Briefly describe the work you do.
I explore geographic formations and organisms that are found in nature through acrylic painting. My process begins with photocopy transfers of digital photographs, then I change the reference points and surroundings. Terrain is composed of fractals, so without a frame of reference it can be nearly impossible to determine scale.
I allow spontaneity and chaos to play a role in my paintings, as a way to connect to disorder and entropy. This involves spraying, dripping, and applying color with wide hake brushes onto an absorbent panel. An otherworldly element is added as I contort and manipulate the illusion of space on the painted surface, intuitively working in layers. Pours, drips and blooms of pigment speak to gravity and help to create an illusion of deep space or surface tension.
When I first envisioned myself as an artist I thought I would spend all day in my studio and sell my paintings at a gallery, simple. Now my life is more about interacting with people and balancing many different projects and interests. I teach art courses, coordinate the campus gallery and the visiting artist program at a small college. I make time for solo studio work, but it is informed by the constant exchange of ideas and information of higher education.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
My studio is in my house, so most of my pajamas have paint on them. When I’m working on a painting I work steadily until it’s finished. I paint with acrylic because I like to work quickly. The best time to make art is when it’s light outside, so that sunlight will come into my studio. When classes are in session I paint mostly on Fridays and weekends so that I have hours rather than minutes at a time to work.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My work has gone through many stages, but I have sustained my exploration of landscape and the natural world. In graduate school I started with wild experimentation, moved on to acrylic paintings on canvas with hyper-realistic, sharp, mountain vistas; and then to large scale paintings on paper with illegible text, calligraphic line-work, and wide hake brushstrokes. They were based on plein-air sketches completed while hiking or backpacking in the mountains.
Since then I have shifted to working primarily on wood panel and began to incorporate digital photography. My newest piece is three-dimensional, which is a big step for me. Now I’m dealing with literal space as well as the illusion of space. I’m also experimenting with tree-free stone paper, to reduce my environmental impact.
During the past five years I moved to Montana, completed artist residencies in Minnesota and New York and moved to Wisconsin. Shifts in subject matter have corresponded with those moves. My focus changed from macro views of landscapes to tiny organisms that are found on the forest floor.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
Rebecca Solnit’s essays on environmental issues have inspired me recently. Barbara Kingsolver, Gary Snyder, and John Muir are other writers who influence my work.
So many artists have had an impact, especially Cy Twombly, Julie Mehretu, and Joan Mitchell. My family and friends have been very supportive, and I’m thankful for them. I had great professors and teachers who challenged me, and my colleagues in graduate school gave me truthful and thoughtful feedback. I rely on my artist friends who I can call, message or e-mail for professional and artistic advice. I’m fortunate to be a part of an artist organization called ArtShape Mammoth, which has given me opportunities to exhibit my work and connect with other artists.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
My second major in college was Communication with an emphasis in Public Relations, for a while I was planning on my career going in that direction. It’s been so helpful to have that experience, because to be a professional artist half of the work is applying to residencies, grants, exhibition opportunities and marketing.
I also enjoy skiing, hiking, kayaking, and yoga.
Jessica Mongeon grew up in North Dakota and earned a BFA in Visual Arts and a BA in Communication and Honors from the University of North Dakota. She went on to Montana State University for a MFA in Painting. She was a resident artist at Vermont Studio Center, the Anderson Center at Tower View, and the Golden Foundation. Mongeon resides in Rice Lake, WI, where she is a Lecturer of Art at the University of Wisconsin – Barron County. She has exhibited her work locally and nationally including a recent exhibition in Fort Bragg, California, and is looking forward to showing her work in the Governor’s Island Art Fair in September.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.
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Check out my interview for 365 Artists/365 Days!