This season, we worked with LA-based painter Jessalyn Brooks, whose artwork focuses on the contours of the female form with blocky, colourful abstraction.
Inspired by the geometric lines of Cubism, Brooks’ paintings have a vibrant and modern female-focus; bringing forth an important question of beauty ideals, body shape and gender. We caught up with Brooks in her LA studio to talk more about how she started painting, her inspirations and more.
When did you start painting? What compelled you?
It’s funny, I started painting for real, not too long ago. I had aspired to be a painter in high school and even my first year of university.
I decided to take a different path, and put the brush down for about 15 years. In the past seven years I started drawing again, and then painting and now... it’s just a whole thing.
What compelled me? I have no idea. I just started to do it one day. I had forgotten about it. I figured, why not? This feels nice. The thing that actually kicked off my art career was when I started painting on the vintage clothes that I was selling.
They became pretty popular. And to be honest, they looked a lot like the collaboration. It’s weird. It’s like a full-circle. Life is so weird. I love these pieces.
How would you describe your artistic style?
I’d say my work is abstracted, figurative - maybe a little bit wicked in subject matter. Pretty and mildly wicked...I think that’s how I’d describe myself. I make a lot of use of negative space. Dramatic, exaggerated shapes that depict the profile of what it is to be female in a world that equally rewards and punishes the caricature that she is. I think what I’m saying with my work is, even though beauty standards have always been guided by the male gaze, we don’t have to pick a side. We don’t have to rebel. In fact, why not over-do it. It’s funnier that way.
The female form is a central theme of your work. Why is that important to you, and why is it/should it be important to your audience?
Obviously, I think a lot of my work is probably subconscious. I don’t exactly name it. In fact, I’m pretty sure they’re all self-portraits in some way.
They’re all exaggerated, ridiculous and yet still trying to be beautiful. There’s a struggle in there. How do we take our history, our parables, our myths, and pair it with the humiliation of what we endured?
I think my work is blunt, yet mysterious. Even to me. Maybe that’s something as women, that we can understand.
Maybe that’s how we have always survived. Who knows.
Can you tell us about the artwork featured in our collaboration?
The work chosen for the collaboration is actually from the beginning of my career! I love that. It was from a time when I was not thinking about anything. I was just letting things pour out. No expectations, no judgement. I implore everyone to approach newness with that outlook! I wish I could go back to that time. I’m glad I get to wear these drawings now. They remind me to just “DO”.
How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is straight up vintage. I seriously don’t think I own anything new other than this collaboration! And my underwear. I used to have a pop up vintage shop in LA years ago, so it’s definitely my trademark. I’d definitely say Sigourney Weaver in the 80’s. That’s my style.