Work by San Francisco artist Jessica Hess inspires risk, warps reality

Jessica Hess/Hashimoto Contemporary/Courtesy

Concealed in San Francisco, Hashimoto Gallery is a cute little gallery that is sharing “More is More,” a solo exhibition that features new paintings by Jessica Hess. Hess has displayed her artwork at exhibits throughout the United States since 2002, and she has received well-deserved recognition for projecting artistic expressions into her pieces. The spirit and energy of her artwork go beyond her canvases, which display graffiti-esque oil works for the show. We do not often come across works of art that blend human gesture with a pivot of detail and understanding, yet Hess successfully manages both tasks.

A San Francisco artist, Jessica Hess has traveled the world and transformed images of abandoned places into striking, theme-filled works of art. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and a recipient of the Trent Burleson Painting Prize, she is an exceptional photorealistic landscape painter who does what she does best: speaking the truth about neglected places. In a world where honesty is often distorted, Hess speaks of the realities of the societies she sees in her travels, filling viewers with a mixture of emptiness and longing.

Throughout the process of creating high-profile urban-environment works, Hess explains in a press release, “I began making an effort to explore the more expressive under-paintings of my work and preserving some of the happy accidents I would create in the sketching process. It’s a shame to cover up these exciting parts of my process and I hadn’t felt right doing so for some time.”

The largest piece in the exhibit, “No Lifeguard on Duty — Swim at Your Own Risk,” blends enthusiasm and passion by illustrating an abandoned indoor swimming pool, empty of water, that is interweaved with graffiti. The artist’s technique of hyperrealism — alongside a mixture of bright colors that balance a grayscale — gives a sense of objectivity to our world. As the title suggests, the piece depicts fear and uncertainty and highlights the “yin-yang” theme of equal weight in good and bad. Every stroke of the paintbrush warps the viewer’s perception of reality.

Explaining her take on hyperrealism, Hess says, “I awake again in studio and finally feel like I am being challenged. My inclusion of raw areas is a slow approach towards the abstraction of my subjects.” With an eye for color, Hess transforms abandoned landscapes into extraordinary works of art. She talks about her technique when she mentions, “Abstraction is an idea I am interested in, but I believe that successful and informed abstracted works are the result of years of observation and dissection of reality.” Along with her strengths of perspective and attention to detail, she blends man-made objects with their nearby emotions through her travels — with a camera in one hand — to urban environments all around the world.

“Hidden Treasures” is a painting of oil on canvas that sheds light on the 3-D structures of her paintings. The piece is set in a narrow hallway littered with dust and crumpled papers on the floor. The deserted nature of the piece, alongside graffiti immersed in vibrant colors, gives the sense that the painter is in search of something of value. The prison-like bars inside the deeply carved circle make one feel locked away from the world outside. The frustration can be felt in the contrast of shading, lighting and exchange of darker with brighter colors. Once again, the title hints at the adventure of the search for something bigger, something deeper than what is already ahead.

Hess’ artwork, as we find, is larger and deeper than the realities depicted. The authenticity of her paintings gives no censor to the actualities of life. After experiencing her paintings, we find waves of hope and fear, of love and loss, and of success and failure. Her paintings carry a message to look for the differences of various places rather than their similarities, and nevertheless strive to cherish those distinctions. Speaking the truth can often be frightening, and Hess’ artwork inspires others to take that risk.

Contact Mana Anvar at [email protected].