Jessica Brandl

“The resulting effect is that I better understand the rhythms in life. I feel peaceful. This exercise of the grotesque and the terrifying, the organization, and the beauty. It’s complete, it’s balanced”

Jessica Brandl, 2017, on grappling with death and the unsatisfying 21st century euphemisms that mitigate loss

Hello all!  I think we are officially past midterms and it feels like the semester is flying.  I am working on so many projects that it becomes hard to prioritize and plan, and focus and confidence start to wane.  I’m a little stuck for inspiration and wanted to look at some artists who got my imagination going, when I stumbled upon this- a vessel called, “Your Problem.”

Jessica Brandl is an American artist who studied Ceramics and Art History in Ohio and Missouri, graduating from Ohio State with her MFA. Jessica teaches and lectures multiple disciplines in schools over North America. Her art is informed by understanding grief and purpose, and is a balance of optimism and realism.

Unravel Jessica Brandl

At first glance, one would miss how haunting the illustrations are on these pieces. Like the plate above, titled, “Unravel,” has the familiar feeling of a plate a relative may have on display in their home, until you really focus on the subject.  The bright, pastel-poppy color is disarming and beautiful and creates a moment where you begin to enjoy the pieces before actually seeing them in their entirety and once you do, you are left to reconcile the disparity in the happy colors and the devastation depicted.  It’s intriguing how these tragedies and historical events, death and vices, are all depicted in a pleasantly normal palate and an almost comforting way. This theme permeates to the clay itself, as Brandl herself describes the relationship she has with the clay as such-

“Even the material itself, the red clay, my feelings for it are accommodation of attraction and repulsion… Working with it reminds me of flesh and blood and then once I have organized the material I am able to apply a thin white skin of slip over it, to cover it gently.”

Brandl has combined her traditional drawing talents with her ceramics in much of her work.  There is so much to look at in each piece and the character and narrative are both thought provoking and accessible, though challenging a view who expects a simple landscape.  What I find especially beautiful about the pieces with the snakes are seemingly treated differently than the rest of the piece- their illustrative style seems purposefully sleeker, wetter, than the expressive lines in the drawing they surround which brings them to live in a surreal and vaguely menacing kind of way… that may be because some of the snakes seem to be cast from actual taxidermy.

All of the images in this post, have been selected from Jessica Brandl’s portfolio website. You can also keep up with her work on her Instagram.  While I’ve focused here on her ceramics work, her drawings are also stunning and her notes on her work are illuminating. I would also encourage anyone to take a moment to listen to Brandl speak about her work and life as her voice is a powerful reminder to strive for the self-awareness that allows us to most fully appreciate the world around us.

What’s Playing – I’ve been on a bit of an 80’s kick recently. Like the art I’ve been exploring, the upbeat, catchy music is engaging, but contrasts the lyrics which tended more towards the grimmer realities of life, conformity, and self expression. Anyway, here’s Hip to be Square.

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