I'm very happy to present you through this interview Jenessa Goodman and her beautiful collages! She traveled quite a bit these last two years and stopped for a while multiple times in Lisbon. I invite you to read below the interview I made with Jenessa.
How did you get started as an artist?
I’ve always been an artist. That’s the only thing I ever wanted to be when I grew up. I went to art school for college, but the work I made back then was primarily sculpture, printmaking, textile arts and hand papermaking. I only started painting with gouache on paper much later, when I was a new mom. We lived in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn, NY, and I could only make art when the kids were sleeping. I needed something that was easy to set up and take down, and that didn’t require a lot of space. I already had a long-term love affair with beautiful paper, thanks to my time working at a papermaking studio, and I loved the intensity of the pigment in gouache. It felt like a lot of power in a tiny tube of paint, and it dried fast, which was important at the time! I started experimenting with that medium and eventually developed a way of working with the materials that felt right for me. Like so many other things in the world, it was a combination of inspiration and necessity.
In my early and mid-thirties, circumstances aligned in such a way that I was able to significantly deepen my art practice and work on a larger scale. That’s when I made all my really big work – some of it is 10 ft tall! There had been a lot of change and personal transformation happening in my life, so I used my own experiences – translated through the painting techniques I had developed – to make that body of work. Those pieces are the ones I’ve shown the most. Later, I went to graduate school for psychology, and that has influenced the art I make now. I don’t currently have a space for big work, so I work with the spaces available to me at any given time, like when I travel. I like to keep my art practice adaptable.
How do you cultivate creativity to keep your practice alive?
I’m a big believer in not waiting for inspiration to strike. It can and often does, but I find that keeping some sort of creative practice going continually (whether that’s gardening, dance, cooking, sketching, writing, dreamwork, etc.) makes me available to act on inspiration. It’s easier to give form to inspiration when there’s already a place for it to land and tools to express it. I also think it’s important to let go of perfectionism. Perfectionism is the ultimate killer of creativity. When we allow ourselves to play and experiment with our chosen materials, it’s a process that includes making a lot of mistakes. But that experimentation is how we develop our own creative languages. Over time, we can find what works and hone that. Then we can disrupt it by trying something new and start the process all over again. This endless cycle is what keeps creativity alive in my life and art practice.
Today you are in Portugal for a few months? Can you tell us more about your sabbatical and how does travel fit into your art practice?
I work full time as a trauma psychotherapist. Since the pandemic began, I’ve been seeing clients online, which gives me the freedom to work from anywhere. This year I’m traveling around a bit and being a digital nomad.
I find maintaining an art practice while traveling to be a fun challenge. Before I go somewhere, I pack a small travel art kit. This necessarily limits the materials I can bring from home, but then I can incorporate things I find along the way. It’s kind of a metaphor for how travel affects us. Seeing new things and getting exposure to different ways of life challenges our previous frameworks for navigating the world, and all kinds of interesting art can come from wrestling with that.
What are your favorite places to have traveled?
Well, I love it here in Portugal – this is the third time I’ve been here. Other amazing travel experiences have been camping in the Serengeti, sailing in Mexico, trips to Cambodia, Turkey, and a really special family trip to Paris. Closer to home, I especially love Big Sur and Santa Barbara in California, White Sands National Park in New Mexico, the Olympic National Park in Washington, and western Massachusetts. I lived in New York City for a long time, and it will always hold a place in my heart as well.
How does sustainability play a role in your life?
I was raised in an eco-conscious, hippy-ish family, so sustainability has always been woven into my life, particularly when it comes to food. I also love clothing and fashion, so I try to make sustainable choices there as well, such as purchasing sustainably made clothing from small businesses, and choosing timeless items rather than trendy things. I suppose my recent series of collages has an element of sustainability too – recycling paintings that didn’t work and making new things, rather than throwing them away.
What is something that made you happy recently?
The synchronicity of the Happy French Gang blue swallow dress! Swallows (andorinhas in Portuguese) have a long history of symbolism in Portugal. Here, the swallow represents a safe return home, as swallows are migratory but return home to the same nests every year. Historically, it’s traditional to hang a ceramic swallow over the front door. Since Portugal has always been a seafaring nation, with many people leaving for long journeys away from their families, this makes a lot of sense. I didn’t know much about the symbolism of the andorinha until I arrived here on this trip, with the blue swallow dress in my suitcase. It felt so appropriate, as I keep returning to Portugal, a country that feels like a heart-home to me.
How can others find inspiration for their own creative journeys?
I think simply starting where you are is the best place to begin. Check out what’s around you and observe the way you currently move through your life. Then try something new and see if it disrupts your current pattern. Play with whether you can integrate that into your current experiences or not. See if you can find a way to ground the newness into something tangible. Then try another new thing – it could be a behavior change, a new art medium, a new class, taking a different route home, a new recipe, a new way of looking at the world – then see what happens when that gets introduced. Some things will be worth keeping and you’ll want to discard others. It’s good that way. Creativity is a process that is inextricably connected to change and decision-making. So, stay open to change and let yourself experiment. Making art is about learning, and then taking what you’ve learned and grounding it into the material plane. Also, spend as much time in nature as you can. Nature teaches us everything we need to know about creative journeys if we pay close enough attention.
Jenessa is wearing our Liberté Indigo Dress.