Jessie Rose Vala, a native of Eugene, Oregon, by no means limited her passion to her quiet hometown in the pacific northwest. In the year 2011 alone, she spread her art from coast to coast staying in Brooklyn, Flordia, Oregon, Arizona, Utah and California doing what she does best. She shares with us the complications of living in cities of different beats, from an isolated, small town to a loud, fast-paced city. Behind the scenes in her studio, she reveals the importance of passion and patience. Jessie also invites us to hear about her experience at the Black Mesa in Arizona where she is an activist supporting the indigenous tribe against the Peabody Coal Company.
Where have you lived?
I have lived in Oakland, Chicago, Horton, OR, Portland, OR, and Brooklyn.
Where do you live now?
I am between places. In the last months I have been doing work in California, Oregon, Arizona, and Florida.
Do you have any siblings?
Yes, an amazing older sister who has helped me tremendously again and again.
What is your art space like? Organized or a chaotic mess?
My art space is at first organized, as I work on a project it tends to get messier and messier. I try to take breaks and clean up as I go. I like to be in a somewhat organized environment while I work.
How do you record and develop your ideas/inspiration?
I have little books and a folder filled with scrap pieces of paper that I scribbled notes and sketches on. I have so many installations I want to do!
You traveled to Arizona to join the Black Mesa Caravan, can you explain to us what and why you went there?
The Four Corners is one the most powerful places to me. I have been going there whenever I can for the last ten years. The environment fills me with such clarity and inspiration every time. Through going there and driving through the reservation (Navaho and Hopi) I became interested in the politics and history.
Years ago I stumbled upon an amazing organization called Black Mesa Indigenous Support (BMIS). I learned about the history of Peabody Coal Company and the outrageous human rights violations that have and still continue on the reservation.
It is a very long and complicated struggle and I urge people to take a second and read the articles I have attached. It truly is not talked about in the States and the situation out there desperately needs to be known. I will touch on a little of the struggle. Black Mesa is an area in NE Arizona rich in coal and is also Navajo ancestral land. In the 1960’s, Peabody Coal Company gained access to the land and built a coal mine, relocating many families. Some of the Elders refused to leave, and are still holding their way of life and land untill today under great duress. Every year BMIS organizes a caravan over thanksgiving week, where people come out and support the Elders. The work consists of wood drives, sheep herding, home repair, daily chores, and awareness building. This year I finally made it out there, and it was a truly amazing experience. I plan to go back for two months in the spring to support a family.
Please take a look at these articles:
Black Mesa Indigineous Support
The Black Mesa Syndrome: Indian Lands, Black Gold
This article is also amazing and very enlightening to our culture:
Did being there suffice your expectations since you've always wanted to join? What have you learned about the experience?
Yes, I was glad I made it there. It has been on my mind for many years, to finally take action felt so necessary. I did not totally know what to expect from the situation, and truly I felt intimidated. I have researched quite a bit of relocation stories of the indigenous tribes of this land, and it is a horror story. It was nearly genocide in this country, and what many people do not realize is that the fight is still going on today. I was amazed how generous the family I stayed with was. They have seen so much destruction and pain yet are so filled with love and strength. It was so inspiring to be around such strength, I left with new hope for humanity. Of course, I learned so much more about the struggle out there, all the gritty horrible details. An example: The majority of families relocated to Sanders, and this land is contaminated from an old uranium mind. The water is bad, the land is bad. Cattle and sheep are turning up sick.
Where did you exhibit over 2011?
Cinders Gallery BK, Ever Gold Gallery SF & NY, Ed Varie Gallery Manhattan, Indyink, Denver CO, Land Gallery Portland OR
"Future Teller" wrapped up in San Francisco at Ever Gold Gallery. How did your inspiration come into play and how did the project transform? Do you like the process of coming back to it with new ideas?
Yes, I did. I used materials I may not have like the oyster shells, tacks and nails. It was nice being in Oregon for the completion of the work because of the forest. The forest floor is so dense with texture. I realized I wanted this show to be largely about varying textures clustered together.
How important is passion, patience and assurance in your work?
Patience is extremely important. I seem to always like the effect of tedious processes- cutting hundreds of paper feathers, handmade graphite paper, hours upon hours of pinning. Passion is important it gives me the energy to keep at it! Assurance keeps me on the path, even when it seems very difficult which it often does.
Something that helps you overcome an obstacle with your work.
“Keep calm and carry on” ha-ha I have been seeing this poster around in different cities and I do appreciate it. Yes music is very important! Lately I have been listening to the classics, Stevie Nicks, Its all right don’t think twice by Bob Dylan, Liwaechi by Miriam Makeba, Peace Signs by Sharon Van Etten….oh I could go on and on! The words of Pema Chodron and Chogyam Trungpa are always helpful.
“A great deal of the chaos in the world occurs because people don't appreciate themselves.” - This is a great one from Chogyam Trungpa.
And sake or a beer helps some nights.
What do you like most and least about being a bi-coastal artist?
Truly, since I moved to Brooklyn it was hard to get out. It is very expensive there and I definitely got caught in the struggle of that. This last year I have opened things up and have been out west for months now. I would love to go back and forth more, but it can be expensive so this does not work all the time. What I do like about traveling around is it helps me keep perspective, and opens me up to new people and environments.
Can you explain what it's like for you to constantly travel between a small closed off town to a big loud city?
It can be a little disorienting. Really a city as big as NY is tricky for me. It is so loud, this makes it harder for me to hear my intuition. On the same note it is great for seeing art and meeting people that I love. Small cities are easy for me to come and go from I tend to focus in and take better care of myself. I grew up in a hippie town. I guess it is grounding to me!
4 things you can't live without while traveling.
+ Little idea book
+ My Orange soft blanket from Nepal which was an amazing gift
+ Underwear! ha-ha
One place you still need to go.
So many places I want to go! On the top of the list is Mongolia.
Your favorite piece of 2011 that you have made.
Perhaps the woman sculpture from the last show.
Most powerful message from your one exhibit you have had.
Oh there is a folklore teacher who has come to some of my shows at Cinders. I can’t remember one specific thing she said, but she always relates the work to our ancestral past. This makes me so happy.
(Fill in the blanks)
I'll continue to grow and become more and more compassionate until I die.
I've totally given up on congress in its present form.
I just finished a production job of hand made journals designed by Kelie Bowman and just started on new sculptures.
I am in the middle of graduate school applications.
I need to apply to some residencies and grants, as well as clear some old demons.
I want to go back to Black Mesa and cultivate a more sustainable lifestyle.
What are you currently doing and working on?
I am working on pieces for four upcoming group shows in spring. I am back in Eugene, Oregon for a month or so to work in a great studio in a huge wood shop.
What's in store for the rest of 2012?
A show in LA, Synchronicity Space with Sto, Kelie Bowman and Rob Doran, a group show in Australia through Nick Kuszyk, the ten year anniversary show at Anno Domini in San Jose, and a four person show at Ever Gold gallery. Going back to Black Mesa, hopefully working out at the Earth Ships in NM and beyond that the future is wide open!
A New Year's resolution that's still on the list.
Concentrate on a way to make a consistent living with art and creativity.
Individuals share their
five daily highs
A retail concept with swim shorts from
Morocco and hand mixed apothecaries
FAST COMPANY SF
Exploring the female fixed
biking culture in San Francisco, CA