The Image: Timothy Archibald, "Jessy at Steve's House, 2004"
I was always interested in things that were almost human. Stand-in's for humanity, copycats of the human form. Early projects I wrapped myself up in were focused on ventriloquists' and their dummies, then another small project on robots that looked like people. When my project focusing on inventors of home-made sex machines started to come together, I realized it had everything I had always hoped for in a project: folksy people telling real stories, and then this sensational subject matter that was kind of human, kind of not…to be the enticement to draw people in.
Jessy at Steve’s House, 2004 is a photograph that came from that project. At the time, I had been a big fan of the work of photographer Dan Winters. His photographs were filled with small details, every one of them intentional, that the viewer would discover and feel rewarded by as they put time into his images. In my own clunky fashion, I felt this image showed his influence. We have this four legged sex machine in the corner, like a pet waiting for food to drop. We have this poster riffing on Marilyn Monroe's playboy magazine spread hanging above, flattened by perspective but vaguely recognizable. This ambiguous female shape on the wall above the couch, looking like a mudflap girl silhouette, but not quite complete. Oh, and then we have this un-easy looking subject and a disembodied set of legs, bright against the shiny leather. I thought it all added up to a story set in a sexual setting, with the star of the photograph a four-legged anthropomorphic machine with a human penis for a head.
At the time I was wrapped up in the project a lot of my contemporaries questioned my intentions of getting so wrapped up in this sexual subject matter, wondering if the project was pornography, or if it reflected my life in some way. And really, once the conversation goes in that direction, you can't really talk your way out of it. But it seemed that the people who knew my work over the years, with this interest in subjects just not quite human, had come to understand this as the obvious next thing.
- Timothy Archibald