JessBarnett

Artist's Statement

Artist039s Statement

Me in front of some pieces from my "TMI (or, Too Much Information" exhibition at the Lilypad, Somerville, Massachusetts, in 2010

  1. “What does it mean?”
  2. “I see a monkey in the right corner.”
  3. “What were you thinking when you painted this?”

I have answered these questions posed to me in this way:

  1. “Art is in the eye of the beholder.”
  2. “Yes, there certainly could be a monkey there.”
  3. “I was calm and listening to Van Morrison.”

While certain pieces start out in one specific direction that I have in mind, many of them don’t. Color almost always dictates what I paint. Some paintings mean* something, while others are truly abstract, leaving the audience to determine their meaning, if there is one. Some of the painting titles are clue as to what the painting is about*, but others are chosen playfully, giving the audience a hint about what I might have been thinking of when I painted the pieces – but beware of red herrings.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I love art, I adore messing with different color combinations and shapes and trying out new media (spray paint and pastels are a current favorite). I believe in Rule 62: Don’t take yourself too seriously.

This is not to say that my paintings don’t necessarily mean* anything, because they do. But most of my works have flexible meanings and leave room for the audience to create their own picture within their imagination.

I also believe that everyone should try creation at least a few times in their life, whether it’s through putting paint on a canvas, drawing, recording their voice distorted by a reverb petal, or taking an opera class. “I can’t draw to save my life” is one thing I hear often. (And I think most everyone would actually attempt to draw if it meant saving them from death.) Just try it, I say to them. It takes some a massive amount of courage to create anything because they grow up with micromanaging parents, are afraid of sharing a personal part of themselves with others, etc. There’s always an excuse not to create.

That’s why I love and am currently participating in #the100dayproject. The only rule is this: You have to create something every day and post about it. Some of my creations for this challenge have been paintings, while others have been entries in a stream-of-consciousness journal I started recently. Some are scribbles with my Prismacolor pencils, done while I was otherwise occupied (meetings are a good place to draw, I find). One time I painted a papier-mâché dinosaur – one half red, the other half teal. It feels good that there is only one rule, it’s fun to share this stuff with the world – and I love viewing what others participating in the project have created.

I’m rambling now, mostly for the simple reason that I find it difficult to communicate in words (not pictures, and I am primarily a visual person) about my art. I fear sounding either pretentious or overly self-deprecating. This page is mainly here in case someone wants to know why I paint.

That said, I love to communicate with my audience and welcome feedback, whether it's positive or “constructive.” I don’t get offended if I overhear someone talking negatively about my work because I believe there’s only one rule for the audience: You either like it or you don’t.

But I’ll end on this note and include a couple of lists about my work below. Lists are easy and comforting for me. I’m the type of person who gets serious joy after crossing something I’ve done off a list.

So enjoy my artwork, or don’t enjoy it. You either like it or you don’t!

Creations include: abstract paintings and drawings; spray-painted objects, using Mason jars, vases, and pieces of wood; glass objects; cards; and paintings involving thread, yarn, and other similar materials

Materials include: acrylic, gouache, watercolor, and spray paint; pencils; cotton balls; rose petals; window screen; coral; leaves; cosmetics, including lipstick, eyeliner, and eye shadow; pills; fireplace ashes; charcoal; yarn; and thread.

Influences include: Andrew Wyeth; Jesus Rafael Soto; Josiah McElheny; Franz Kline; Francis Bacon; Howard Hodgkin; Dale Chihuly; Stephen Gammell, known best for his illustrations for the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark children’s series by Alvin Schwartz; Japanese minimalist artists; and street and magazine advertising, mainly because of the colors often used to attract viewers’ attention.

*Using these words makes me cringe a little, but I don’t quite know how else I can explain in text format.

updated: 6 months ago