OFF THE COST



JESSIE WEITZEL LE GRAND

Published on Novemeber 4, 2021 By Brittany Vega



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Jessie Weitzel Le Grand’s work presents objects from imagined alternate realities connected to our own. Jessie holds a BFA from Pacific Northwest College of Art, an MAT from Marylhurst University and has exhibited work recently at Stephanie Chefas Projects [Portland, OR], Lefebvre & Fils [Paris, France], Outback Arthouse [Los Angeles], Oregon Contemporary [Portland, OR] and Lazy Oaf’s “Take a Break” in London. Jessie is a co-founder of Carnation Contemporary and Well Well Projects. She teaches second grade in Portland, OR. All images featured here are from her recent exhibit at Stephanie Chefas Projects called Limbo Lounge, photographed by Mario Gallucci.

She is currently thinking about inner-worlds, unsolved mysteries, and conscious plants.

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Ny By [pronounced, knee bee] is a town. Not a town of this world, but another. In Ny By, citizens worship blossoms and sandwiches. They pull threads from the soil and collect geodes on the shore. Life here is a mystery. There is no language, no laws, and no existential crises. Each life form is unique, funny, and content.


You’re HERE! Someone has prepared for you. They’ve set tables. Lit candles. There’s snacks! Does it remind you of somewhere?

From sleep. From memory. From a video game. Maybe. A new type of life. But, is that a toe? You used to have those. Now, that sandwich does.


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OFF THE COST: Clearly, there is a sense of humor throughout your work. I’m specifically thinking of the series Bloom Tomb with pieces sandwiched and stacked and odd characters. The statement on your website even uses the line “It wafts in like a fart”. Can you talk about your use of humor in your work?

JESSIE WEITZEL LE GRAND: Hah! You are so right. What an ideal place to start! Hmmm, well, I’ve always been a ruminator and obsessive thinker. Mulling things over and over—trying to figure them out. Somehow, a joke always breaks that cycle. There are too many things that thinking can’t fix! Laughing and joking around feels like a very authentic response to being alive—to consciousness.

Through my work, I’m enjoying mysterious concepts. Other dimensions, layered realities, the afterlife, death—they're kind of scary and mind-boggling things. I prefer them to be a little funny too.


OTC: My impulse is to assume some sort of whimsical fiction is taking place, perhaps because of the outlandish appearance of the work. Are you in fact building a sort of world? Is it all fictional?

JWLG: Yes, I am definitely building a world. Every sculpture I make comes from Ny By which means “new town” in Norwegian. It is all, technically, fictional. But I also feel is some part of my heart that Ny By is manifesting as I create it. Or—that somehow I am speculating about an alternate reality, afterlife, somewhere and by coincidence I’ll get some things right. Since my ideas for Ny By and speculations about the unknown happen in the same headspace, the lines get a bit blurred sometimes. Sort of like when I recall a dream and begin to feel it could be a memory.


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OTC: Can you talk a bit more about the role of characters?

JWLG: So far, Ny By doesn’t have set characters. I only have descriptions of the citizens as a whole. I plan to keep it that way since I am not really telling stories through the work. In some ways, I relate it to playing a video game. When you play a new game the first impulse is to mess around and see what physics and boundaries there are in your new world. I’m a pretty sloppy gamer-so that usually means jumping around, grabbing stuff, and inevitably falling off ledges until I get a handle on things. Really just flailing. Hah! When participants first encounter Ny By, I hope they look for clues to understand the rules and boundaries of this new environment. I also hope they enjoy the disorientation of seeing things they recognize doing unfamiliar things.


OTC: Who or what are big influences in your practice right now?

JWLG: I’m a longtime fan of David Altmejd. I also am soaking up a lot of the super-bright and funny work being made right now. I love the work of Joakim Ojanen, Ben Sanders, and Julian Glander. They all manage to capture a bit of mystery and strangeness in what they make. I mentioned video games earlier—I often think of the experience of playing a video game when I make my work. Not a specific game, per se, more just what it means to interact with an alternate space full of strange possibilities. I also consume a lot of sci-fi. Philip K. Dick’s novels often bend time or create new rules for reality. The potential of that really captures my imagination. My husband, Jeremy Le Grand, is an excellent source of feedback, discussion, and ideas. He’s been watching Ny By since it began to form in 2014.


OTC: Your work, and the work by the artists you have mentioned, offers a sort of alternative space or reality to participate in. In that way, I can certainly see the ties to video games and sci-fi...What do you enjoy about that quality? What can we gain from tapping into an imaginary space?

JWLG: Imaginary spaces are refreshing, stimulating, and spooky. The tension between the magic and fear of possibilities excites me. I think engaging with created realities puts us in an alert state. We search for a way to anchor ourselves with familiar elements while eagerly seeking what’s different and new. I like to bring that mindset back to our reality once in a while—to make it feel new.


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OTC: Has your practice been impacted by the pandemic? How are you navigating through this strange time?

JWLG: Amazingly, about a week before quarantine, my husband finished converting our shed into a backyard studio and I moved my things there. The timing was miraculous. It’s been very helpful!! I am still working from home making online lessons for my second graders, but I have been making art every other spare moment. It’s been a very confusing experience thus far. I think that the nuanced and persistent discomfort of this time will impact us all in ways we don’t fully understand yet.

OTC: What are personal habits or tools you try to maintain to keep a steady studio practice?

JWLG: I have always been the sort who works constantly and consistently. I try to always be making something. Even if I am not really feeling it, I will find something to make progress on so I can be productive. At this point, I have a few things I can always use in my work. If I’m not sure what I want to make I’ll just start making flowers, food, or body parts until I get an idea.

OTC: Is there anything new in the works you are able to tell us about? Or what is currently exciting to you?

JWLG: Covid has made future exhibitions pretty uncertain, but I haven’t stopped working. I am currently making some smaller-scale pieces to build up my inventory again. I also am looking forward to summer (schools out) so I can get some reading and ruminating done. I have always wanted to build the world of Ny By. There’s more to uncover about the nature of reality there.


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IMAGE LIST

1. *69
2021
Plaster, plastic, foam, bisqueware, sand, embossing powder, flashe, acrylic
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci


2. Installation
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci


3. Limbo Lounge Shag #1
2021
Fabric, foam
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci


4. Limbo Lounge Shag #2 [detail]
Fabric, foam
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci


5. Limbo Lounge Shag #3 [detail]
Fabric, foam
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci


6. Limbo Lounge Shag #4
2021
Fabric, foam
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci


7. [installation]
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci


8. Squiggle Sconce #1
2021
Bisqueware, plastic, pumice, flashe, acrylic, flameless candle
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci


9. Squiggle Sconce #5
2021
Bisqueware, plastic, pumice, flashe, acrylic, flameless candle
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci


10. Squiggle Sconce #2
2021
Bisqueware, plastic, pumice, flashe, acrylic, flameless candle
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci


11. A Frog [with Secrets]
2021
Plaster, plastic, foam, polymer clay, paper, sand, embossing powder, flashe, acrylic
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci


12. A Frog [with Secrets] [detail]
2021
Plaster, plastic, foam, polymer clay, paper, sand, embossing powder, flashe, acrylic
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci


13. Don't Play This Tape [installation]
2021
Plaster, foam, plastic, paper, embossing powder, polymer clay, acrylic, flashe
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci


14. Don't Play This Tape
2021
Plaster, foam, plastic, paper, embossing powder, polymer clay, acrylic, flashe
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci


15. Chomp Song [installation]
2021
Bisqueware, polymer clay, foam, sand, paper, embossing powder, flashe, acrylic
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci


16. Chomp Song
2021
Bisqueware, polymer clay, foam, sand, paper, embossing powder, flashe, acrylic
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci


17. Lil' Pie Bite [installation]
2021
Plaster, foam, polymer clay, embossing powder, flashe, acrylic
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci


18. Lil' Pie Bite
2021
Plaster, foam, polymer clay, embossing powder, flashe, acrylic
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci


19. Shrimps a Star
2020
Foam, plaster, paper, polymer clay, flashe, acrylic
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci


20. Branchy Burg
2020
Plaster, wood, foam, plastic, polymer clay, paper, bisqueware, flashe, acrylic
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci


21. Just a Hotdog
2020
Bisqueware, paper, sand, polymer clay, foam, flashe, acrylic
Photo Credit: Mario Gallucci








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