Pony Kicker: Jessie Rose Vala Interview

July 20, 2010

Jessie Rose Vala, a.k.a. Smokey Matte, a.k.a. Shadey Breeze, a.k.a. Goth Wash, a.k.a. Shadow Master, hails from Eugene Oregon. She is a fairly recent convert to NYC. She never imagined herself here in the big city, but here she is, gracing us all with her amazing presence. Jessie is a total hippie but yet draws very, dark imagery. Her drawings would look great for a metal record covers. She has traveled the world doing residencies and art shows. She is currently working on a collaboration with me, Kelie Bowman, called Light Hits. It is an art music/project traveling to Los Angeles and Florida in the coming year.
Interview by White Sands, a.k.a. Kelz Bellz, a.k.a. K-Bo, a.k.a. K-Boom, a.k.a. Bones

Me: When did you start making art?
Jessie: I started drawing as a kid. One series with a mouse named Mousey. I drew Mousey in all different situations, settings and outfits. Another series was different characters in elevators. I got really obsessed with this. I did not decide to completely focus on art till I was in my last year in high school. I loved to do photography and decided to go to focus on that. I turned my back on studying archeology and comparative mythology, although both these interests play a role in my work now.
Me: Where did you go to school?
J: California College of the Arts. I got my BFA in Ceramics and Sculpture
Me: What are some of your favorite art shows you’ve seen lately?
J: Cai Guo-Qiang at the Guggenheim, the Kiki Smith show at Brooklyn Museum, the paintings of Charles Burchfield at the Whitney – these paintings blew my mind. I have seen a handful of really great gallery shows around New York, I am just cursed with a not so hot memory. I remember the work but have trouble with the names!

Me: What are you learning about/researching/exploring in your studio?
J: I am slowly studying Shambala philosophy and alchemy. In the studio I am in the middle of working on sculptures that incorporate paper, ceramics, paper mache rocks and graphite. I am exploring how these materials come together and layer. I would like to do more with textures, I am curious to use raw powders and pigments along with cut paper. I have mainly been doing graphite drawings for the last 5-6 years and am curious to get back into painting with color. I am not sure what direction that will take. For the last two years, i have been doing collage again which has been super fun! My dream is to learn how to etch, bronze cast, and become much more proficient in animation. On a deeper level, I am constantly exploring the human condition, our external and internal relationships. The disconnect that is happening with humans and our environment.
Me: What are you reading?
J: Bardo by Trungpa Rinponche
Me: What are you listening to in your studio?
J: The xx, Ethiopiques, Nina Simone, Zola Jesus, Ricky Lee Jones
Me: Favorite vegetable?
J: Kale
Me: What do you use to draw with?
J: A point 3 mechanical pencil

Spiral, from Temple of Blooom installation, Cinders Gallery

Me: What do you think about the Tight Flow experience? (working on Temple of Blooom)
J: SO MUCH FUN. It was a great group we worked hard and laughed a lot! Luckily we all had a similar sense of humor and could totally dork out together. It felt like family and community.
Me: What do you do for fun?
J: I hang out with my friend Kelie Bowman (laughing), make art, go hiking, travelling, make food with friends, watch movies, go on ferries.
Me: Can you reflect on your process?
J: Most times I get ideas when I am waking up or half asleep. I use alot of visual references in my work. I love to sit and look at books with pictures, it helps to open my mind up to all the possibilities. When I have an idea for a drawing, I often work out the different elements on tracing paper then build the composition by taping them on paper. This gives me freedom to change things and think on the structure of the picture. I get really carried away with the ritual of repetitive mark making. So in my drawings I use a small pencil to render millions of little marks. In my sculptures I like to cut or sculpt small pieces that then create the whole. My favorite work to do is installation, i love the layers that can come in to play with this- wall treatments, lighting, 2-d to 3-d. I often explore certain symbols for a few years and truthfully at the heart of all my work, there exists a similar theme.
Me: How do you know when you are done with a series or work?
J: It is pretty intuitive. I will usually have another inclination or other ideas and my focus naturally shifts. Of course a deadline can speed up this process.
Me: How much time do you spend in the studio?
J: Its been more sporadic since moving to NY. My true norm is to be in there almost every day but here it is more like 3-4 days a week. Sometimes it bounces back to a full week then tapers off, depending on money and jobs.

Cosmic Owl, detail of Cosmic Storm installation, Motel Gallery, Portland, OR

Me: What is your ideal studio?
J: A converted barn that is open with one side as the drawing side and the other the sculpture side with a kiln and tons of natural light.
Me: Favorite TV show?
J: Tim and Eric
Me: Favorite movie you’ve seen recently?
J: Nausicaa, oops, this is an old one. Lets see recently Picnic at Hanging Rock, my studio mate told me about and I finally saw it! So beautiful!
Me: Where do you find inspiration?
J: Nature, the human condition, mythologies, symbols, textiles, libraries, book stores, museums, shows, music, space, reading, materials and peers.