The works of local artist, Jessica Bizer, evoke unearthly scenes bathed in bold color, each a rich experimentation of media and application that create grand abstracted vistas. Bizer, one of the founding members of the Good Children Gallery, has been featured in many group and solo exhibitions in New Orleans, throughout the region, and in New York. As she prepares for her upcoming solo show at Good Children, I thought I should pick her brain about what inspires her work and her relationship to New Orleans:
CS: What drew you to painting initially?
JB: Playing with texture and color provides me with a constant sense of discovery. Painting is such an immediate way to indulge that sensation.
CS: What is the driving philosophy behind your work?
JB: I’m interested in the push-and-pull between realistic and imaginary space.
CS: Describe your artistic style in one word.
JB: Fancy-melty (is a compound word alright?)
CS: Your work, while definitely abstract and focused on color, has so much depth; many pieces have landscape-like qualities to them. Is this coincidence or are you exploring spatial depth through color, weight of application, etc.?
JB: I definitely intend my for paintings to feel like landscapes, or events occurring in a landscape. The natural hierarchy of a landscape helps anchor the more ambiguous territory of the work. It also helps me play with depth and distance– I like the mystery of not being able to tell whether an object is close or far away. I’m really influenced by the ideas about space and perception in “A Field Guide to Getting Lost” by Rebecca Solnit. She talks about the experience of viewing something from far-away compared to being close to it. For instance, according to her point-of-view, if you view a mountain from a distance, the mountain will have completely different characteristics compared to when you are hiking on it. The difference between the close-up and distant perspective are so great that you might as well be in a completely different place. I love the drama in that idea.
CS: How did you end up in New Orleans?
JB: I had been here to visit with a friend once when I was 19, but mainly I got to know the city through my husband, Andy. We met while we were both living in Brooklyn. He had lived in New Orleans seven years before I met him and still had a very strong connection the city. Actually, many of his New Orleans friends moved to Brooklyn around the same time as him, so I was constantly around all these NOLA ex-pats. They talked about the city so much and even tried to do New Orleans things in New York…I swear I even went to a crawfish boil in Red Hook at some point. We also came down here to visit a lot and I loved it so much. After a few years together in NYC, we decided there was no point in living the rest of our lives in such a cold, tense and expensive city when we could be living in New Orleans instead.
Our moving date was originally Aug. 28, 2005. We were loading up the moving van as Katrina was approaching. As crazy as that situation was, we felt so lucky…we were totally safe and had all our stuff with us. We decided to continue with the move anyway and see how things went. We ended up living in Ft. Lauderdale with Andy’s folks for six months, and came back here in time for Mardi Gras 2006.
CS: Does New Orleans play a role in your creative process? If so, how?
JB: The community of contemporary artists here plays a major role in my work. Although the influence is not literal, the constant dialogue definitely is a main source of energy for me.
CS: Talk a little bit about your involvement in Good Children: why did y’all form the cooperative and how do you think it fits into the local/regional/national art scene?
When I moved to New Orleans, I got to know a group of artists who were already very involved with showing and curating here. I felt so lucky to move to a place where the artists already had such a strong sense of camaraderie. Some of them decided to form a collective and asked me to join. That’s how I became involved in Good Children.
We wanted a space to strengthen the presence of contemporary art in New Orleans and to further the sense of community among artists here. Not only is it a place to exhibit our own work, but it allows us to engage with other artists in the larger contemporary art world. It’s so wonderful to invite artists from outside New Orleans to exhibit. That exchange is crucial to maintaining a vibrant art community here. It’s also fun!
CS: What projects are you working on/dreaming about now?
Right now I’m working on my solo show in the front room of Good Children. It opens in April. And in the back room that month there will be two other painters showing, Amy Feldman and Ilse Murdock, two artists from New York who I invited to show. I’m excited for the exhibition!
Caroline Stivers is a born-again Southerner and reformed Texan. After spending several years in the northeast freezing, forcing bland food down her gullet, and not saying “hello” to people on the street, she realized that she loves the sweaty summers, rich food, and friendly faces of the south. She is now a proud Bywater resident, busy renovating a money pit, working to get first-generation students into college, and pondering what to do with a recently obtained Arts Administration degree.