Case Jernigan’s illuminated
visual narratives chart paths
through life’s changes
“Conundrums give me purpose and make me laugh,” says Case Jernigan, who shines a light—literally—through memories and narratives in his series Lightboxes. Akin to collages, the imagery is composed of paper, ink, and acrylic that is adhered to the reverse side of a canvas. “When the light is off, they just look like blank stretched canvases, but when the light flicks on, they appear like old CRT TV screens in the dark,” he says, adding, “That’s the sensation I’m going for anyway.” The aura of nostalgia coincides with the subject matter coming loosely from memory and pop culture references. He often writes about the subject matter that appears in his work, like in Boxing Night:
My school had boxing night. It was the purge, I’m not shitting. You challenged the kid you hated, and everyone talked it up and gathered in the gym as you beat the devil out of each other. This was school sanctioned. The Dean was the referee. Anyways, this kid, he’d been driving me nuts. I annoyed him, I get it. We had beef. The whole school knew about it. I stopped him in the hall with his buddies and said, let’s fight. Challenge accepted. My roommate showed me a couple of combinations. Left left, right. That kinda thing. I was 15 years old.
Jernigan was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, or M.S., in which the immune system attacks the protective cover of fibers in the central nervous system, causing communication to break down between the brain and the rest of the body. “I want a lightning quick connection between my fingertips and my brain, like a finely tuned athlete,” he says, explaining that the condition “causes my hands and eyes and ears and other bits to misfire. I’m deteriorating a bit each year.”
Based in New York City, Jernigan senses his time there coming to a close. Since his diagnosis, he describes experiencing sensory overload: “Sounds are too loud. Crowds are too full. So I carve my own special way through, the safe path,” he says. He describes the sensation of impending transition as a kind of obsession in which he becomes fixated on the systems and machinations within his physical space: roads and arteries, abandoned buildings, pathways, and interactions. In the Lightboxes series, he draws on a background in animation, illustration, and game design to construct enigmatic narratives backlit by LED bulbs. “These works are about pathways and hidden zones of my own making.”
Today, faced with a new reality, Jernigan approaches the realm of memory in ways he never did previously, citing a rich awareness of and connection to the present. “My upbringing was strict and frightening at times. Very regimented. Very buttoned-up. Religious. So I’ve been shedding and investigating layers of the Evangelical South like barnacles for decades now. Maybe I’m more like a reptile, growing new skin periodically.”
All images © Case Jernigan
Header image: Maze, 2023. Canvas, cut paper, glue, ink, wood, and LED lights, 22 x 18 inches
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