I had the privilege of interviewing local Erie artist Jessica Makowski for the September Love for Local Artists feature! Jessica uses artmaking as a way to work through their emotions, process past trauma and to come to terms with their identity.
I feel so honored that they were willing to share so much with me, and with you, here in this feature. <3 Read to discover more about what artmaking means to them, what inspires them, and more.
What does artmaking mean to you?
Making art is making life. I will be honest, I have yet to fully come into my own as an artist; I have been raising my children and making a life and working on myself; breaking patterns, you know? Trying to understand who I am and why. A year ago I started working with an amazing therapist (I chose her in part because she has art therapy in her background) and have been encouraged to use art as a means to express my emotions and work through trauma. The voices at the edge of my consciousness won’t let me be about it, and I have been pushing to allow myself to create.
"Making art is making life."
How long have you been creating?
I have been creating art since I was a teenager. I remember coming into myself; realizing I could choose to look a certain way and look at the world a certain way and that my perspective was not necessarily the same as what I saw reflected back at me. I felt the power in that. I used to glue flowers cut from magazines to my walls and loved to draw and paint. I loved the meditative nature of drawing. I cut inspiring things out of magazines and started expressing myself with fashion. I write and have kept many journals throughout the years.
"I have been creating art since I was a teenager."
What inspires you?
I am inspired by the idea that we create our lives backwards. Every choice we make in the present moment changes the past; recreates it. I am inspired by fashion; the colors and the way fabric drapes, and the confidence it can give a person to allow their true selves to shine, and be effectively communicated to other human beings. I am inspired by nature, and tiny felt objects, and relationships. I am inspired by spirals and fractals (romanesco is a most inspiring vegetable!) and by the moon. I am inspired by witchcraft and magic. I am inspired by the vast galaxy of human sexuality and gender and I am deeply inspired by trans people.
"I am inspired by the idea that we create our lives backwards."
How has creating art helped you navigate life’s challenges?
Currently, creating art is giving me a new perspective on how to flow through those challenges. I have come up against some big things over the past couple of years, and I fear becoming stuck. Making art is a channel through those barriers, and the air within that space is so fresh and so refreshing. I can’t help but to crave it and to flow through those channels as often as I can. It can be messy and is not always pretty or predictable and I embrace that.
"Making art is a channel through...barriers."
What’s your medium of choice? Why?
Lately I have been using pen, marker, cheap acrylic or watercolor paints, scissors and paper or magazines. I like to be able to grab whatever I have on hand and I love versatility. I can create almost anywhere, using these tools.
"I like to be able to grab whatever I have on hand and I love versatility."
What are your favorite subjects or themes?
A lot of my work right now is abstract. I am using art as therapy and am not so concerned about the final product, not at this point in time anyways. That said, I love to include snakes and spirals. I love to play with color and shape. I like to include animals, people, and flowers. Symbolism such as the evil eye and crescent moons come into play. I love unusual perspectives.
"That said, I love to include snakes and spirals. I love to play with color and shape. I like to include animals, people, and flowers."
How do you know when your painting is done?
I know my piece is done when I feel it’s time to turn away. I don’t want to get caught in a web of perfectionism. I guard against that by being ready to KNOW intuitively when I am done, and by committing to that feeling and the action that follows.
"I know my piece is done when I feel it’s time to turn away."
When you are working through problems in your work, who do you talk to?
I tune in to my inner self, and we work through it together. I also consult with my partner Mike, and my teenager Ramona. They each have a creative perspective that is different from my own and I love that about them.
"I tune in to my inner self, and we work through it together."
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell them to say no until they were absolutely sure that they wanted to say yes. I would tell her that her joy and expression are her most valuable possessions and that she should create and maintain the habit of them above all else. I would tell them everything I know about boundaries. I would tell her to indulge in art and joy every day, as often as possible.
"I would tell them to say no until they were absolutely sure that they wanted to say yes."
Anything else you’d like to share?
This past year I came out as queer, non-binary (my pronouns are she/they), and realized that I identify as neurodivergent. I have been so truly myself in my own private, solo space for my whole life. When I’m alone I can tune in. Now I’m working pretty hard to bring that to my external world, and art making is crucial to that process. It’s a bridge and a healing salve and a lifeline.
"It’s [Art is] a bridge and a healing salve and a lifeline."
Also, I have been recording my dreams since 2016, and would like to start a practice of interpreting them. In the near future I would like to paint, draw, ART my dreams. I’m putting these intentions out there!