Her Work: Jessica Bottalico

Learn more about a Collective 131 featured artist, Jessica Bottalico

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Living and working in Beacon, NY, Jessica Bottalico examines the narrative behind mundane objects that occupy domestic spaces and landscapes. Bottalico completed her BFA at Maryland Institute College of Art and MFA in Painting at Rutgers University. Recent exhibitions include J Cacciola Gallery, Bronx Community College, Zurcher Gallery, Causey Contemporary, Proto Gallery, and Abrons Arts Center. She has completed Residencies with the Vermont Studio Center, and the Alfred and Trafford Klots International Program for Artists in Lehon, France. When she’s not painting in her studio, she teaches art to high schoolers.

Artist Q & A:

Where do you live/work?

I live and work in a sweet, old house in Beacon, NY.

What themes do you explore in your art?

I've been exploring Interiors as a means of portraiture, mostly painting domestic spaces and the objects occupying them. My paintings of Interiors started at my great Aunt Dolly's home, and have slowly become portraits of the people who are important to me, mixed with a lot of self portraits, through visual interpretations of the domestic spaces my subjects have created.

What is your experience being a woman in this industry?

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about how navigating the art world as a woman can be challenging. When I first graduated from grad school and was trying to meet people and have studio visits, I had a studio in my Bushwick apartment, right next to my bedroom. I was hesitant to have certain people over, because I was never sure if they were genuinely interested in my work or something else. I may have been wrong about a lot of people and resisted certain conversations that could have been completely innocent and productive, but it is a real fear that definitely limited my exposure early on. 

In grad school I was really focused on the landscape, and was self conscious my paintings felt really gendered. A little after graduating, I'm not sure why, but I really wanted to make more masculine work. It was a fun challenge, but my paintings lost something when I took my femininity out of them. 

I've been so much more excited to create unapologetically feminine work in recent years, focusing on domestic scenes, flowers and patterns. I have been so inspired by other artists who seem to also be embracing traditionally female crafts and materials in their art work like weaving, ceramics, embroidery and quilting.

Who are some artists/art professionals that you admire?

I love Betty Woodman's work, her larger ceramic pieces are bold, playful and full of character. I love the work Lauren Luloff has been making, painting on fabric and creating sewn landscapes and I'm so inspired by Alison Owen's daily vase project. To me her pieces also have so much personality and gesture infused in them, I can't help but connect with them. I have also always been a big fan of Lois Dodd's paintings, I can get lost in her landscapes.  

What does a typical day look like for you?

I'm a high school art teacher, so from September to June, I wake up at 6 and get home around 6. I try to sneak in some drawing and ceramic work in my classroom during my free slots, and work as much as possible on the weekends i my studio. Last year, I used up a lot of my creative energy working with my husband fixing up a little apartment in our house. I am now (finally) focusing on setting up a proper studio where I can paint and make ceramics, and I'm so excited to have a studio space again. During my summer break from school, when I have weekdays and weekends for myself, I usually have coffee, take my dog Charlie for a walk, go swimming at the gym, and then spend the day in my studio. My summer days are the best. 

Where do you find inspiration?

I find a lot of inspiration in my home, looking at how the light falls on different plants and patterns and sometimes abstracts the space. I've also been thinking a lot of the female form, and been making lots of sketches of different vessels that resemble different women in my life, women admire.

What's next?

Next, I'm hoping to tie in my love and obsession with ceramics and pottery into my paintings. I have pages of sketches for sculptures I'll start to make as soon as my studio is ready. I'm excited to see if that becomes the work, or if these vessels then become still life objects to incorporate into more paintings... We'll see!   

Cassandra Fiorenza