Wednesday, May 28, 2008

jessie mann interview, final part

today's post wraps up Subjectify's seven-part interview with subject extraordinaire, Jessie Mann. at the end of today's question, Jessie talks a bit about her own work as a painter—to see more of her paintings, please check out her website here.

(for those psychology fans out there, there is a bonus question below about Jungian personality types. to find out your own type, take a Myers-Briggs typology test here.)

thanks again to everyone for reading seven days of the interview (and to Jessie for bearing with me!), and for your great emails and comments. it's been fun.

Subjectify: Is Frida Kahlo an influence? I feel that her self-portraits are unmatched, in a way, for the powerful sense the viewer gets that she was reaching out again and again for something... Do you think that you are reaching out for something as you approach the kind of work you do as a photographic subject? Is it different than what you are reaching for in your own work as a painter?

Jessie Mann: Frida Kahlo has been an influence for me since childhood. Her books were on the lowest shelf of my mom’s art library, so they were some of the first I engaged with. It is interesting to have had a relationship with an artist’s work for as long as I have, so much of the way in which one understands an image remains untouched despite all the information one may gain over time about the work, or the artist, or even about life. One of those untouched understandings is that sense of reaching, which you mention. I felt that immediately in her work and I do think it is something that I connected with even as a preliterate child. That is one of the great things about her work—you can read it right away, its truth is on the surface. That feeling of reaching is one of the strongest sensations I associate with portrayal. It doesn’t feel like tugging at something, or like pulling, but more like jumping, like the long jump, like you could throw yourself across some line. I imagine for her a lot of that reach was a desire to exist more fully outside of her body. To make more real her abstract self in order to in-substantiate her pain ridden existence. My motivation is different though my desired end result is the same. I think I simply want to assert the mythological self because it has been shortchanged, not me.

As to how this relates to my experience painting—that is tricky. I think the photos are where I play with the literal and the mythic. They are where I engage myself in the art—and tackle specifics. The paintings are selfless and abstract. They are more about the nature of reality—organic patterns and light, than about any specific aspect of life or culture. I don’t feel that I am trying to go anywhere when I paint, or that I am trying to bring myself to anything, but rather that I am trying to expose something about where I already am. The photographs feel to me, like Frida’s work, as if they are moving through time, the paintings are stillness. There is a necessary ‘autobiography’ in that effort to capture a moment of experience, which the photographs also play with. The paintings speak of surroundings more than the interiors and reflections in the photos, but they both become a template for the spirit behind identity.

Subjectify: Bonus question—I’ll throw this one in because you’re a Jungian—what’s your Myers-Briggs personality type?

Jessie Mann: INFP.

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