ARTIST INTERVIEW- Jess Palermo
-Could you introduce yourself and your practice?
I was born in Henderson, NV and currently live in Los Angeles, CA with my partner and 3 children. After studying Art History and Gender Studies at the University of California, Berkeley I spent the next 15 years in the fashion world; initially in trend forecasting and ultimately as a footwear designer. Parenthood, priorities, & a pandemic incited the long overdue transition to art making full time. It was what I always knew I should be doing, yet somehow didn’t allow myself to switch gears until our bubble of a world flipped upside down. Now, my studio is half of my nanny’s living room in Thai Town, and as she comes to care for my kids, I trade places with her and start painting.
My practice is a confessional one; largely an improvisational dance that is bookended by my family life. I try and offer a kind of emotional sierra or a sense of sentimental urgency to the larger theme of what it means to be female across multiple experiences. I have been working smaller lately, experimenting with the concept of the ‘precious’ and the ‘sentimental’. These works aim to illustrate that sentimentality however is always a form of self deception. They delve deeper into retrospection, often more detailed and symbolic in form, eluding to the fact that memory is full of glitches and is curated from our own subjective needs.
-What are your favourite materials to work with?
At the moment, oil paint. However my first love was and always will be drawing - graphite. Oil pigment sticks allow me to bridge the gap between the two. So when I feel like I’ve completed a sort of groundwork and want to come back to gesture, they allow me to draw with paint and I can do just that.
-How important is colour to you?
More important than I usually realise. My time at the studio usually starts with mixing colour first, before I brainstorm about where it's going. It’s a way for me to set the mood. Distinct colour placement often informs my compositions as the tonal interplay of colour relays a feeling or a movement without having to decipher form. I like how that can set up where the painting is going when I’m indecisive.
-Could you talk a bit about how you go about creating new work and the journey to your piece “Five Past the Hour” ?
I’m always playing around with a few concepts in my head while I’m out of the studio. As a general rule my pieces always start from ruminating on a memory. Our ability to recall is untrustworthy, so the aesthetic usually appears to move through time, decades, places, and circumstance. Right now, I’m having a tendency to highlight still moments and symbolism in my work that usually is rooted in movement and gesture. I tend to interrogate
myself as to why I’m making these decisions and I will jot down my thoughts. I’m currently playing around with the space between selfishness and devotion. Where do we find that place that inhabits both self sacrifice and self discovery? As a mother and an artist, these themes centred on balance and contradiction always appear for me.
‘Five Past the Hour’ was once a painting and then became another painting about a year later. The original was a rendition of The Rose Gardens in Berkeley that illicited a significant memory for me personally. And as all things tend to do, my connection with the painting changed. I wanted to create the feeling that I zoomed in on an aspect of my relationship with this place that felt nostalgic at that exact moment I revisited it. This piece helped start my new body of work that blends the figurative with landscape, honing in on what it means to have a body, be out of body, and as both, living inside of a memory of time and place.
-Who are the figures in the paintings, what do they represent?
The figures come up in the work for me like people appear in dreams....sort of identity-less but are there to add context to why we are where we are. An occasional self portrait.
-Lastly, Who are some of your favourite contemporary artists at the moment?
Dustin Hodges, Joshua Hagler, Hadar Gad, Willa Wasserman, and Victoria Gitman’s show at Francois Ghebaly blew me away.