Jeffly Gabriela Molina Interview - The Hopper Prize

Jeffly Gabriela Molina

Jeffly Gabriela Molina on early memories of making art, creating a body of work about home, family, and work, and revisiting a deeply personal migration experience.

How did you get into making art?

I loved drawing when I was a child. I was serious about it so on my seventh birthday, my godfather gifted me an easel and a set of oil paints. My first painting was a portrait of Fred Flintstone which I hung over my headboard, behind my stuffed animals.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve been creating a body of work that relies on still-life and figurative compositions to reflect on my experience of home, family, and work. My recent paintings present a survey of people, rituals, and experiences that have shaped my life and identity.

My recent paintings present a survey of people, rituals, and experiences that have shaped my life and identity.

Jeffly Gabriela Molina

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

In 2018, eleven years after I moved to the United States, my mother and stepfather moved with me from politically charged Venezuela to Chicago. For four years we lived together in a small apartment where I was able to share in their challenges of migrating to a different country. Their nostalgia for what once had been their lives in Venezuela was contagious. That experience inspired me to revisit my own migration story and develop a body of work that speaks of what life is made of: memories, family, work, loss, and love.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

I work on distinct projects. I usually have two or three paintings in progress in the studio, and not all will fit neatly in one body. Sometimes I do not know what I am doing (conceptually) until after it’s done.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

My studio is located on the sixth floor of a very old building in an industrial neighborhood of Chicago. The building has been remodeled to house beautiful artist studios. The studios are white walled, with high ceilings and each studio is private. My studio has large windows that allow me to have lots of healthy plants. I have a lemon tree that produces exactly one delicious lemon per year. When I arrive, around 7:45 am, I water my plants, prepare a pot of coffee and decide if I will paint silently, with music, or with words. I love listening to a good audiobook if the main compositional challenges of a painting have already been solved. My husband loves podcasts and very often I have to catch up on a new podcast so I can discuss it with him at night.

Who are your favorite artists?

My list of favorite artists changes and expands as I transform into different versions of myself not only in my personal life but also in the studio. When I was a child, I loved the surrealists Magritte, Remedios Varo, de Chirico… Then, at SAIC, I got to know the work of Agnes Martin, Eva Hesse, Bruce Nauman and that captivated me for a while. A couple of years after I graduated, my husband introduced me to the work of Albert York and I loved it. Recently, I’ve been looking at the paintings of Paula Modersohn-Becker, and on Instagram I follow and adore Andrew Cranston. In my daily life I gape at the emotional, poetic, and intense work of my husband Bradley Stumpf.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

I often learn about the work of other historical and contemporary artists through Instagram. Also, I have an artist-professor friend of mine and my husband who has the most interesting collection of artists’ books I’ve ever seen. His name is Mark Krisco and Mark always shares a new artist with me when we visit him. Then from time to time I discover new artists by visiting galleries, museums or other artist-run spaces.

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