She Blinded Me With Science! – A Studio Visit with Jessica Joy London
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All color, whether manufactured or existing naturally before us, is chemically derived. It’s difficult to imagine how the Dutch Masters achieved such rich blues with so few resources—and, for general musings, how certain blue skies are simply more breathtaking than others. Sight—a sense taken for granted by most, particularly now as we live in the Information Age—can only bring so much to the eyes’ rods and cones when it comes to the brain’s processing and appreciation of color; it’s a limiting hurdle to the imagination. But for artist Jessica Joy London, when it comes to creating color, there are none. During my visit at her studio, I get a first glance of her process, revisit high school chemistry, and talk about the return of romance in art. She tells me with great passion, “In a time where people are so disengaged in the space around them, I want them to re-engage and get more wonder from a stain of nature on the ground than a ‘like’ on Facebook!”
With her work currently installed at Jed Williams Gallery, in the InLiquid curated exhibition ‘Wanderings’, Jessica’s paintings focus on the “artifacts of adjacent possibilities.” This is both her process and title of one of her series. She creates a diaphanous array of colorful compositions by way of experimenting with the materials’ interaction. She tells me this is the first time she’s employed a system in her work. By “system,” she is referring to the chemical reaction of molecules. For those forgetting high school chemistry, here’s a quick jog of the brain: remember 2H2 + O2 —> 2H2O? That is a system; the result of the interaction between hydrogen and oxygen creates water. After several rolls of the dice—in this case dye—and keeping a lab book journaling which systems had the most engaging, romantic qualities to them, what began as a serendipitous discovery is now Jessica’s strategy in her collaboration with nature. “As an artist, you always want people to see the world like you do, especially if you enjoy the way you see things…I want people to fall in love with their environment.”
Surface tension, is an example of a phenomena she wishes to push further in her work. Think of a coffee stain on a wooden table, and using the crisp circular line as an element of composition. As a surface, Jessica uses Yupo paper, otherwise known as polypropylene. Unlike regular paper, it’s a type of smooth plastic, avoiding interference as a variable; no absorption, water evaporates, and after paint is applied, what you see is the artifact of their interaction. It is a simple, often overnight, process with a multitude of possibilities. By capturing the aftermath of an interaction, the finished piece is like a photograph of a chemical reaction. “I’m always excited to see what happens while I’m gone. All artists need to have that thing that keeps them coming back..but I really think about it like being outside, seeing how the leaves stain the sidewalk after sitting a while under the sun…or even a coffee stain,” she says, “and really, I’m collaborating with nature, understanding more about patterns in nature by interacting with them.”
Naturally drawn to details, Jessica has always found herself looking closely to things in the natural world. One major, but practically minor, detail about Jessica is that she is severely far-sighted. “Even with my contacts in,” she tells me, “my vision still isn’t 20/20.” But impairment, in whatever form, should never dictate one’s abilities. What makes someone’s work unique, she says, is in the way they work around it. And simply, “it’s just the way I see…I found the advantages of seeing this way, and being this way, to make the work that I make.” We end our studio visit talking about the return of romance and romantic qualities in art. “I’m not one for shock value,” she tells me (a relief for me to hear from an artist in this age of sensationalism and Post-pretty-much-everything discourse). “When I started making this work, people of the science world would come to see my work. And if I knew them, even if were just acquaintances, they would start sending me pictures that they were taking in nature, of close up details!” Excited about making a wonderful connection she says, “These people who have never done that before, are now seeing the world in a different way now that they’ve seen my work!” I thought about high school science again, as we ended our conversation, and what a ‘catalyst’ does; it’s a substance that enables a chemical reaction. In a digital-centric age, Jessica serves as a catalyst as she activates beauty between science and art, and reconnects nature with human relationships.