About the Elemental Artist

I’m Jessica. I used to be an adventurer: single and childless and nothing to lose. Once, during a St. Patrick’s Day Parade, I convinced a friend to drive with me (after an hour to sober up) the eleven hours from Lawrence, Kansas to Angel Fire, New Mexico to snowboard. Another time, I rode along an irrigation canal access road in Republic County, Kansas while some friends water-skied behind our pickup truck. And once, in a hipster saloon, I met a gypsy who traveled the country, asphalting people’s driveways and taking his 14-year-old nephew to bars to learn pool.

Now I’m married, the mother of a two-year-old, working a full-time desk job and trying to launch a writing business on the side. I make my son breakfast and attempt negotiations for cooperative diaper changes. I talk with my husband about how how we might celebrate the holidays in small groups, outdoors. I carve out a few hours to research the best ways to take a next step towards freelancing. I cook dinner. I debate with myself about whether I need to clean the bathroom this weekend or whether it can wait. I don’t have time to have adventures and I hate it. 

So I am turning to art. This is not the first time I’ve looked to art to save me from some internally-concocted version of what life is supposed to be. As an undergrad, I applied for and got a spot on an exchange program to study at an art school in Norwich, England. I loved the concept of travel and adventure, but the reality was I still went home every weekend to my Kansas farm to hang out with my mom. The night before my flight, I told her I’d changed my mind and I’d just rather stay home. Luckily, she didn’t let me. 

That experience opened my eyes to other places and to new ways of thinking. I hung around artists, spent hours in the school’s library (in the old refectory of a monastery!) and took solo adventures through the countryside. My drawing improved by leaps and bounds and I gained confidence in my ability to be alone in the world, even if my roots remained in Kansas. 

Years later, in a crisis of career, I landed a sweet gig in the education department of the Spencer Museum of Art, where I took my breaks in the medieval gallery and taught others to look long and slow at an image. After a few years there, I enrolled in the Master’s Program and began studying art history. The more I looked at art and studied artists, the more the world around me began to look like a giant artwork. Walking out of the museum at dusk, the building in front of me became planes and lines pitted with bold colors of lighted windows. The way a student moved down the stairway between classes became layered shapes ala Duchamp.

I love my family, but I miss seeing art everywhere I look. Art can save me from suburban mundania. This blog is my love note to myself; a weekly way for me to connect to that creative energy and to foster it in my life again. I want it to be a love note to you, too, so join me on this journey. I need this. And so do you.

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