100 PICTURES | 100 STORIES // JESSIE RAY

I met Jessie nearly 4 years ago after I attended my first Art Party; a multi-platform performance event that is held on the last Friday of every month.

I took along my visual art book and some watercolour paints, I didn’t have any water, but I had a bottle of red wine and they were also serving fresh chai tea, so I used those to create my artworks.

When the first performer took to the stage, it was someone who had never performed to a live audience before. The crowd were accepting, loving and encouraging; they cheered that girl on like she was the biggest star in the universe, even when she made a mistake “keep going!” the crowd would yell with glee.

What followed, was a series of heart-felt, beautiful (and weird!) performances, all the while, the crowd clicked (a response to spoken word and poetry), cheered and responded with affirmations. After years from being away from a creative community and feeling like something was missing, I finally felt like I was home.

After the event, I had a piece of artwork in my journal that simply said “Art Party saved my life.”

Jessie and I connected shortly after, when I asked her to be a part of an experimental panel for Fringe Festival that Create or Die was running, but it wasn’t until about two years later, when she approached me about making Create or Die’s headquarters, the new home for Art Party, that we started really working together.

The next two years brought us closer together as we collaborated and supported each other’s ventures, seeking council in one another and sharing our triumphs and challenges – which are all part in parcel with running independent creative endeavours and forging communities; a role that can sometimes, ironically feel very lonely.

Jessie has both a bleeding heart and one of a lion, fierce and resilient, yet affectionate and compassionate. We sat down, as we often do, over a glass of red wine, to talk shit and connect…

How would you describe your practice?
Chaotic and healing – every time.

I’m a painter – that’s my always and forever art-form that I am the most connected to. I stopped painting in my early twenties though and couldn’t call myself an artist. I came back to it about five years ago when I started writing and performing poetry and then moved into music and playing with fire; those things re-awakened me and opened me up to painting again. Visual art was my first love and painting is still my most confident space. Poetry helped me open up, it gave me a voice. The first time I came out was in my first poetry slam. It helped me find myself and my voice.

How did you first start & why?
I used to copy little mermaid drawings because I loved Flounder and Sebastian. I found it quite easy and I got really good feedback. I grew up in a house full of boys, so I spent my time drawing.

When I got to year twelve, the seniors had studios, and I got my own studio space there. I was the first one in and last one out everyday.

What revives your creative spirit?
Feedback and impressing myself. Reaching that place of flow and complete peace and presence. That is so satisfying (UGH noises!) it energises me to constantly go back to that place. So I guess my own practice revives me really.

What keeps you going?
Gratitude. Perspective. My best friends. Art Party. Seeing progression – creative development in myself and in others – that keeps me going.

What is the last dream you remember?
It was about an old relationship. It was a resolution based dream. That we were friend and that they were happy.

Do you have any rituals?
Number one – I always put on music. Shut the door. Light is important. Also incense and sage – those are my art rituals.

My daily ritual is to practice gratitude, drink coffee and tell the people that I love… that I love them (to the point of clingy and annoying!) *laughs*

I live in the fear of those people dying and not knowing that I love them and telling each other those things which we are all so scared to say, but that are so important.

What are your creative outlets?
Painting. Poetry. Spinning Fire and making music.

What Props did you bring to the shoot? Why?
A skull – a single skull that I found at a festival. It’s a kangaroo skull that I had painted gold because my last exhibition was surrounding grief and the process. Grief has taught me more than anything else in my adult life. It’s taught me happiness. Loss teaches you gratitude.  Before I experienced such grief, I had happiness that would pass me by. But now, no scrap of happiness passes me by – the simple things are noticed and appreciated. It’s not insignificant or meaningless.

What is the hardest thing about your practice?
Self-doubt. I’m not formally trained and I admire some incredible artists; I think every artist compares themselves. Also having meaning in my art. My concepts often come after the final product. Everyone finds their own meaning, so for me it doesn’t specifically matter what the artist meant for the viewer to garner, but rather, finding meaning from it for themselves. It was always about capturing beauty, not necessarily pressuring meaning out of it.

What has been the most significant moment for you creatively so far?
Finding my creative community and feeling purposeful in that – specifically with Art Party. With my painting being able to put on canvas something that doesn’t exist in the world – which I feel I’ve finally been able to do in the past twelve months of my practice.

What motivates you?
Opportunity, altered states of consciousness and love.

If money were no object, what would you do?
What I’m doing, ‘cause it isn’t (laughs hysterically!). Also travel much more.

What do you see yourself doing, when you are say… 50?
Living simply. Painting. Laughing. Looking up. A slower life when I’m 50. Funny though, I’ve never seen myself old. I can see others age, but I can’t see myself. I don’t know what that means, but it’s really hard to picture. I have a youthful energy and I can’t imagine not having that.

What are you currently working on / what’s coming up for you?
My most wonderful collection of work for painting which is sky based and dream based.  I’m really excited about my painting, I’m seeing things in my artwork that I’ve never seen before and I feel like I’ve crossed over from struggle to vision; blindness to vision. I’m also working on developing my skills as a fire-dancer and musician.

What does “Create or Die” mean to you?
It means that routine and stagnation is death. Emotionally you need to make and do and create in order to fulfil your souls desire. Sounds naff – but I believe that.

~ Portrait by Chrissie Hall / Words by Deb Morgan ~

 

Portrait-Jessie-Ray-Create-or-Die-Chrissie-Hall-Deb-Morgan

 

 


100 Pictures | 100 Stories was birthed out of group exhibition, “Show me someone who says it’s Easy!”  by Create or Die.

Photographer Chrissie Hall and Creative Producer and Writer Deb Morgan, wanted to portray their fellow artists in an interesting, fun and meaningful way.

The stories and portraits are published on Create or Die’s online Magazine and featured on social media platforms, Instagram and Facebook.

At the end of the project, there will be an exhibition held of all 100 Pictures and Stories. The exhibition will include talks from artists in the series, as well as an opportunity for the artists to connect with each other and guests of the exhibition.

 

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