It’s wonderfully enlightening to step inside the mind of an artist so we can gain a better sense of what motivates them to conjure their unique worlds, because being dialed into the thematic substance of their work further enhances our aesthetic joy ride. You’re about to embark on an art appreciation experience, however, that is steeped in such a dazzling degree of gossamer loveliness that we wouldn’t blame you if you merely just wanted to dissolve into Jessica Libor’s dreamy Elysian realms without thinking. Without analyzing. Without following any formal art aficionado etiquette whatsoever.
There is a lot of ranking and reputation-based thinking in the art world, but every artist is expressing their unique experience. Since the art that we create is a part of us, I think we should unconditionally love what we create.
The magically surreal storybook narratives that the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based artist has conjured for her “Preternatural” solo exhibition – presented by Era Contemporary Gallery on Sunday, September 11, 2022 at Tyler Arboretum – are indeed very easy on the eyes, but we encourage one and all to linger just a little bit longggger for a far more fulfilling, between-the-lines experience that transcends the mixed media materials that they’re created with.
Jessica Libor’s magical realism-kissed body of work – featuring shimmering maidens who have both hands placed firmly on the steering wheel of their own happily ever afters – is hardly just a flight of fancy. The multimedia artist/curator/art professor is driven to create an “exquisite, magical and spiritual” experience for the beholder by imbuing “a sense of life and presence” into her oil paintings that seemingly makes them “live and breathe”.
Jessica’s imagery certainly reflects her essential nature as a woman and her great reverence for Mother Nature’s myriad marvels and mysteries but it also elevates the beautiful imperfection of the creation process, resulting in art that is an extension of her uniquely authentic spirit. Our exclusive interview with the artist – who is as lovely on the inside as she is in the outside – will help you to savor her creative output in a far more substantive manner.
Jessica Libor, “Preternatural”
Opening Reception: Sunday, September 11, 2022 | 5–8 pm
Presented by Era Contemporary Gallery at the Tyler Arboretum In Their Garden Barn Loft
Tyler Arboretum | 515 Painter Road | Media, PA 19063 | (610) 566-9134
Virtual Show: Monday, September 12 to Saturday, December 31 via www.jessicalibor.com.
About Era Contemporary Gallery //
In 2016, Era Contemporary began curating small pop up-style exhibitions at unique venues such as country clubs, department stores, parks, mansions, abandoned spaces, and warehouses. Their events – which often showcase magical realism, landscape and botanical-themed works of art – have been so well-received that they now offer a mixture of online and in person solo/group shows, the latter of which tend to be held in much larger Philadelphia and New York City-based gathering spaces. Era Contemporary’s most prestigious group show to date, Legends of the Moon – which features hand selected pieces that are included in Dr. Samuel Peralta’s Lunar Codex cultural time capsule (Polaris Collection) – will be opening Saturday, December 3rd. Free tickets for that special event are still available here.
Exclusive Interview With Jessica Libor
You’ve visited the city of lights three times, most recently when you attended your very first artist residency at Chateau d’Orquevaux in July 2022. Was your third time in Paris really the charm?
The first time I went to France, I was a recent art school graduate, so I spent one week touring various iconic art museums such as the Rodin Museum, the Louvre, the Musee de Orsay and the Musee de l’Orangerie with several other students. The second time, my sister and I were headed to the French countryside for a family vacation, so I was only able to visit Paris for just one day.
This past July, I spent three weeks total in France, which was my first thoroughly immersive solo trip there. I enjoyed the magical bustle of Paris for the first week, followed by two weeks of bucolic calm at my Chateau d’Orquevaux artist residency, which was located in a small village two hours outside of Paris. It was a heavenly combo and the best trip I’ve ever taken.
I think that every artist should find a way to attend an artist residency, particularly with an open mind and heart. Just do it! Get ready for some serious, life changing growth in your art as well as your life.
Is there a particular reason why you’re so strongly attracted to that region of the world?
In addition to my French Canadian heritage, I’m fascinated with French history, fashion, academic arts, the architectural style of the buildings, and the layout of Paris. I even love the quaint lifestyle in the countryside. Walking around Paris is almost like exploring a giant, living, breathing museum, or a beautiful movie set with endlessly unfurling plots.
In what way does the French perspective of art differ from what you’re accustomed to in America?
The French recognize the value that art can add to your life and prioritize its accessibility. Most people there have a passion and appreciation for art since it’s considered a necessity rather than just a luxury. In contrast, fine art is often viewed in America as something for the very wealthy to enjoy rather than everyone.
There is so much that humans don’t understand, such as unseen energies. Love, joy, safety, and a feeling of peace can’t even be seen, yet they are among the most wonderful things in life.
Please paint a picture of your Chateau d’Orquevaux residency that will inspire everyone to send out applications immediately!
Of course, living in a historical Chateau located in a peaceful countryside village helped me to feel totally calm and focused. The entire Chateau d’Orquevaux staff really honored each participant in tangible ways, from personalized gold plaques on our studio doors and royal daily feasts to insightful and caring questions about our work and steadfast encouragement of self-expression. It was a total dream to be able to paint all day in a stunningly beautiful locale with no distractions, followed by a lovely dinner with friends each evening!
They provided all of us with such a safe place to explore our inner ideas. It was as if I was given wings to fly. Anyone who has gone through grad school critiques knows how brutal they can be, whereas this was the complete opposite! It was a very healing experience which encouraged me to be more fearless in my work. The other residents (about 15 other artists) created a community of support and encouragement, as well.
Attending an artist residency was a lifelong dream that finally came true for me and it was so much better than what I ever imagined. It changed my identity by elevating my view of my own art and what is possible for me.
Waiting until your July 2022 Paris residency to create many of your September 2022 Preternatural solo works seems like a bit of a daredevil decision. Do you regard yourself as an impetuous creative spirit or do you generally create your best art when you’re under pressure?
I work well under pressure. I wanted to put myself in a situation where I was open to a new level of artistic output, both in volume and ideas. I also anticipated that I would create interesting work in Paris that would be outside my norm.
Did the thought ever cross your mind, “What if I don’t produce enough paintings for my solo show while I’m in Paris? THEN what?”
Creatively, I trust myself. I just knew that I would create enough. When you’re totally in the zone, you can accomplish as much in a day as you could otherwise in a week. These kinds of phenomena interest me, and I challenge myself to push my creative limits daily.
I am fascinated by the idea of nature as an embodiment of life. It is a continuous, cyclical, self-sustaining system that pushes itself further forward and outward into expansion forever.
Thinking about your romanticized pre-residency notions of your creative productivity versus your actual residency productivity, were you pleasantly surprised with your artistic output?
The longer I stayed, the more productive I got. My final day in the studio, I was in such a creative flow that I ended up creating four complete works of art. I felt like I could have gone on forever! The only reason why I stopped was because I had to pack.
In what way was your residency preternatural?
There were SO many moments that seemed beyond beautiful. However, on one particular evening, I took a walk around the Tuileries gardens next to the Louvre. I watched the pink sunset fade over the square trimmed hedges, which were bound by hundreds of delicate varieties of flowers. The fountains and pools in the gardens reflected the glittering lights of a Ferris wheel and the changing lights of the sky. Above the ornate carvings of the Louvre building, a full golden moon began to rise, casting its light over everything. It was a moment that didn’t feel real!
I like creating respectful, empowering, beautiful images of women that embrace softness AND strength without the need to be guarded or hardened against the world.
Which painting in your Preternatural body of work captures who you are right now as an artist and why?
Definitely my self-portrait, not only because I like the feeling of it, but also due to its technical aspects. The reference photos – including backgrounds that represent different parts of my life that are personally significant to me – were entirely conceived, styled, and photographed by me, as well.
Do you owe the existence/energy/lifeblood of a specific painting in your Preternatural exhibition solely to Paris?
Yes! The Fairy Realm – which was the first piece that I created while attending my residency – was inspired by the Paris Opera Ballet’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. If I hadn’t seen that ballet, there is no way that piece would exist!
Is your artistic practice forever altered by the experience that you had during your Paris residency? Do you believe that it’s a must for every artist?
I think that every artist should find a way to attend an artist residency, particularly with an open mind and heart. Just do it! Get ready for some serious, life changing growth in your art as well as your life. It was a lifelong dream that finally came true for me and it was so much better than what I ever imagined. It changed my identity by elevating my view of my own art and what is possible for me, so I view it as a springboard to success.
Why does the ‘feminine/fairy tale/nature’ trinity resonate so strongly with you?
I think my interest started as a young adult, from illustrations I saw to recognizing the deeper meanings in some of the fairytales that are so well known. Why do these tropes keep repeating themselves throughout cultures all over the world? There are universal truths about human nature in legends and fairytales that I think are worth paying attention to beyond the Disney movies.
I think the feminine comes in because I identify as a feminine woman, so in a way the paintings become explorations of my own identity and journey. They are also just incredibly fun to paint. There’s a lot of richness to portray in the imagery in fairytales, the beautiful costumes, the fantastic scenery, the meaningful objects and characters. And, nature is a big part of my life so I inject it into my work and imagery naturally.
I have learned in recent years that every one of us has the agency to remake our environment. My art leans into the ideas and aesthetics that inspire me to create a world and life that I love.
What fascinates you about nature and unseen energies, both of which are essential to your Preternatural theme?
It’s something I have always been interested in. Many people forget that humans are a part of nature rather than separate from it. When I was growing up, I used to make fairy huts under the trees in my backyard. Now I spend a lot of time in nature, whether hiking, walking, forest bathing, gardening or even horseback riding on trails. There is so much that humans don’t understand, such as unseen energies. Love, joy, safety, and a feeling of peace can’t even be seen, yet they are among the most wonderful things in life.
I am fascinated by the idea of nature as an embodiment of life. It is a continuous, cyclical, self-sustaining system that pushes itself further forward and outward into expansion forever. Just look at the movement of the universe in space!
The French recognize the value that art can add to your life and prioritize its accessibility. Most people there have a passion and appreciation for art since it’s considered a necessity rather than just a luxury.
Is your key artistic motivation to invite viewers into a delightfully uplifting waking dream?
Absolutely! I have learned in recent years that every one of us has the agency to remake our environment. My art leans into the ideas and aesthetics that inspire me to create a world and life that I love.
Some may get the impression that you’re merely just capturing scenes from your perfect storybook life. However, your narratives delve much deeper. Are you actually depicting a pro-mental health realm?
An artist’s state of mind is often reflected in the work that they create. I have struggled with depression on and off a few times, and the most powerful thing I learned is that you can choose your thoughts. The challenges we face are only there for us to grow stronger and transcend them, so I choose hopeful thoughts.
Are there any other messages that you consciously try to imbue your work with, or are you just as happy creating exquisite beauty?
I like creating respectful, empowering, beautiful images of women that embrace softness AND strength without the need to be guarded or hardened against the world. Vulnerability can be extremely powerful, which is something that I’m working on in my artistic practice, as well.
Walking around Paris is almost like exploring a giant, living, breathing museum, or a beautiful movie set with endlessly unfurling plots.
What does the art world need more of? Beauty? Quality? Authenticity? Why are you the artist who’s best suited to deliver it?
It needs more love. There is a lot of ranking and reputation-based thinking in the art world, but every artist is expressing their unique experience. Since the art that we create is a part of us, I think we should unconditionally love what we create.
Are there any projects on the horizon that you’d like your fans to be aware of?
Next year, several of my works of art are going to the moon via the Lunar Codex digital time capsule with SpaceX, so that is pretty exciting!
If you are interested in pre-selling a piece for “Preternatural” or seeing a catalog with what is still available (many have already sold!), please email [email protected].
The artist residency that I attended was a very healing experience which encouraged me to be more fearless in my work.