical test strips of commonly used personal monitoring systems. By developing her own color system, Halonen challenges both our perception of medical management of the body and our command of our mental response to the environment.
The orchestration of the grouping is so calculated that it creates a sense of unease. The precision in the construction of the fabric grids covering the boxes calls up science and mathematics, contradicting the mood of a leisurely gathering and emphasizing the primary function of food. Ultimately, Picnic points to our participation in and creation of events that are not what they appear to be on the surface.