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Artist Check-in: Jessica Wohl

Tennessee-based Jessica Wohl talks about how she is using this time to create more work, staying flexible with her practice by working on multiple projects in different mediums and spaces simultaneously, and her hope for how the future will continue to incorporate virtual art experiences even when we can gather in person, safely, again.

How do you situate your work in the context of the current moment?

My current work is a direct response to our contemporary times by trying to address the pain and discomfort so many of us are experiencing. In my quilts, I use phrases that ask questions or express sentiments designed to get viewers to consider each other and our actions in ways they maybe haven’t before. I also use physical materials such as bedsheets and used clothes that originate in homes as stand-ins for their former owners—people from different places with different belief systems and practices—and unify them into an object that provides comfort and protection. It’s a metaphor for what I’d like to see in our country, I guess. My collages, on the other hand, try to present the pain and sacrifice so many women make for their families, while glorifying those gestures and presenting them as worthy of attention and praise.

 

What projects are you currently working on and how is social distancing affecting your art practice?

I am currently working on a series of quilts and paintings for an upcoming solo exhibition in the Fall of 2021. Social distancing has actually been really helpful for my practice. With less to do, and less social obligations to fulfill, I’m able to spend more focused time at home and in the studio. One relatively new development is that I’ve hand quilted my last three quilts because it allows me to get away from my sewing machine and take my practice with me, working portably in small bursts of time. I can quilt when I’m watching TV with my son, or when we’re in the car. The slowing down has helped me focus on what’s most important right now, but it’s also been an incredible solution to the challenge of being both productive at home and in the studio.

 

What advice and tips can you give to other artists during this time?

I guess I would just say that what’s worked for me has been to adapt my practice to make it fit my life right now. I work on multiple projects in multiple disciplines according to what’s going on at a particular time. If I have an entire day in the studio (which is rare), I’ll tackle something large and time-consuming that demands focus. But I’ll also have another project going on that I can throw in a bag and take with me—something that’s clean and mindless. So, by maximizing the kinds of processes I’m working on at a given time, I always have something I can turn to in order to keep going. Perhaps that’s helpful.

 

How are you cultivating community for yourself and what can the community be doing to support artists?

Well, I teach at a university that was fortunate enough to teach safely in-person, so my contact with my students was the best thing that kept me connected to a creative community. I was able to do a series of “visiting artist” exchanges with my students, where artists did Zoom visits with my class in exchange for me doing Zoom visits with theirs. But other than that, I’ve just accepted that this is a time for solitude, and I have assured myself there is a place in life for that. I have really enjoyed “attending” artist talks through museums and other institutions’ online programming that I would normally not have been able to attend otherwise. I really hope that practice stays in place once we return to normal. I also try to keep my Instagram page up to date, and stay attuned to other social media pages to see what people are up to.

To support artists in these trying times, I hope that we can create online opportunities for engagement (like this one!) where artists can access other artists to learn from one another what is and isn’t working. I encourage people to hire and buy from local artists, galleries and creatives when they can to help keep our industry afloat. Also, it might be helpful for writers and journalists to feature the works of artists and other creatives so that there’s more visibility about what’s going on in our own studio spaces behind closed doors. If we can’t get people into the galleries to see our work, maybe there are other outlets to bring the work to them.

 

Bio:

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Jessica Wohl received her BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and her MFA from the University of Georgia. Originally trained as an illustrator with specialization in art history, her studio practice now includes quilting, collage, embroidery, drawing, and painting.

 

Wohl’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including at the Museum of Design Atlanta, the Knoxville Museum of Art, the Belfast Photo Festival, the Robert Mann Gallery in New York and the Zeitgeist Gallery in Nashville. Her work has also been exhibited at venues in Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans, England, Finland, Norway, Italy, Hong Kong and Korea, and has recently been featured in the New York Times, New American Paintings, Burnaway, Vogue, Hyperallergic and ArtNews. Her work is collected by the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, the Sprint-Nextel Corporation, the H&R Block World Headquarters, numerous private collectors and is included in the Drawing Center’s Viewing Program. She is represented by Weinberger Fine Arts in Kansas City, Missouri, and she is currently an Associate Professor of Art at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee where she teaches Drawing and Painting.

 

Check out her website at https://www.jessicawohl.com/main

And follow her on Instagram @jessicawohlstudio

Jessica at home working on a new quilt.

 

Life at Home, 2020, Found fabrics, bed sheets and used clothes, 90 x 85 inches.

Machine pieced and hand quilted. This quilt is a variation of courthouse steps quilt which is part of the log cabin quilt family. Traditionally, the center square of a log cabin block is red, as a symbol of the hearth/home, so here, I blew up that red square and put some craziness in the center instead. The whole quilt is essentially constructed the same way as a traditional courthouse steps block. Kind of like this: https://i2.wp.com/ scrapdash.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/ BWS.jpg?ssl=1

 

 

It Hurts More Than We Think, 2016, Found fabrics, bedsheets, used clothes and embroidery, 60 x 60 in

 

Jessica in her studio holding her son.

 

Peg Leg, 2014, collage on paper, 11 x 9 in

 

Finger Face, 2014, collage on paper, 11 x 9 in

 

Back Breaker, 2017, collage on paper, 11 x 9 in

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