Jessica Vollrath Interview

Jessica Vollrath

Jessica Vollrath discusses Sacred Narratives, the myths of religion, folklore and fairytale, & developing a practice characterized by authentic self expression.

How did you get into making art?

I started drawing like every child does (crayon creations with profound stories that made sense to only me) and just never stopped. I was 8 when I finally realized that I loved it more than most. I loved it so much I prayed that God would let me be an artist – before I even knew that being an artist was something you could actually do with your life. Art has been my one, constant and greatest love. It has been my singular career and life pursuit for as long as I can remember. I had no idea of how BEING an artist worked (honestly I still don’t), but I have pursued whatever road kept me closest.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on paintings that I call my Sacred Narratives. The works are inspired by old family photos or constructed compositions of family members. It is a season in my work for reevaluating the stories I’ve told myself about where I came from. I’m asking a lot of questions about divinity and how the human experience touches that dimension through the myths of religion, folklore and fairytale.

Art has been my one, constant and greatest love.

Jessica Vollrath

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

In Early 2023, my daughters were aged 2 and 3 and I finally had the time and mental space to begin evaluating the transformative experience of becoming a parent. It felt like I had been broken and rebuilt. Becoming a mother brought rich clarity to a lot of questions and relationships I had struggled with throughout my 20s and 30s and I returned to the easel to tell those stories to our children – stories about me and them and our family.

Previously, I worried a lot about what I was expressing through art and if my audience would like it. Post children, it didn’t matter as much anymore. I stopped caring if people found my subject matter strange or unfamiliar. Having the opportunity to express the most authentic version of myself was something I finally saw as a huge gift. My family and intense curiosty toward divinity, which had been fostered in my childhood in a deeply religious community, was someting I really wanted to process and talk about for myself and my children.

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

I think I take a broader approach. In my head, there are 3 or 4 hypothetical shows I am working on. I curate the paintings in my mental gallery. Sometimes I get on a roll and paint 3 paintings in a row that fit into a particular body of work. But oftentimes, there are 4 paintings being worked on and each of them could belong to a different mental “show”. One day each body will be completed, but honestly who knows when?

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

I’m mostly a SAHM, so I usually get into the studio at 2 pm, when my husband takes over as primary parent. Through years of practice and forced necessity, I am able to enter into the creative zone rather quickly. I need a hot cup of tea with magnesium, my laptop and headphones. Since I have multiple paintings going at a time – each usually in a different step of the process – I let the paintings tell me which one has the first thing to say and I go there. Sometimes a painting refuses to be quiet and I finish it in one go. Sometimes paintings can go silent for days, weeks. I let them go quiet until I hear them speak again. I always return to abandoned paintings, unless I am displeased with some practical aspect of it.

Who are your favorite artists?

Wow. What a difficult question! I’m in love with so many artists.

I just attended Daisy Parris’ solo exhibition in Dallas at the Green Family Foundation. Experiencing their work in person brought me to tears.

Jenny Saville is always someone I will aspire to embody in some aspect. I love her career and the way she presents herself.

Our most recent aquisiton is from Desiree Valencia, from her solo exhibition “A memorial for my innocence because I was not allowed to bury it” at Pencil on Paper gallery in Dallas.

Riley Holloway is my guru. He just doesn’t know it.

Evita Tezeno is my mentor and I’m pretty sure I told her as much!

Austin Uzor makes my jaw drop. He is brilliant.

I literally don’t have enough space to write everyone down.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

Instagram!! I absolutey love the app! I am inspired DAILY by all of the genius out there. There is so much work I would never get to see if it wasn’t for Instagram.

To the artists who share their work on instagram, thank you for shining your light!! Looking at your work has healed me in so many ways. When I was in a season where I could not paint, watching the people who did made my heart ache but it was absolutely life giving.

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