“My style is highly intuitive, drawing inspiration from a variety of subject matter. Most often, I gravitate toward capturing the essence of the human form in a loose, expressive manner, using color and texture as my primary focus. Combining monotype printmaking with painting and pastels is my favorite vehicle for creating these images . I utilize monotypes, lithographs or other prints as a textural base, then create subsequent layers in other media until I’ve achieved the desired result. My goal is not to render my subject exactly as it appears, but rather to interpret the spirit of the form and my internal perceptions related to it.” - Jessica Barber
Jessica Barber‘s, Vestige: An Industrial Perspective at Twenty-Two Gallery in Center City West includes a marvelous variety of mono-prints, lithographs and mixed media paintings all based on the wasting industrial infrastructure of Chester PA. Photographer Jeff Stroud and DoN visited the artist on a sultry Sunday afternoon to view her new work and learn more about the process of printmaking and her inspirations.
“All of the large pieces were printed at BYO Print in Kensington on Cecil B. Moore Avenue. The smaller prints were all done at The Plastic Club with the exception of my one etching which was done in Miami. Fulwood Press in Miami, actually I have piece in a show down in Miami. I was involved in a group show through Projects Gallery up here but they also have a branch there. So when I participated in that show a couple years ago I thought, ‘You know? I have family down in Miami. Why don’t I go join the piece that I sent down there and go for the closing reception.
It was really nice, very, very nice. My family from down there came to the closing reception with me. Right across the street from it was this print shop and I was like a kid in a candy store. Because they have this huge vertical press that comes down and you can set the exact pressure. So, I definitely put it on my list for the next time I go down there, if I have the time I’ll do a couple etchings there. I usually don’t have the time to do etchings while I’m up here.”
Why don’t you have the time here?
“The etching process you have to do a lot of experimenting with acid bath, knowing how long to keep the plates in the acid. And just that process in itself, as far as preparing the plate is rather lengthy.”
Etchings are different than lithographs?
“Yes. When I’m up here I stick to the more immediate processes for me which would be the monotypes, the prints and the lithographs on polyester plates. Because I can work around my two and one half jobs, I can go in at night and I can pull a bunch of prints in marathon sessions at The Plastic Club.”
Why is your show called Vestige?
“Vestige refers to things that just have gone beyond their useful purpose or there is an absence now because whatever they were there for is gone. A lot of the imagery I use would fit into that because the objects are there and they fit into peoples everyday environment. However the industriousness that went along with those objects and what they were used for is there no longer. It’s the vestige of the industrial past.
And some of the figures are inspired by that whole adaptation between that type of environment and the humans that are there that have to live with it. And they have to deal with that environment. I go to Chester a lot, that’s an area that if the right people would take care of it there could be a revitalization of that area. Just like what’s happening in Fishtown or when I went to Miami.
One of my pieces is inspired by Miami in the Wynwood Arts District, which is an area full of old warehouses that has become an area full of art galleries and coffee shops. But you can still see the vestiges of the industrial life from before.”
“In this exhibit, Jessica Barber’s mixed media and fine art prints concentrate on symbols of our industrial past: what is left of structures no longer in use, now relics of an often forgotten period of prosperity. She explores this reality through portraits of these structures, along with images depicting the perspectives of humans co-existing and adapting as their environments further disintegrate into decay or transition into renewed vitality. Among pipelines and condemned homes, scrap yards, and rapidly revitalizing neighborhood corridors, she examines traces of the past, and hints of the evolution yet to come.” - Twenty-Two Gallery website.
Jessica Barber has an art gallery in Chester called Art on Avenue of the States which is part of the arts and cultural revitalization of the city. They are partnering with PPL Park and with Harrah’s Casino so that people who go to the waterfront in Chester and then get right on the highway and go straight home will discover the bridge the artists are building between the community and the gambling entertainment complex. Buy art – it will revitalize your life. You can’t lose.
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Written and photographed by DoN Brewer except where noted.
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