Jess Self’s mixed-media figures are expressive, active, and alive. She incorporates wax, wool, wood, and textiles into sculptures made from her own life casts. Each piece has a narrative quality that gives insights into her ways of thinking and feeling. Jess’ autobiographical approach functions on both a personal and universal level as she uses the body to describe emotional and spiritual states.
After growing up in Black Mountain, North Carolina, Jess earned an MFA from Georgia State University. She currently resides in Atlanta. Inspired by Eastern philosophy and the psychoanalytic writings of Carl Jung, Jess creates figures based on her life story and universal archetypes. “I have embodied a variety of archetypes (the seductress, the lover, the mother, and the martyr) throughout my life,” she notes. “By tapping into the power of archetypes, my identity becomes secondary to universally relatable ideas, helping viewers experience empathy and encouraging them to reflect on their own experiences and psycho-spiritual growth.” Jess’ interests in psychology and metaphysics are accompanied by the need to make resonant and engaging work that is emotionally accessible.
“Craftspeople appreciate the work, time, and techniques put into the work, more so than in fine art,” Jess tells NOT REAL ART. “I think that so much of the time people project things on art because they want to sound intellectual or informed. And/or because someone has to say something to fill the awkward silence. It is very helpful and important to think about how I or family and friends view art and spend time in galleries. How do I/they feel?”
In addition to exploring Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, and the roles she has played during her personal journey, Jess enjoys teaching workshops, participating in craft fairs, and collaborating with fellow artists. Her openness to incorporating craft elements into her work has at times caused her to be taken less seriously as an artist. But as she navigates the expectations of the art world, Jess remains committed to creating compelling figures that make viewers question themselves and encourage self-acceptance.
“I have embodied a variety of archetypes (the seductress, the lover, the mother, and the martyr) throughout my life.” — Jess Self
All photos published with permission of the artist(s).
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