Studio Visit: Jessica Poundstone

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Jessica Poundstone is an artist living and working in Portland, Oregon. Her work can be seen in PLEAT's August 2018 exhibition as well as jessicapoundstone.com. Photo credit: Sophie Poundstone.

Please describe your work.
I’m making images that create what I hope are beautiful moments — spaces that invite viewers to step out of their usual routines and habits to contemplate and meditate.

I describe my aesthetic as “warm minimalism.” The warmth comes from two places. The first is color.  Color to me feels like a luxury and a gift; I want people to experience it in a new way or to a new depth. And the second comes from leaving evidence of human touch in the work — a slightly wobbly, hand-drawn line, a non-uniform texture on a field of color, etc. 

What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices?
I try to work as intuitively as possible, bypassing my inner analyst and staying tuned into the flow and collaboration between mind/heart/body.

I also try to be as fearless as possible. For me, working in digital makes that easier than ever: I don’t have to worry about using up expensive materials or making messes. I can take my ideas further faster because working in digital gives me more freedom to toss something out or take it in an entirely different direction. 

It is also a constant practice for me to be reductive. I’ll work on something for an hour only to realize that I liked an earlier, simpler version bettter. Working in a minimalist aesthetic sometimes requires being brave about keeping something in an elemental form, and stopping when it feels right and “whole.” I often know a picture is done when I get an emotional “ping” from it.

Who are your artistic influences and what have you learned from them? 
So many! And now more than ever my antenna is up for artists who are working in ways that resonate with me and keeping up with their work. But a brief history of the most influential artists for me...

The first was Joseph Cornell. I loved the spaces he created in his boxes — and how they radiated a certain sort of enchanted energy. I have had transcendent experiences while looking at his work in person - once at SFMOMA, and again when I got to look at one in a private gallery in New York: just me and a box at a table in a room. 

David Hockney’s also been incredibly influential — not just because I love his work, his sense of adventure and his color palettes, but because he was the first major artist (that I knew of anyway) to use and advocate for making work on touchscreens. That was incredibly liberating for me; I was experimenting with working on touchscreens at the time, and it gave me the confidence to keep exploring it. 

When I first experienced a James Turrell Skyspace, at the Henry Museum in Seattle, Washington I was completely bowled over. I didn’t know his work at all, but the experience of sitting inside an all-white, small, enclosed space looking through the circle in the ceiling at the sky was mystical, magical and unforgettable.  To know that an artist could create an immersive spiritual experience like that was incredibly powerful.

And the last one I’ll mention is minimalist painter and sculptor Anne Truitt. I stumbled upon her published journals, “Daybook” at my local library and spent nearly a year reading it — just taking in a small portion each week. I learned so much from her extremely articulate thoughts about being an artist in the world, her toughness when critics thought her work was too simple or strange, and her deep commitment to her own vision. That book helped me validate, accept and encourage myself to keep following and trusting my intuition. 

How has social media affected your studio practice? 
Two years ago, when I decided that I wanted to take a more disciplined approach to my artwork, I gave myself permission for what I did to not be very good — and to put it out there anyway. The easiest way to do that was to start an Instagram account. I have a pretty darn perfectionistic side that keeps trying to tell me that I can’t put stuff into the world until it’s fully baked. But that’s not conducive to growth. 

I cannot even say how amazing Instagram has been for me. Not just as a venue to show my work, but having a place to watch, connect with and get support from working artists I deeply admire (Kate Gibbons, Sophie Smallhorn,Graca Paz, and Deborah Manvilleto name just a few) has been incredibly encouraging — and gives me energy and excitement about continuing to grow and share. 

Instagram has also unlocked a ton of other opportunities: selling my work online, having a show at a local cafe, having a piece in a show in NYC, being part of this Pleat Gallery show: none of this would have happened (or at least it wouldn’t have happened as quickly or easily) without Instagram.