Jaye Schlesinger

I’m inspired by the challenge of translating a three dimensional world into two dimensions – painting objects as portraits and trying to somehow capture an essence, a soul, of an ordinary everyday thing, the more mundane the better.

When and where were you born?
Chicago, IL

Where do you currently live and work?
I currently live and work in Ann Arbor, MI. I am a full time painter, awaiting the completion of a brand new studio, which will be the third floor of a house that my husband and I will be moving into, scheduled to be finished any minute now. The room will be bright with a nice view overlooking near downtown.

How long have you been practicing your craft?
I have been making art, in many forms, since I was 3 years old. I spent a lot of time drawing while I was growing up.  Then I started making large geometric acrylic paintings and, later, worked as a cabinetmaker/furnituremaker. After that I returned to school to study medical illustration and spent fifteen years illustrating surgical textbooks and anatomy atlases. Twelve years ago, I became a full time painter, self-taught in both pastel and oil paint. My subject matter continues to evolve.

What inspires you?
I’m inspired by the challenge of translating a three dimensional world into two dimensions – painting objects as portraits and trying to somehow capture an essence, a soul, of an ordinary everyday thing, the more mundane the better. At the moment, I’m inspired by minimalism and mindfulness – being deliberate about what I own and how I live. I am working on a project called “Possessed” which will be an installation exhibition consisting of approximately 380 paintings of all of my possessions. After disposing of everything that no longer served to enrich my life, I decided to depict ALL of my remaining possessions in paintings. Some are of individual objects, while others show groups of objects that relate to each other by either function or form. They will be displayed as groupings hung very close together. My intent is to elicit contemplation and conversation about the ‘stuff’ we choose to live with. How much do we really need and why is it hard to let go? Do we possess the objects or do they possess us?

How would you describe your style
My approach to my current project “Possessed” involved a lot of planning and working from photographs. Because I wanted to paint everything I own, and because I was in the process of moving and had to put everything into storage for a period of time, I photographed everything before packing it up. Each object or group of objects was posed in many different arrangements with different types of lighting to give me the most options when it came time to decide on the final composition. I completed the entire series of 380 paintings, done on small panels ranging in size from 4″ x 4″ to 6″ x 12″, over a period of about two years. I became faster towards the end, when I had gained a confidence in my ability to be more direct and suggestive. The earlier paintings are tighter and more detailed. Although there is a generally consistent style throughout, there was a lot of room to experiment with various approaches to ‘still life’ painting. Some are more graphic and flat, others more painterly, some cropped to bleed off the edges of the panel, others centrally placed, some overhead views, others firmly rooted on a tabletop, etc. I enjoyed working intuitively and being somewhat spontaneous about making color choices, not always being precisely literal, but not straying too far from the truth.

What has been a defining moment in your career?
The first artist residency that I was accepted into was a defining moment in my career. It was in 2004 that I spent a month at the Anderson Center in Minnesota and, for the first time, had an extended period of time with no distractions and no obligations in order to focus on creating art. It was heavenly to work all day with no interruptions and then to convene with other artists and writers to a dinner prepared for us. I was extremely productive, but more importantly I learned that creating art is what makes me feel whole and centered and that painting is how I make sense of the world.  Since then I have been lucky enough to attend 9 more artist in residence programs, meeting inspiring artists, writers, poets, musicians, and scientists and taking with me a bit of wisdom from many of them.

What are your future plans?
I’m looking forward to moving into and setting up my new studio. I plan to spend some time experimenting with abstract imagery. Having just finished 380 small representational oil paintings of objects, I feel the need to do something totally different, to invent a new visual vocabulary and explore shape and color. I’m also reacting to our changed country and feel an urgency to make art that provides a sense of serenity or happiness.

Can you leave us with some parting words or advice?
I like to think about the advice that Chuck Close gives “…not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work…”  That is helpful when things aren’t going well. Recognize that sometimes the process of art-making involves struggle, uncertainty, and failure. Pushing through this part usually results in something wonderful. Or, as an artist/writer friend puts it: “Revel in the mess.”

Where can people learn more about you and purchase your work?


All images copyright Jaye Schlesinger. All rights reserved.