possessed by jaye schlesinger’s paintings

Go ahead, take a bite. You know you want to.

As soon as I spotted this sandwich created by Michigan artist Jaye Schlesinger I was a goner.

Those of you who nosh here regularly know I have a penchant for photorealistic paintings. Especially of food. It’s a good calorie-free, guilt-free way to indulge (my eyes are always happy to do the chewing). 🙂

What’s interesting about Jaye’s formal training is that she holds MFA’s in both Painting and Medical Illustration (both from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor). When I read that she worked as a medical illustrator for fifteen years, producing art for textbooks and journal articles, I thought, aha! — that accounts for her precision.

Object portraits/still lifes seem to be her forté, however. Though she’s also done landscapes, portraiture, and abstracts, she excels in making the ordinary and mundane extraordinary.

My paintings are a reflection of my desire to find order in the randomness of life, stability in the precariousness. I arrange objects to create still life compositions that have a sense of balance and rightness. In the process, I select, amplify, organize and simplify. I am interested in exploring the two dimensional picture plane – playing with shapes and edges and negative spaces. My goal is to reveal another layer to the ordinariness of what we see and tend to overlook. Seeing beauty in the banal and harmony in the haphazard, I aspire to make paintings that invite the viewer to a place of quiet and comfort.

Several years ago, Schlesinger embarked on a fascinating project that afforded her the opportunity not only to paint various objects, but to consider each at a much deeper, more personal level.

When she and her husband planned to move, they did what most people would — cull their household possessions. Aside from practical concerns, Jaye was also keen on embracing a more mindful, minimalistic lifestyle going forward.

So, she sorted through everything, and went about selling, donating, or recycling anything that wasn’t either useful or beautiful in some way. As you can imagine, this time-consuming process (2 years) became an exercise in contemplation: will I ever use this piece again? is it a duplicate? does it have sentimental value? do I feel obligated to keep it because of who gave it to me? although I haven’t used it in awhile, what if I need it someday?, etc.

Eventually, 388 objects made the cut. She decided to document them by making a small scale oil painting of each — simple rather than photorealistic, but no less charming. They would be collectively exhibited as “Possessed.”

There are objects of functionality and ones of beauty. There are questions of quantity, options, variety, practicality, sentimentality, posterity. What we own is a reflection of our deeper self. My intent is to elicit contemplation and conversation about the ‘stuff’ we choose to live with. How much do we really need and why is it hard to let go?

As someone who’s always been attached to certain inanimate objects, I found it interesting to see what she decided to keep. Whether you’re unduly materialistic or not, it’s true that we can tell a lot about people by the “stuff” they buy, live with, cherish, long for, refuse to give up. The trappings of a life.

Jaye has said that what she especially enjoyed about this project was seeing how people reacted to her little paintings. Certain pieces sparked fond memories as viewers recognized things they or someone they knew once owned. These objects, often taken for granted, were “ordinary” enough to allow people to make instant connections, thereby elevating their value.

Though I was initially drawn to Jaye by her food paintings, I’m also in awe of the way she paints tools. That’s probably because we have a big basement full of tools — I love bears, china, and books; Len loves tools (he collects little else). And considering them from Jaye’s perspective, they have a beauty all their own.

Tools are the subject matter of my recent work. To me, they are interesting, even soulful, for their beautiful form or their whimsical characteristics, or because they seem human or animal-like. I portray an object, or group of objects, in a way that allows them to become symbolic, metaphorical, or provocative in some way.

Working primarily in oil, gouache and pastels, Jaye has exhibited her work at various venues, such as the Art Institute of Chicago, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Mount Holyoke College, University of Michigan Museum of Art, and Hillsdale College.

She has earned awards from the Pastel Society of America, the Pastel Journal, and the Washington Society of Portrait Artists, among others.

Recently she began selling high quality giclée prints of her paintings at her new Etsy Shop. Did you ever think shopping bags or notebook paper could look so amazing? Her Ziploc bag is brilliant!

Enjoy this short video of Jaye discussing her work and a few of the artists who’ve influenced her.

See more of Jaye’s work at her Official Website.

*Copyright © 2021 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

12 thoughts on “possessed by jaye schlesinger’s paintings

  1. Really lovely to see every painting, Jama. And I liked hearing her talk about her work & influences, too. Thanks for the introduction!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Her control of lighting is serious. Photographers always think they’re the end-all of recording our lives, but I think if the camera was never invented, illustrators like this would have just carried on recording the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is AMAZING. I don’t know how you find the things you do. But I’m glad you do. Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

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  4. Oh my goodness! I just saw a post @ Carole’s Chatter where she linked back to this post so I came to check out more of Jaye’s work. I’m a huge fan now! I am amazed at the detail in her paintings, everything looks so real!


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