TAPPED INTO THE SENSES WITH ARTIST JESSALYN GUIZZOTTI
Jessalyn Guizzotti is a Los Angeles based painter, dancer and Jazz singer. Her large-format works appear as if they were from another time era, based on the aesthetic of Cubism, and above all focused on one subject: the female silhouette. For Jessalyn, this is an almost self-evident matter. One that helped her to empower herself – as much as her process of painting in general. In this interview, she talks about her work, her ambitions to work as sustainable as possible and why she prefers to turn her cell off – despite her rapid success on Instagram.
When did you start painting and why? Was there a certain catalyst moment?
After dropping out of art school, I actually didn’t touch a paintbrush for about twelve years. I flailed around Los Angeles for a time, making music and selling vintage clothes, and then restarted painting and drawing on objects that I’d pick up on the side of the street or at thrift stores – basically anything I could get my hands on. The passing away of my dog then led me into a spiraling mania of work. She was my rock. I had her for 13 years. With the one I loved most in the world gone, the only thing I could do to NOT lose my mind was paint. So, I did. Big, big canvases to fill up my days and nights. It was a rough time.
If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Resourceful. Sensual. Extreme. I absolutely HATE waste. It makes me want to crawl in a corner and hug myself. Luckily, I have a talent of finding people’s waste and transforming it into art. Still to this day, I have NEVER bought canvas. Ever! I find them in rag houses and sew them together to get the big canvases. It’s insane what people throw away. There is nothing more satisfying than giving new life to discarded things. I’m very tapped into my senses. I’m good at naturally knowing which direction I’m going. How to find things in the dark and where smells and noises are coming from. I think that must translate on the canvas. Somehow. Also, my extreme nature is pretty intense. I’m 100% or 0%.
Your style reminds me of Picasso’s Cubist works. Is there any relation? Did any other artists or art movements have a special influence on you?
Oh, cubism! I love that period. There were quite a few artists that worked in a very geometric way that I’m drawn to. Specifically, Le Corbusier. I’m also a huge fan of Francis Picabia, a Cleveland artist named Victor Schreckengost and Paul Klee, to name a few. I love shapes. I love buildings. I like to think of the human form as solid, curved architecture. I cannot deny my love for hard, sharp surfaces. Therefore, I would describe my style as gestural and geometric. But I also love being alive, and full of liquid. I’m somewhere in between those worlds.
The female body appears to be a main focus point for you. Can you tell us a little more about it? Do you view your work as something feminist?
The female form was just something I naturally fell into. I’m female, after all. To set the story, I developed very early. At the age of 12 I was already 5’6″, two years earlier, at the age of 10 I had to start wearing bras. It was so humiliating to be so freakishly large at such a young age. Kids are cruel. I think, as a result, I was ashamed of my body for many, many years. I hid my breasts and wore my brother’s XXL baggy clothes. Then, one day, in my early 20’s, some sort of light switched on and I just embraced myself. And I’m talking about the other extreme now: push up bras and high heels. Dear Lord! In retrospect, I’m glad I went through these waves of relating to my body. It’s been a journey. Not just for me. Never in history have women been as powerful as they are now – at least in numoerous cultures. I’d like to document that, somehow, if I can. And yes, I am absolutely a feminist!
The female subject has a long tradition in art. In what way is the female gaze different from the men’s?
For me, seeing the female form in art is like a ping of communication. It’s a question of how we are different, how we are alike. I wonder what that body thinks of itself. I wonder what that body has gone through. What does it love? What does it find beautiful? From a man’s perspective, and I’m generalising here, it’s probably more sexual in nature – stimulation. I want to take that notion and smash it into a million pieces. Confuse the hell out of them.
Is there a particular reason that you are using mostly warm and soft colors?
Sometimes I use straight cadmiums right out of the tube when the piece calls for it. I do love the saturation of warm, organic oils. It’s very satisfying in the way that it sits on the canvas. Living in Los Angeles, I’m very inspired by the way the sun washes out the paint on the sides of buildings and such. I live downtown, so I see a lot of this. The sun ages everything here. I guess I just love the process of oxidation and the colours that result. But I don’t always use warm, soft colours.
Where do you generally get your inspiration and ideas from?
My inspiration comes from architecture, actually. The midcentury design that runs through L.A. plays a big role in my work. I love the shapes and balance.
You’re also a (jazz)singer, songwriter and dancer. In what way does this influence you as a painter? How important is it for you to express your creativity in many different forms and ways?
I think my creative outlets are absolutely linked. A phrase of a song is a breath – a line is a breath – a movement is a breath. I actually moved to L.A. as a dancer. I was in this pretty legendary show on the west side called “The Toledo Show”. Those were fun times. Eventually I started gigging on my own, playing jazz, singing around town. I wrote and recorded a bunch. I only started painting in the last year. It all ties in. It’s all about the intuitive moments in a breath.
How important is it in your eyes especially for young artist to have a strong presence on Social Media?
Even if I do this thing, I’m not sure if it’s intentional. I’m a person that lets her phone battery die and leaves it dead for most of the day. It’s pretty impossible to get ahold of me for this very reason. I simply can not work when my phone is next to me. It’s so easy to get caught up in the Social Media world! The world is very, very big and it’s all right there at your fingertips. On the other hand, I’m so grateful for Instagram because of all the support. People are so wonderful. They’ve really inspired me to keep making art. I’m not sure I would have done this had it not been for the heaps of support. I use Instagram as a journal, just documenting and mapping out my process. It’s helpful to see it all there together – how I progress and how I translate.
If you could travel through time, which epoch would you be most interested in?
I think about traveling back in time often. I’m sort of an amateur historian. I’d probably want to live in late 19th century France. The era of salons, sensuality and the advent of modern art. The invention of the camera left artists to their own devices, thus came impressionism. This must have been such a crazy time. The light bulb, railroads, medicine, science, liberalism. We take all of this for granted now, but imagine a world where all of these things were BRAND NEW. It must have felt like magic. I’m a collector of Victorian things: rugs, furniture, also some clothes – even if you have to be careful with these things, because the dyes in some of the threads are made with arsenic. All that said, I’m happy to be living in the 21st century. Although if you saw my home, you might not think you were in the present.
And last but not least: Any special wishes for 2018?
I just keep going with the flow. I have some really cool projects coming up this spring that I cannot wait for. Like, flying around the world to make art in some pretty epic places for some pretty amazing people. I’m humbled. It all feels pretty unbelievable.
With the series Women Who Create, Material Magazine is looking to highlight women from a variety of professions and passions that use their unique talents to carve out a space for themselves and their art in our cultural landscape.