Jessi Essian is a Grand Valley grad that remains very active in the Grand Rapids art scene, participating in many combined-artist-effort projects.
Senior Show Artist Statement:
I believe that there is a meaningful, spiritual relationship between humanity and the land. As with any relationship, time and involvement are key factors in the significance of this potentially rich relationship. In our overly busy contemporary culture, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to understand and experience the breadth and the depth of a spiritual relationship.
Humanity longs for this spirituality. Throughout history, humans have assigned meaning to things or places, terming them sacred or holy. I seek to create such an experience for my viewers. I am trying to remind the viewer of what they long for. I do not claim to have made something that is holy or sacred but rather something that invites the viewer back to forgotten experiences.
The works on paper are suspended low on the gallery walls, inviting the viewer to come down to the level of the piece. The weathered benches beckon the viewer to sit and engage with the piece.
By choosing to engage with the paper work, the viewer chooses an intimate experience. This experience is similar to engaging with the land or developing a spiritual relationship; it involves a choice and your time, and the reward has the potential to be very rich and meaningful. When the viewer sits and investigates the piece, they become aware of the roughness of the bench and slight color changes in the chalky backgrounds of the paper. This heightened awareness pins the viewer towards a deeper experience.
In the wooden pieces, I begin to ask the viewer to consider a relationship with the land. The blues, greens, and browns are colors of the earth. The material choices in my pieces bring about connotations of earth, water, and time. The wood has been weather by rain and snow, and colored by the sun and dirt, evidence of the passage of time.
Underlying the visual language of the pieces is familiarity, something quiet and meditative. Although these are new pieces, there are aspects of them that you have seen before; the worn beam of a barn, the lushness of fresh grass, the rough surface of a fallen tree. This familiarity is equated with our surface experience of the land. As with the land, if the viewer continues to investigate these pieces, continues to ask himself or herself questions, the potential to uncover a deeper and more meaningful relationship will arise.
Found wood is used in the work, making the elements of time and history apparent to the viewer. By constructing the wood into boxes, I've created a space for the fragmented pieces to exist. The glossy fragment is suspended in the open-faced boxes. Through the presentation, it is suggested to the audience that the fragment is historical, important and part of a larger whole.