Meet Jessie Mott’s Colorful, Animal-Like Creatures
In a surreal, childlike nightmare-turned-fairy tale —or perhaps vice versa— colorful, animal-like creatures with human body parts, long tails and, in some cases, horns and many eyes, come to life in the form of paintings, drawings, animation, and small clay sculptures. They range in size from large-scale wall paintings to tiny works that fit in the palm of one’s hand. Some of them are cat-like, some resemble wolves, snakes, or deer, some walk on two legs, some on four, but all of them have something in common: bright colors, provocative poses, odd-looking body structures, and abnormally long limbs. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Jessie Mott’s watercolors of blues, yellows, and pinks bleeding into one another give her chimera-like drawings familiar qualities, even though the creatures themselves seem to exist in a universe very different from ours. As the lines between the human, the animal, and the sublime blur, the viewer cannot help but want to look beyond the surface and into the creatures’ eyes. And it is then that one eventually sympathizes with them. Despite their extraordinary colors, Mott’s imaginative “monsters” convey a sense of deep melancholy, coming from a need to be included, accepted, valued, and even loved. Unable to escape these human tendencies, they don’t look so monstrous anymore.
Eat Your Secrets, Mott’s video collaboration with artist and writer Steve Reinke, takes this character development to the next level by providing a glimpse into the lives of these otherworldly hybrids through animation. The artist writes the script, based on her drawings, and records the voice over —non-contiguous phrases as spoken by friends and fellow artists. Then Reinke brings it all to life through animation. The soundtrack is Madonna. As Mott’s beautiful monsters perform an almost psychedelic dance with their bodies and tails intertwining in ways that resemble Japanese erotica, the video work conjures undertones both erotic and haunting, humorous and serious, deeply personal and highly sentimental.
In her interdisciplinary practice, whether it’s painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, video or installation, Mott’s central themes haven’t changed. Beauty, desire, intimacy, vulnerability, identity, belonging, and unapologetically raw sexuality are all at play. But they have the face of colorful, beautifully weird creatures that exist between worlds and between genders, and are unable (unwilling?) to hide their softer side.