Chicago-based artist showcases gender, sexuality at first solo exhibition

By Michelle Lopez

Jessie Mott has always had a passion for art, dating back to childhood. Her goal in high school was to attend New York University and earn a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art.  

Once there, Mott drew, painted and sculpted her way through to make that dream come true. 

“Being in New York City and having access to all of those cultural institutions and getting to look at art all the time… really sparked my desire to be a professional artist,” said Mott, who now lives in Chicago.

Her first solo exhibition, “A Wish to Repair,” opened Jan. 22 and will run until April 23 at the Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Her work explores intimacy, desire, beauty, anxiety and shame through a variety of drawings and paintings, according to the Hyde Park Art Center website. Mott’s drawings of animal-like creatures with human body parts are a highlight of the show.

One of Mott’s most publicized drawings, “Arthur,” made with ink, colored pencil, and gouache on paper, is a four-eyed, multi-colored, doe-like creature with breasts.

Mott said her art centers primarily around animals because she grew up with a loving passion for them.

“I wasn’t allowed to have any [animals] growing up, so I would make up a lot of stories and draw characters,” Mott said.

Mott said as a child, she created a fantasy world every time she drew, and that continued into adulthood. She added that a lot of her ideas are inspired by nightmares she had or books she read, they are brought to life through oil paintings.

“I had a lot of nightmares about creatures, so sometimes I would illustrate my dreams,” Mott said. “I was very fascinated with the natural world, and collect a lot of books.”

Parke Ballantine, marketing and communications manager for the Art Center, described Mott’s work as “sexy, sad and fantastical.”

“The [works] are very intimate to look at and very detail-oriented,” Ballantine said.

Ballantine said her favorite part of the exhibit is Mott’s collaboration with Canadian artist and writer Steve Reinke.

The collaboration uses past animations of Mott’s artwork paired with voice recordings of friends and family, all playing over the music of Madonna.

Junior public relations major Natalie Bowman who frequently visits Hyde Park Art Center said she cannot wait to stop in and see “A Wish To Repair.”

“I’ve followed [Mott’s] work through social media,” Bowman said. “She’s really talented.”

While she was enrolled in Northwestern’s MFA program, Mott started the writing project, “Dialogue Between Animals.” 

Mott said she would write scripts and have her classmates recite parts from each character as she drew pictures of the creatures.

“My drawings keep evolving,” she said. “They’re fantasy hybrid creatures, and they keep evolving with different inspiration.”