American Stories: Watercolor & Ink

Artist Statement

Despite years of living in New York, the cultural and religious landscape of my native Mississippi is forever ingrained in my mind. The appearance of these pictures is directly related to my past experiences and some of the rural landscapes I remember from earliest childhood. Wildly exaggerated and fabricated, this work is also from the depths of my imagination. The scenes often feature piles of seemingly meaningless junk, unknowable constructs as might be glimpsed by someone passing by in a car. Synthesized from memories, everyday existence, and inner narratives, the visual language I use is inseparable from my southern roots.

But the drive to order, to invent, to make sense of the nonsensical, and the scattered physical evidence of this struggle, seems to me a universal characteristic of being human. And that’s what the characters in these paintings, whose presence we know of only by the detritus they leave behind, are doing. Re-purposed washing machines, homemade roller coasters, fifth-hand rockets, and refurbished mechanical bulls are just a few of the items that are the raw creative fodder for the dubious folks operating within these tableaus. There are lookout towers, old bombs, assorted collections, and flower gardens. Even the land itself is manipulated, living, part of the action.

In my imagination, the characters who inhabit these scenes are embattled artists, fervent inventors who are creating elaborate, if unfathomable, systems for themselves, ways to thrive and get along. They are building small colonies, industrious civilizations, dwelling spaces. Ultimately, these visual stories deal with the business of survival, and the peculiar systems we humans create to make it, to survive in the world.

Jill ShoffiettJill Shoffiett lives in New York. She received a MFA from Pratt Institute and a BFA from Mississippi University for Women. Her work has been shown in the Brooklyn Museum of Art and galleries throughout New York, as well as nationally and internationally. Reviews include Art in America and the New York Times. Jill received a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Drawing, and her work is included in numerous collections. Jill’s subject matter, while connected to her Mississippi roots, also reflects an abiding interest in systems, and the human need to hoard and create.