Jessica Palomo is a phoenix-based artist who received her BFA in Sculpture from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and her MFA in Drawing from Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ. Her work has been exhibited internationally at the Palazzo Rinaldi in Italy, the Contemporary Art Space in China and locally at the Phoenix Art Museum and the Tucson Museum of Art in Arizona. Palomo is represented by Bentley Gallery.
My work is a response to the grief of losing a loved one, a trauma that can overload and fracture the conscious mind, causing a shattered emotional state. Through abstraction and mark-making, I explore the dynamics of this ruptured reality that place identity and emotion in a liminal, ambiguous space.
By rendering only a handful of distinct organic forms, the eyes rest merely for a moment before plunging into a sea of textural marks. These expressive involuntary marks do what language cannot, intuitively creating a passageway to concealed memories, recording a trace of their complexities through drawing, and ultimately logging the intricate and multifaceted sensations of suffering in hopes of creating a truer empathetic connection. These drawings speak from the body, connecting, sustaining, and transmitting traumatic impressions with each varied gestural mark. The overall encounter is ambiguous in form and liminal in space, fluxing in perspective, and never providing a sense of clarity.
When was the first time you felt like you were an artist?
Ever since I can remember I have always gravitated toward art, some of my clearest memories when I was in grade school involve art. During this time, I received several art awards, for show and tell I demonstrated how to make paper-mâché ornaments, and when I was five, I made a girl cry after I told her she was using the wrong color red in her artwork…I still feel terrible about that one. However, even though my early memories are stitched with art making, I never thought that being an artist was a real thing until my senior year in high school. Growing up I wasn’t encouraged to pursue art, but once I felt the societal burden of getting a degree, I selected the only thing that came naturally to me. For good measure, I asked my high school art teacher (and now good friend) if being an artist was a “real thing”, she assured me it was and I have never looked back.
What would you say is the underlying thread that connects your work?
My work is driven by personal experiences. I have always been a somewhat uncomfortable person and I struggle with articulating how I feel. My emotions tend to possess me, travel deep, fast, and wildly, nesting in my skin. I experienced this most relentlessly when I lost my mother. As time moves on, my internal self becomes more unique, more severe, more compacted, forever changing, and rarely resting. For me making does what language cannot. It approaches, moves, and transforms these internal passageways and memories, recording a trace of their complexities and multifaceted sensations. Ultimately, I want my work to speak from the body, connecting, sustaining, and transmitting emotions for a truer empathetic connection to myself and others.
What is the most satisfying part of your practice?
The most satisfying part of my practice comes after the most stressful. In many pieces, I work large and then cut them after completing the drawing. This is nerve-racking because I usually really like them before I cut them up. I play with the pieces, arrange them in endless configurations, and then all of a sudden, I fall into this magically unforeseen composition. It’s so satisfying and feels like a gift from the heavens.
Tell us about a turning point in your artistic journey and/or career.
I had a studio visit with a professor while in grad school. It was pretty standard with typical questions about my work and how I was doing in the program. Overall, it was nice and pleasant. I was feeling good and then BOOM, he ended with, “you know these are really nice drawings…. but anyone can do them.” Gut punch to the soul. I cried right after he left. I was hurt and devastated because what he said was true. That remark was absolutely a pivotal moment in my practice and it still motivates me to get uncomfortable in the studio, to trust my instincts and the process, and strive to make a drawing that no one else can make.
If you could show your work anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Honestly, I’ve always wanted to see my work in a moody gothic Paris castle. I am compelled to the sublime and that historic and epic atmosphere would profoundly overwhelm, scare, and empower me.