Artist Interview: Jess Rees Seeks Space at Starry Night Retreat (Part I) |

Artist Interview: Jess Rees Seeks Space at Starry Night Retreat (Part I)

Artists come to Starry Night Retreat for different reasons, hoping for different outcomes and searching for different experiences. Jess Rees, an artist who came to us this past fall, came looking for space. She came to spacious Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, all the way from Brooklyn, New York to find inspiration, space to create, and ways to deepen her work.

During her stay with us, she was interviewed by one of our writers in residence- Feral Wilcox- and this is her story.

Space Seeker: Jess Rees (Part I)

Jess came to Starry Night for two weeks – October 1 – 15 in 2013. For a while it seemed Starry Night was an outpost of Brooklyn, with so many artists coming from there. Jess has only been in Brooklyn for six months, though. Before that she was a working artist in Seattle. But Brooklyn is home for her in some ways; she grew up in New Jersey – northern New Jersey, so her city identity was New York (if you grow up in southern New Jersey, your city identity will be Philadelphia, and you will have an entirely different cultural outlook on the world. Having lived in Philly myself for 8 years, I can attest to this regional nuance.)

What is it about New York? Artists will do almost anything to live there. As artists, in cities, we have a better chance to find our tribe, and New York can be a gathering of these tribes. Jess is working now, for extra money, in Manhattan as a web designer. She shares a 10′ by 10′ foot studio with her boyfriend (a musician), a middle pass-through room in their smallish Brooklyn apartment. She misses having an independent and private studio space. She thinks maybe she avoids working as big as she’d like due to this limitation. In Seattle, she could piece together a financial living from part-time and temporary employment, which imposed less of a time limitation on her art than her current situation. Thus the need for Starry Night Retreat. Jess speaks of the difficulty of carving out enough and big enough blocks of time for her art in the 9 to 5 day job format. She hit the ground running when she got here.

One of the first things east-coasters become aware of in Truth or Consequences is space. Lots of space. Maybe even too much space, it might seem, at first. Time space and space space. Psychic space and emotional space. Conversational space. Transportational space. Jess was already thinking about space when she got here. A smallish Brooklyn apartment is vast compared to its Manhattan equivalent, but even in Brooklyn, 10 by 10 is tiny, for one, let alone two creative people. Jess’s current work examines this notion of space from many angles. She is working now in two dimensions, making intricate, almost architectural drawings of internal and external space. She is drawing row-houses complete with deus-ex-machina, in the form of an actual crane, intruding as an analytical device, to extract a tiny cell from the cell blocks of urban living. The drawings evoke bee-hives and call out a number of questions: what is your space, what is mine? How do we decide this? What is the nature of ownership of space? What is it that we own, if there is no land involved? How much space does a person get? How are we identified by our space? How does our external space affect our internal lives, our self-definition, our habits and trajectories?


Stay tuned for parts II and III in the coming days!

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