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ART / INTERVIEWS / PAINTING & ILLUSTRATION

Jessica Libor & The Quest for Her Artistic Spark

Jessica Libor has the incredible ability to transport you to other worlds and upon viewing her painting ‘Ascension’, I cannot help but be transported to another realm. As I view my new surroundings, I breath in the crisp air and feel the wind on my cheek as I stand atop one of the many rolling mountains topped with lush greens. I look upwards, my vision filling with the bluest sky as it cradles the sliver of a crescent moon. Clouds paint the sky as pastel pinks and purples swirl together to create a moody yet incredibly peaceful sky. Taking it all in, I notice an ethereal figure approaching towards me on the back of a Pegasus. With such a strong, angelic presence radiating from the women, I can’t help but think she must be the heroine of this magical land on a ‘Quest’ of some kind. I wish her well on her journey, no matter what it might entail.

‘Ascension’ is part of Jessica’s solo exhibition ‘Quest’ which released back in December 2023. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, ‘Quest’ was born from a rekindled love for painting. After suffering a seven month art slump throughout the winter and having lost all trail of her imagination, the award winning artist set out on a quest of her own. This journey began when she packed her bags and left her Philadelphia home for an artist residency in the heart of Scotland. Jessica began to discover the natural beauty and magic that Scotland had to offer. She discovered ancient castles that once housed Joan of Arc, old forests steeped in myth and ancients graves of knights and monks and began to to feel her fingertips glowing with creative magic. With her new found inspiration, Jessica began researching Scottish fairy tales finding solace within classic fairy tale heroines. Thus, ‘Quest’ was born, a collection of oil paintings featuring over 10 new pieces and several older works from Jessica’s catalogue along with the debut release of her young adult novel ‘The Storms of Avalon’. Let’s catch up with Jessica to learn more about her exciting journey with ‘Quest’ and her debut novel.

The women of Quest are both real and imagined. Real in that many of them exist as people in the real world, artists and creators in their own right; and imagined in that they exist in an imaginative plane within the paintings.  In Rapunzel’s Flight, the basis of the idea was sparked from a photo that was the result of an intensive 7 hour collaborative photo shoot in Iceland between Eden Tijerina (@edensheaven), photographer @icelandicselkie and handmade corset designer @sonia._._t and vintage shop @lillian_lorraine. This resulted in a stunning photo that sparked my imagination as the narrative for a fairy tale piece, which graciously the director of the shoot, Eden, lent me her vision for.  Another real woman part of Quest is Ruby Barker @rubybarker, the model for Midnight Garden

Ruby is well known for her acting career, as one of the leading ladies (Marina Thompson) in the hit show Bridgerton. She is also a founder and ceo of My Lady Melts @myladymelts and is an active philanthropist.  In my piece Midnight Garden, I imagined Ruby’s Bridgerton character Marina as the mistress of her own castle, taking a walk by midnight. Lastly, my piece Red, is inspired by seamstress and designer Haggie (@hagandcompany) who hand sews all of her fashions using upcycled and found fabrics. Haggie and I were in Scotland together, and were saturated with its magical landscape which became the backdrop for the piece.  All of these women, fantastic creators in their own right, are a part of the creation of Quest.

My hope is within my work, you will be reminded that you are the hero(ine) of your own story, and be inspired to embody her.

Exclusive Interview with Jessica Libor

‘Quest’ was born from a new kindled passion for painting after a long seven months of feeling lost and uninspired. How are you feeling after conquering these feelings and now being on the other side with a new exhibition?
I feel very renewed, and happy that I was able to find my inspiration again. As many artists can attest, feeling uninspired can be detrimental to your artistic practice. For me, I found inspiration again in Scotland, in a moment of pure clarity about this future body of work that now exists in Quest. It was like I could see it before it came into form. The mystical history and lore of Scotland really awakened and fascinated my creativity into a new, bold vision.

Quest’ is an exhibition showcasing and celebrating not only a collection of new paintings but also the debut of your new novel which is a young adult fairy tale. Can you tell me a bit about your debut novel and how it came into fruition?

‘The Storms of Avalon’ is my first novel. I wanted to write a fairy tale for a few years, but I never had a compelling enough idea for the plot and message of the book, so it was left to the wayside. However, when I was at an artist residency in France this summer, I had a dream the very first night I was there of a shining white city that floated in the ocean, its magic crystal caves, and a princess who had to journey to this legendary place to fetch a magic crystal to heal her land in trouble. I awoke in the middle of the night, thrilled at this dream, and the entire plot came pouring into my mind that night, like it was delivered by the angels of the chateau I was staying at. I began writing it that next day! It was so much fun to write, I very much felt like I was absorbed in the story, living the adventures. There is danger, madness, escape, seafaring voyages on ancient vessels, mermaids, this floating city of Avalon, romance with a mysterious local named Ronan, crystal orchards in the heart of the island, a mystical queen, and a dangerous quest to restore the protagonist’s kingdom. I was excited to have the novel available at the exhibition, it felt like the perfect moment to bring it forth. I just self-published it to have the copies there in time for the exhibition, but I am looking at getting it published in the future! 

What has it been like preparing for this exhibition considering you have been working on new paintings alongside debuting as an author?

It was exhilarating! A lot of the paintings feel like they complement the novel, but not quite illustrate it. They definitely feel like they are from the same world. Beyond that, completing a novel and a new body of work definitely took a lot of discipline. I had a rigorous schedule of creating my paintings and then working on the book. I didn’t have the luxury of time to overthink the writing or the painting. And in that way, especially in painting, that often results in work that feels more fresh, immediate and sweeping. I thought a lot about time as I was working on ‘Quest’. I was under tight deadlines, and my usual time allowance that I took to paint one work was not going to work if I was to get everything done in time. It really challenged me to paint faster and in a more precise way, to reach for the highest version of the creator inside of me in order to complete the work. One of the paintings — ‘Rapunzel’s Flight’ — was completed in just 3 days, and it was one of the largest works in the show. Now, I was painting about 12 hours a day, very intensely, but still, that time frame was a record for me. It showed me what I was capable of when I place all of my attention on something and completely get into flow. Sometimes you don’t know something is possible until it must be possible!

Alongside painting, is writing something you have always been passionate about?

In high school, I actually wrote several short novels, but I never published them. When I was 12, I wrote a story about a young girl who falls from a treehouse and wakes up out of a coma 17 years later. The story is about her coming to terms with her life, recovering and healing, and has a mystical touch to it. That short story was published in an international magazine. So yes, writing has always been something I’ve enjoyed. I suppose art has been my focus for the last few years, but writing ‘The Storms of Avalon’ has definitely re-awakened my interest in writing. 

I feel very renewed, and happy that I was able to find my inspiration again.

When writing your novel, were there any specific authors or fairy tales that you took particular inspiration from?

I was particularly inspired by ‘The Alchemist’ by Paula Coelho, I loved how short but powerful that novel was, and all of the magical yet profound messaging within it. Aside from that, I just wrote it from the perspective of the main character, Violet, as if I was her, experiencing all that she did. I also noticed that my descriptions are very visual within the novel — I want to paint every scene!

What are some of your favorite pieces within Quest, and what do they mean to you?

Three of my favorite pieces within the show are ‘The Wise Tree’, ‘Rapunzel’s Flight’, and ‘Ascension’. ‘The Wise Tree’ is inspired by a tree that I encountered while on a that pivotal artist residency Scotland. I walk on a walk through the woods, and when I saw it, I stared at it for a long time, imagining how old the tree must be and what it had seen in its lifetime. It had a hollow that was perfect for an owl, the personification of wisdom. I like this painting because it seems dimensional to me, and I like the contrast of the white gold of the sky against the dark bare branches of the tree.

‘Rapunzel’s Flight’ feels like a new level for me within my figurative work. The unusual pose, the detail in the sky and the dream-like landscape all seem to have worked together to create a piece that feels haunting and romantic. It is inspired by the original story of Rapunzel from Grimm’s Fairy Tales, where after escaping the tower, Rapunzel wanders in the wilderness for many moons until she is reunited with her prince, and heals him with her tears. In the story, wild animals help her and come to her aid, so the wild horses seem fitting. This piece feels like a breakthrough for me because I painted it so quickly and really leaned into my intuition while doing so.

‘Ascension’ is a large work in progress piece that I have been working on during the duration of ‘Quest’, at The Look Listen Gallery. It is about the flight of the soul from the earth into a higher dimension, or reaching towards our highest self. The moon symbolizes this abstract ideal, and the figure on the Pegasus strives ever upwards. This one is a favorite because it is probably my most ambitious piece I have created that is in the fantasy realm. ‘Quest’ celebrates all the amazing heroines from both fact and fiction, it’s an ode to all the women out there on their own quests in life. 

Quest celebrates all the amazing heroines from both fact and fiction, it’s an ode to all the women out there on their own quests in life. What is something you would like to say to our Beautiful Bizarre heroines reading this?

I’d say that the reason we are drawn to these stories of myth and mysticism is that these heroines represent ideals within ourselves. These characters help us remember the strength, curiosity, beauty, talent, kindness, heroism and autonomy already present within each one of us. My hope is within my work, you will be reminded that you are the hero(ine) of your own story, and be inspired to embody her.

To inquire about one of Jessica’s pieces, please go to www.thelooklisten.com or contact Jessica at www.jessicalibor.com.

Jessica Libor Social Media Accounts

Website | Instagram | Facebook

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