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Brawl

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Michelle Jones earned her MFA in painting from Massachusetts College of Art in 2005 and a BFA in painting from the University of Mississippi in 2002. A native of central Mississippi, Jones spent eleven years in Boston, MA producing paintings and quilts as well as a handmade children’s clothing line that was sold in boutiques along the East Coast. Jones made the journey back South in 2014, and resides on the Gulf Coast with her husband and daughter.  With its sweeping vines, clutches of hanging moss, and mix of live oaks and palm trees, life in the deep south feels a bit like living in a jungle and is a direct influence with her most recent works.
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How rooted in personal experience are your works in nature or the wild?
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My works are dream spaces, imagined landscapes.  That said, I am inspired by the world around me.  I have traveled the globe--Panamanian jungles, the Mekong delta, Norwegian fjords, to name a few--seeking out immersive experiences to inform my paintings.  Most recently we kayaked through the mangrove tunnels in the Everglades, and I am excited to see how that bird and reptile paradise, with its tangle of trees, vines, grass, and swamp, infiltrates its way into future works.
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Decay in our cities and our society is a relevant issue especially now after so many years of unprecedented growth. What fears are expressed in your works about decay and decline?
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Right now it feels like the house is on fire and nobody cares. Or there's not much that can be done about it. I worry that we are pushing our environment to a place where it will be forced to reclaim itself, and how that plays out will not be pretty to modern day life.  
Life on the Gulf Coast is fraught with consequence.  We have hurricanes, tornadoes, mold multiplying underneath floorboards and vines pushing through walls, foundations sink and sidewalks buckle.  The land here is aggressively active in trying to keep humans at bay.  What we have created is not natural or sustainable. If we stopped hacking back the overgrowth and shoring up our homes, this place would fall back into the gulf--which feels like on a small scale what is happening on the planet as a whole.  
My work reflects this.  The landscape is a protagonist, its obscene lushness often choking out the creatures that inhabit it or a surprise force sweeping through that must be reckoned with.  There is beauty to be found in the madness but that distraction could lead to one being swallowed up.
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You state that you are interested in the role of chance in your process. How much happenstance are you comfortable with? How much is too much?
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I love starts.  The beginning is one of the most exciting parts of my process and where chance is the most at work.  Anything can happen and I am often surprised.  
Most of my paintings begin by wasting excess paint at the end of a studio day. I pour, splash, and dribble to create a surface free from intention that I can come back to later and search for images.  The paintings are a treasure hunt.  Being able to follow these preliminary marks is thrilling and revelatory.  That said, often I am nervous I will not see anything, or that once an image has started to form, I will fuck it up.  The further along I get in a painting, the less likely I am to splatter or spill, but  if I push past that urge to preserve, something more interesting can happen.  Accidents and mishaps within the work have led to pieces that communicate more urgency and immediacy than attempts at my most orchestrated pieces.
I think this impulse feels true to life.  One can lay all sorts of plans but a random drawing of the stars dumps this surprise circumstance in your lap, and it is up to you to sort it out and create something from the interruption, follow the breadcrumbs out of catastrophe.
I enjoy a regimented schedule.  Boundaries and limits for my chaos, if I get a say.
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Has your work or process changed significantly as you migrated from Boston to Mobile, AL?
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Since I made the trek back South, I have more time to work. In Boston, there was this hustle to make rent.  I had a handmade kids clothing line that I sold down the East Coast which consumed all of my time.  While I have shifted away from fibers, and certainly making a one-woman factory of myself, texture and pattern still creep into my work, residual from spending ten years immersed in cloth.  The cost of living is so much cheaper in Alabama that is affords me the luxury to be able to be in my studio every day--though I've yet to find a soup dumpling here, so there are certainly trade offs.
When I first arrived in Mobile, I felt particularly isolated.  I did not know anyone, much less other artists or makers.  Outside of family, it was a solitary existence for literally two years.  I felt like a pioneer, like I had hitched my wagon and settled on some wild frontier--which I appreciate sounds ridiculous.  The change in surroundings shifted the focus of my paintings from consumption and insatiable desire to what it was like to be alone in a setting you have no control over and no way to escape.  I began painting works to come to terms with the excitement and sense of adventure one finds alongside the perils of the unknown.
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Any hopes or goals for the future in work or life?
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I have plans to incorporate my love of fabric and textiles into my exploratory landscapes.  Other harbingers, such as snakes, are beginning to creep into my paintings and I'm excited to follow that impulse more fully.  I hope to be able to continue to make work full time.  That's the dream, right?

Brawl

by Michelle Jones

$300.00


Materials:
Gouache and watercolor on paper
Dimensions:
16 inches x 12 inches

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