"Making art is one of the loneliest things a person can do. I spend a crazy amount of time alone in my studio making work. Every inch of every canvas is evidence of time passing and recorded, my life in inches. It is fitting that my subjects are also lonely." - Jessica Hess
When I first came across the work of realist painter Jessica Hess, I was struck not just by her talent but by the unique interpretation of her subject matter. Jessica portrays urban landscapes, street art and decaying structures not only truthfully but lovingly as well... her attention to details from metal oxidization to the dribbles of spray paint down brick shows that these are subjects she truly feels compelled to paint. Though each scene is from a specific locale scouted out by Jessica (many in Western Massachusetts and the Boston metro area, which I recognized) they are reminiscent of the street-art reclaimed alleyways and abandoned structures hidden in every small town and large city.
Pittsfield Tracks II
Jessica in her studio finishing "It Finds You"
Pittsfield Tracks IV
Her Facebook page shows interesting glimpses into her process and environment, and Jessica's interviews are worth reading as well. She nails it when discussing the artistic value of graffiti and decay... the compelling and eloquent way that she describes her affinity for nature's reclamation of abandoned human structures is exactly how I feel biking through South Boston, past the aching, rusted shipping warehouses and dilapidated brick walls layered with graffiti and ivy and barbed wire. The passing of time is tangible in these areas of Boston (as they are in her paintings) and in stark contrast to the four shiny new condominium buildings rising just outside my studio window. It probably wasn't that long ago that everything I bike past and everything she paints was brand new as well.
There will always be heated discussion about whether graffiti is guerilla art or criminal vandalism, but Jessica's unique "vandal-by-proxy" style really adds weight to the argument that graffiti can add color, life and attention to structures otherwise ignored and left by a community to decay by the hands of nature. It's an interesting game being played between humans, nature and time, going back and forth between construction and destruction... and definitely one worthy of being recorded in artwork.
Jessica's work is being shown for a few more days at Geoffrey Young Gallery in Great Barrington, MA and Ferrin Gallery in Pittsfield, MA. She has an upcoming solo show at White Walls Gallery in San Francisco... if you make it to any of these, please share your thoughts on seeing her work in person.