Interview with Jasmine Zelaya
Jasmine Zelaya is a graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute with a BFA. Based in Houston, her work has been exhibited throughout the US, including in association with the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and Deitch Projects. She was the cover artist for New American Paintings, West Issue #132. In 2018 her painting “Twins” was displayed on the Main Street Marquee, a billboard- sized installation displayed on the exterior of the Main Street Market building in Downtown Houston. In this interview, she’s questioned by guest juror Erika B Hess who is a painter and the founder of the podcast, I Like Your Work.
Erika: I really enjoy your work, the use of pattern, the reference to fashion and music of the 1960s and exploration of beauty and strength in women. Can you take us back to when & why you decided to study art?
Jasmine: Part of my my earliest memories include drawing, painting and sewing. I have always been very affected by my experiences and environments, and art was always a way of expressing that. As I got older, I spent even more time drawing and painting, trying to refine my skills. I carried a sketchbook everywhere I went. As an extremely introverted teen, drawing in my sketchbook helped me sort out my ideas, and was really therapeutic for me. My senior year of high school, I was awarded a full scholarship and travel to The Oxbow School, an intensive semester-long art program in Napa, California. The experience was the catalyst for my decision to go to art school in the Midwest, where I earned my BFA. Ultimately, art school left me feeling lost and really messed with my ideas and my approach to making. In retrospect I think it was a very male dominated learning environment which was a bit archaic in it’s approach, and lacking in diversity. It took some time for me to shake that experience and keep only the positives I learned from my friends and peers.
Erika: You work with various mediums in a singular piece combining painting with watercolor, gouache, and ink, and drawing with graphite on paper. Can you talk your approach working with various media?
Jasmine: My process is a mix meticulous and organic application in response to what the material does. Other times I manipulate the material. There is also an element of control, that includes taping off and careful application. I enjoy the juxtaposition of controlled mark making against the organic swell and undulations of watercolor as it takes form. I respond to the piece as it progresses and use materials that will produce the desired effect.
Erika: How do you select the patterns you use in a painting?
Jasmine: I am an avid thrifter and lover of vintage clothing. I’m drawn to the graphic patterns and colors of textile from the 60’s and late 70’s. When I’m painting the representation of textiles in my work, they read as mini paintings within the painting. I think it sort of becomes a way of my not getting bored, and paint provides an immediacy that my execution craves at the moment.
Erika: I would love to hear more about your interest in women and mysticism. Can you talk about the women you portray and how mysticism plays into your work?
Jasmine: Recently I’ve been thinking about the work of Remedios Varo and my laborious and introspective process of individually applying tiny rhinestones to my work with tweezers. When I am working so meticulously I feel like there’s a commonality in our themes and that my process really is a form of alchemy. I’m also interested in the power we bring to the altering and of our own appearance. Over the decades women have altered their appearances with makeup and paint, and I’m interested in this challenge or step away from traditional concepts of beauty, and the altering of identity. For example, the makeup worn by women in the punk scene of the 70’s. It was a shift away from the soft and feminine, to strong, hard and meant to intimidate. The masks my subjects wear, act much the same way. Distract from what’s underneath, and provide strength, even protection.
Erika: You recently had a painting of yours, Twins, displayed in Downton Houston's Main Street Square. Can you talk about the process of having a work of yours translated into a mural and how it was seeing your work that large?
Jasmine: It is still one of the most surreal experiences I’ve had to date. Seeing my work as a billboard-sized installation on the exterior of the Main Street Market building in Downtown Houston was monumental for me. I was incredibly lucky to have worked with the amazing team at Weingarten Art Group in Houston, TX where Lea, Piper and Ady took every care to make sure the work was not compromised and that I was comfortable with each step in the process. It was a really positive experience. The original painting was 10” x 14”. After I got a high res scan, it was converted to vinyl strips similar to wallpaper. I was there to watch some of the installation process as each strip was affixed little by little and readjusted until perfectly straight.
Erika: What are you working on now?
Jasmine: I’ve been commissioned to make two large scale panels for a new development in the works in Midtown in the Houston. I’m thrilled to be working large scale and to have my work included in this project.