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Exclusive artist interview: Jessica Obloy

Corporate Giant, acrylic painting by Jessica Obloy
Corporate Giant, acrylic painting by Jessica Obloy

It is a well-respected fact that authors often become inspired by other authors. Artist Jessica Obloy takes her work to uncharted new dimensions by both finding value in the ingenuity of her peers and bridging the gap between visual and written composition.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m an art student attending my final semester at California College of the Arts. I was born and raised on Guam, lived in Upstate New York, and I'm currently a Bay Area resident in the beautiful state of California. I also have a twin sister who is exceptional writer (she better not edit this part out)! I guess you could say we both have the same curiosity and affinity when it comes to our chosen artistic outlets; the connection between us is well past that of the average sibling relationship so in terms of our skills, I think we compliment each other very well.

How would you categorize your painting style?

My painting style is tough to define, even for me. As a child, I learned many painting and drawing techniques by emulating styles from renowned masters. Books were (and still are) my favorite resource. I wasn’t particularly inclined toward a certain style of art from a specific century or decade—I simply responded to pure aesthetic curiosity. By virtue of being first if nothing else, I clearly remember purchasing a book on Chinese watercolor techniques. I have learned so much over the years through that very cherished book; I still have it to this day. Therefore, my style more or less rested in the realm of realism until college. At CCA, I was properly introduced to the intricacies of modern art. I was so intrigued with how vastly different many of the related artistic movements were from my own store of knowledge that it didn't take me long to realize the necessity of a process and a precise concept (or concepts) in art. If you ever look at a painting and toss it off as something a five-year old could have done, ask yourself why the painting doesn't actually belong to a five-year old. The core of art often exists on a deeper plane than aesthetics—modern art taught me that true artistic appreciation blossoms after combining the many layers of paint, intention, process, and even the simple feeling of gravitation toward a completed image out of pure delight.

I have also been dabbling in installation/sculptural work this past few months. I just love the hands-on nature of construction. I look at my paintings very differently now that I am able to translate a two-dimensional work of art into the third dimension. I also enjoy the conversation that takes place between installation works and paintings when they occupy the same space.
 "Abstraction" or "installation" doesn't seem to completely embody this phenomenon. Abstractillation? Conceptillation? It's all very exciting!

Apart from painting, what else do you do?

I enjoy being outdoors and running long-distance. I feel like the increased stamina gained from running helps me focus for very long hours in my studio. I experience something very similar to a "runner's high" after successfully completing a painting. Needless to say, running indirectly encourages me to improve my artistic skillset and boosts my creative juices. I also love to play chess, watch movies, and read anything I can get my hands on. The world is my playground.

If you had a song written about you, what would it be titled and why?

Passionate Existence. I think that sounds a bit cheesy, but I love learning and I get inspired by just about anything. My goal is to not only dabble in a multitude of interests but also deepen as many reservoirs of knowledge as possible.

What do you think is the role of an artist in society?

I think the role of an artist is to introduce, cultivate, and sustain culture. Some people tend to think that art exists in a very confined, bi-partisan realm of aesthetics and commodity. I believe this to be entirely false; everything that exists in this world, including history, has foundations in the evolution of art as culture. Take a look at the objects you use every day, for example. Your spoon, your phone, even your favorite pair of jeans were once sketched, drawn, and eventually created by artists. Art is everywhere—it's allowing the imagination to morph from the intangible to the tangible. It's a wider reach of acknowledgement by finding a home in more than one spirit and more than one mind. It’s a different type of intelligence that should not be neglected in schools and learning institutions (though that can of worms will be opened some other time).

Which is more important to you: the subject of your painting or the way it is executed?

I think both are extremely important, though the respective levels of importance do change within each painting. Whether the emphasis of an artwork is on subject matter vs. object matter or overall process, I think a successful painting has all of these characteristics present.

Critiques-- love them or hate them?

I love them! Once I graduate CCA, I'm going to miss intensive critique sessions with my peers because I enjoy hearing additional input on my artwork. Being able to apply suggestions that strengthen my artistic weaknessess and further emphasize my points of proficiency is an absolutely immeasurable asset. On a side note, I find that comments on technique, materials, and inspirational suggestions are the most helpful. Some critics give rather egocentric comments about how they would 'fix' your painting with their artistic style. Although the overall enthusiasm is appreciated, an artist must tread these waters delicately to not lose their original vision and intent.

Where does your inspiration come from and who do you consider most influential?

Growing up, my artistic idol was definitely Michelangelo. Interestingly, I was attracted to his sculptures more poignantly than his paintings (though both types of his works, of course, are constant sources of inspiration). Right now, I’m relating a lot of scientific concepts processes while executing my artwork. I have a list of current influences, but one artist who really attuned me into conceptual thinking is Tomma Abts. She’s a contemporary German painter who considers execution, craftsmanship and scale with her work, while managing to drift away from accepted artistic norms. Her art really makes me reflect on my own pieces and studio practice.

What is your first memory as a painter?

I remember constantly drawing my family—complete with our house and under a giant, vibrant rainbow—with markers or crayons. However, my clearest artisitc memory occured in kindergarten. My teacher gave every student a simple line drawing of a smiling sunflower to color in, and all the other kids filled in the eyes with black crayon. That seemed a bit off to me so instead of coloring in the entire eye, I drew black dots to represent pupils. I remember my teacher getting really excited about that. When she asked me why I had done it, I just told her that I wanted the sunflower to look like me... and the last time I checked, my eyes weren’t simple black dots.

Describe your creative process for us.

My creative process varies from using photography, texture, and literary references. Right now, I’m really into researching physics and the idea of a ‘new dimension.’ That concept is most easily elaborated through text so oftentimes I am as much as a bookworm as I am an artist.

Any words of advice for fellow painters?
It may be difficult to maintain a consistent studio practice. I experienced a period of darkness when I began questioning what exactly I was doing in an art institution. Couple that with an artist's block, and the gloom was nearly palpable! I realized then that it is of paramount importance for an artist to maintain a healthy level of interest. To get out of my creative rut, I focused on a topic not usually associated with fine art (my love of science) and challenged myself to discover connections between my two favorite subjects. The end result is a steady current of motivation and hope that keeps me afloat whenever despair threatens to visit.

I also recommend visiting as many art shows as possible. Museums and solo exhibitions provide a commendable goal but checking out what local, young artists are creating will help keep you grounded. Try to be amiable and approachable; you never know when you will meet someone who may become your next big source of inspiration!

Where would you like to be in ten years?

Gagosian Gallery! Being a participant in and represented by a gallery is a realistic ten-year goal, so I’m aiming for that. I also wouldn’t mind working for a gallery or as a museum curator; I love being in the museum environment. Obtaining my MFA and teaching art at the college level is another option as well, since I am personally inclined toward helping others. I'm even flirting with the idea of getting a degree in science to help aid my upcoming artistic endeavors. I would like to think that in ten years my art will gain enough acclaim to appear over the internet though a search-engine request along with, perhaps, a few more interviews. Either way, contact me in ten years and I'll let you know!

Ms. Obloy recently had her first solo exhibit called "On the Other Side" in late October of this year. She is currently preparing for a December 2nd art show in San Jose with MESHcollective, a group of Bay Area artists. More information can be found here. Contact Jessica Obloy at