Halloween Special: Sessa Englund

Cast latex, stainless steel piercings

Text by Rebecca Storm

Though forest dwellers, wood frogs need water to reproduce. The females deposit their offspring in ephemeral, vernal pools to avoid predation by fish, often attaching their viscous clutches of eggs to submerged branches or vegetation. It’s a race against time for the globular colonies to metamorphose into froglets before these temporary ecosystems dry up. Spiky, scaly, though gelatinous and seemingly amphibious, Sessa Englund’s work, specifically their boot series, feels as though it might play a role in the same sort of reproductive scenario. For an undiscovered species, perhaps. Englund often implements “organic materials that have the ability to age visually,” to the point that they, “inhabit visual ‘time’ more effectively,” Englund tells us. While their process and approach might feel preoccupied with the aesthetics of decay and growth simultaneously, Englund eschews any deep ties to the paranormal. In this way, their works, at times, can feel like forgotten relics—excavated from the bottom of the sea, or forgotten some place and surrendered to the elements. For the wood frog, something as innocuous as a snapped tree branch can function as a nursery—Englund’s work seems to inhabit this same plane, formed at the mercy of this specter we’ve come to know as the circle of life. Maybe we don’t need ghosts to feel haunted.

Snakeskin boots, latex, silicone, sunflower seeds

Marzipan, cast glass, oak wood

Is your work intended to induce fear?

Fear is in the eye of the beholder, so no definitely not. I haven’t gotten that response too much. Does it seem fearful to you?

What draws you to work with certain raw materials, like your marzipan and dried sunflowers?

I choose my materials based on personal anecdotal and symbolic gestures, and because of their connection to larger political and cultural significance. I also work a lot with the concept of material language or communication being inherent to how we as human beings and viewers of work react to the world around us. So if I’m drawn to a certain material it’s because it has one or several of these ideas covered. Concerning marzipan and dried sunflowers, these are two organic materials that have the ability to age visually, more so than other materials like stone or metal, so I feel like they inhabit visual “time” more effectively which is a big interest to me. 

What are you most afraid of?


Do you believe in ghosts?

I have an interest in the idea of presence and the idea of lingering communication in objects and spaces even when they are emptied out or time has passed. There’s a lot of really interesting theory around ghosts, or presences, or beings, depending on how you want to approach it. This interests me a lot. But do I believe in ghosts in the way that we speak about them in popular culture? No not really. I believe objects and people and places are haunted from an ontological standpoint, but no I do not believe that spirits exist and linger past the death of the body.

Marzipan, cast glass, oak wood

Strawberry scented wax candle, found vintage pop-corn shirts

Blown glass, silicone

You’ve said you think of your collectors as hosts, do you see your work as parasitic in a sense? 

I love the idea of a parasite, I think they get a bad rap in contemporary society. They don’t fit well with the ideal of individualism, but I think there’s a lot of sympathy there for parasites, on my end. 

Do you believe in magic?

No I don’t believe in magic, or an afterlife, or god, not that I have anything against any of it. I think that it’s very interesting and rewarding, maybe appealing, but at the end of the day I just don’t believe in it unfortunately.

What possesses you to create?

I wish I knew! Maybe if I figure that out I can finally stop creating. Doesn’t everyone want to create? 

Have you ever had any sort of supernatural or paranormal encounter?

No not really. I’ve certainly had spooky encounters, but again I don’t believe in ghosts and monsters, but I certainly have a very active fear center in my brain, and an active imagination. I feel like as soon as the lights go out everything gets spooky.

Given the choice, would you become immortal?

No, that seems terrible. I would much sooner choose not to have existed ever at all than to be immortal.

If you were a monster what kind of monster would you be?

So many good monsters to choose between. I love the idea of the vampire in popular culture, they always have the most fun. If I could go with the sanitized bloodsucker then I’ll go with the vampire I think. But maybe I should say troll just because I work with trolls in my work a lot, might feel compelled to say troll. 

What are your favourite scary films? 

I really can’t stand scary films! However that being said I love anything Cronenberg so I’m going to say any of his films. Do they count as scary films?