My faces later became the focus of my largest (and most complicated) piece to date. I credit my good friend, Lawren Alice, of Arch Enemy Arts in Olde City, Philadelphia, with inspiring me (forcing me) to submit something to a group show several years ago. The theme of the show was “Apocalypse.”
I later entered it in the Maryland Federation of Art’s Annual “Art on Paper” show at the Circle Gallery in Annapolis, MD. There about 1300 entries for this show and only about 75 artists were selected. The juror for that particular show is the Curator of Fine Art Prints at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and as if it wasn’t exciting enough just to meet her, she was so impressed with my “extraordinary work” that she asked me to say a few words about it to the gallery crowd. I spent the next 20 minutes silently melting down in preparation. I was 30% committed to asking her if there were “take backs” on the talking portion of the afternoon. After I discovered an admirer of my work was filling everyone in on the beauty of laser cutting I decided “saying a few words” was a non-negotiable. I led with explaining that Discourse was free cut, by hand, and the rest of my few minutes was a response to the question I receive most about this piece: what is in the background?
When I was about to submit my piece to Arch Enemy Arts, Lawren asked me that same question. When I told her it was decorative paper I purchased from a craft store, she said in no uncertain terms that it would be a huge mistake for me to submit original work using that material. Possessing little experience of gallery submissions I took her at her word. I decided to distress paper using a variety of techniques. When I was happy with the effect I used a quill pen and ink to write my own stories in my own writing. For this piece and it’s Apocalyptic theme, I specifically wrote seven stories; one for each of the seven deadly sins. I tore the written pages into tiles and laid them beneath the cutting (in no particular order). As people seem less inquisitive about the cutting as they do with the backing, I am eternally grateful for my friend’s good advice to make the backing something I could personally speak to and claim credit for.
I am very happy to have been able to show Discourse for the past few years as I am extremely proud of it. It recently sold at my last solo show. Relinquishing a prized work is made much easier when the buyer has such a deep appreciation for the work that no words are necessary in explaining what went into creating it. I am immensely happy to know Discourse hangs in a place where it will be truly valued. The buyer was nice enough to share his thoughts on the work and allow me to publish them in this entry; they are printed below.
“I really had my eye on “Discourse,” because I felt it worked on so many levels (physical and intellectual). Most pieces that I purchase have a frame or matte that I don’t like, and I end up spending more time and money re-framing the piece. Not so with “Discourse”. I loved what Jessi did with the frame and placing the Seven Deadly Sins behind the cutwork. The juxtaposition of light and dark, along with the different textures of paper, emphasized the overall effect. I think the piece is visually stunning, but I also work in international relations, and I think it does a wonderful job capturing the struggles of different peoples and the “debates” raging around the world on so many issues.”