Jessica Wohl is a multidisciplinary artist who uses found remnants of domestic culture to explore social inequities that range from systemic racism to the demands of motherhood. Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota she graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute and received her MFA from the University of Georgia. Among other publications, her work has been featured in the New York Times T Magazine, New American Paintings, Vogue, ArtNews, and has been widely exhibited nationally and internationally. She has held residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, Stove Works, the Hambidge Center for the Art and participated in An Artist Residency in Motherhood. She is currently an Associate Professor of Art and Chair of the Art, Art History and Visual Studies department at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.
I’m interested in hidden potential–what lies beneath the surface. What’s invisible but always present. Focusing on the home as a site of exploration, I try to release the hidden energy from the materials I find and use. I collaborate with everyday objects like garments, linens, photographs, furniture and mail order catalogs. These interventions often imply a past trauma that has been healed by the time, labor and care of a woman’s work. Like motherhood, they are often gestures of love.
The household stuff that permeates my work bears witness to all that happens around it. It is porous and omniscient, and like a surrogate, holds the essence, history and stories of the people it once belonged to. These odds and ends bear witness to the joy, pain, conflict, labor, care, secrets and truths of those with whom they dwell. Through touching, holding and transforming these domestic belongings, I engage in a haptic exchange between myself and the items’ former owners. This collaboration becomes a palimpsest where my time and energy meshes with those who came before me. As a result, the work becomes a harmonious, historical form, like a shared story that connects strangers through space and time.
In a world where polarized communities, civil unrest and stolen dreams run rampant, I use softness, slowness and gestures of care to quietly revolt against systems of dismissal, refusal, exploitation and oppression. Each work is my attempt to connect, to empathize and to provide comfort in the face of constant adversity.