Catching Up with Jessica Montgomery

Jessica Montgomery is a mixed media artist from Detroit, Michigan, USA. Her work is known for its evocative imagery and themes that shine a light on the world round us – both the known and that which still needs to be discovered. Her work encourages conservation as the more we learn about the world we live in, the more we need to protect. She was a member of the Daejeon Arts Collective until 2014. She’s currently living and working between Pretoria, South Africa and Detroit, Michigan. We decided to catch up with her in-between working and travelling to see what she’s been up to since leaving Korea.

Can you tell us about your work and what inspires you?

Jessica Montgomery: I’ve always been inspired by the ocean. I’ve been inspired by its creatures, its unmistakable feeling that it gives you when you are near it, its unifying human element, and its mystery and otherworldliness. My previous bodies of work have mostly dealt with oceanic conservation and mankind’s impact thereof.

But since then, I’ve broadened my gaze and have decided to investigate what it is that makes us driven to explore. I am interested in the idea of humankind’s curiosity itself. All aspects, angles, and venues of exploration interest me. I am concerned with the emotional, scientific, and evolutionary implications of exploration as well as the various locations and planes used to set forth an expedition: the deep ocean, outer space, inside the mind, etc.

Current Artist Statement, 2015: 

The compulsion to see what lies beyond that far ridge or that ocean -or this planet-  is a defining part of human identity and success.” -David Dobbs, National Geographic Society

Montgomery’s work encourages and investigates exploration. Her images envelop the unknown and the familiar; awakening the viewer’s innate curiosity and urge to explore. The suggestive yet discernible settings intend to provoke an instinctual response from the viewer; compulsion to analyze, wonder, and connect.

Seemingly drifting into abstract painting, Montgomery’s pieces communicate with images reminiscent of topographical maps, oceanography, celestial bodies, as well as cerebral and microscopic planes; all various worlds of exploration.

Focusing on evoking imagery evocative of both science, nature and childlike curiosity, Montgomery uses drawing and painting as a way to explore herself. Her forms result from varying amounts and combinations of play, experimentation, spontaneity, and accident.

Did living in Korea have any profound impact on your work?

JM: Since my work is about exploration and often uses the sea as a vehicle to do so, South Korea and its surrounding areas was definitely an interesting place for me to be. It allowed me to be immersed in a culture that, more often than not, regards the ocean and its creatures far different than the Western world. It challenged my beliefs and ideals and forced to me to view them from a different perspective. It was a bit like having the rug pulled out from under me in a number of ways; many of which were good and self-reflective.

What have you been up to since leaving Korea and what has the transition been like?

JM: In the year since I left South Korea, I’ve liked to refer to myself as a Artist-Teacher-Travel Writer-Vagabond Drifter-Extraordinaire! I backpacked my way through South East Asia, created a travel blog [] to inspire others to do the same, and wound up chasing a new dream in South Africa.

In South Africa I’m currently working with a group of South African artists creating a new art collective based out of Pretoria: The Artichoke Collective. The Artichoke Collective focuses on producing small, attainable works for the public. We believe that art should be for everyone. The site is to be launched this Fall. I am also looking into applying to graduate school in South Africa.

The transition since living in South Korea has been a strange one. Was it all a dream? Do the bright neon norebong lights, flooding out of every alleyway really exist? It’s interesting to look back and visualize three people: Who I was before Korea. Who I was living in Korea. And whom I’ve become post-Korea. Exploration has always been in my blood. Korea jump-started it. And now I have no way of living life by any other means.

Artist Bio, 2015:

Jessica Montgomery was born and raised in metropolitan Detroit, Michigan, USA. She received her BFA in Drawing and Painting from Kendall College of Art & Design in 2012. She was a previous member of the Daejeon Arts Collective in Daejeon, South Korea and a current member of The Artichoke Collective in Pretoria, South Africa. She has participated in shows regionally and internationally including ArtPrize, the world’s largest open art competition of its kind.  Her work is meant to encourage conservation, further ecological awareness, and promote exploration; both internally and externally. She’s currently living and working between Pretoria, South Africa and Detroit, Michigan.