We had the good fortune of connecting with Shaelin Jornigan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shaelin, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Painting at all is to risk failure, and I am not particularly comfortable with failing. I am equally uncomfortable making a painting I already know how to make. So that leaves me in a miserable bind any time I enter the studio. Still, the successful moments in my paintings are usually a result of some unexpected impulse, accident, or precarious decision that had the potential to ruin the painting, but didn’t. This is the uncomfortable reality of risk-taking – there is no reward without the possibility of pain. The first time I came face to face with this concept was during an exhibition in 2016 when my largest painting was swept off of the back of a friend’s truck by a gust of wind during transport. We watched in shock and horror as my precious canvas flew into the intersection and was run over by a massive box truck. Something clicked inside me – the fear of ruining my painting was making me stagnate. It was a good painting, but the tire mark on the back became the most interesting thing about it. After that, the idea of scribbling on, covering up, or cutting into a painting has become a necessary risk in my practice, despite the perfectionist fear that grips me in the process. In response to that fear, I am embarking on a new project in collaboration with Max Karson. This new series is called Imperfectionism, and I will be handing over completed works to Karson to “ruin”. I have no idea what they will be like, but much like a good roller coaster, I expect a thrill alongside the terror.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I make abstract portraits where clean lines and solid, cartoonish shapes dance with gestural marks. The combination of these elements creates compositional momentum that I use to tell stories, create characters, and explore memories. That being said, my paintings and I are going through some growing pains. Right now I am focused on being more vulnerable and honest in my work and in life. Last time I talked to VoyageLA I worked so hard to act like I had it all put together. Turns out, I really don’t. I love abstract paintings, but the difficult topics I cover (rape, sexuality, and family) can get obscured in these abstractions. I am trying to get in touch with a more authentic way of creating my work, which will include deconstructing some of my existing approaches. The Imperfectionism collaboration with Max Karson will be part of this process, and I am interested to see how my practice evolves as a result. Creating during this pandemic has been and remains fairly difficult for me. Despite having free time, I have been emotionally derailed by everything going on, and struggled to make anything for months. Though I developed a more regular studio routine, it is important to share that not everyone is powering through with mountains of creativity right now. Ultimately I just had to get back into the studio mindset and create a schedule around my creative practice. It took quite a lot of dicipline and time to get to a point where I actually felt remotely invested in my paintings again. Having that designated space, whether it is a separate studio or even just a specific spot at your table for art, can really help clear some of the mental clutter.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would probably tell my friend to chill out and use zoom until the pandemic is over. For those who are isolated like me, you can still enjoy LA art, dance, and other interesting events from your homes! Just order some Burger Lords takeout (I also like Sage and Republic of Pie) and check out culturela.org where they have a ton of virtual events for your pajama viewing pleasure. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Big shoutout to Beth Gard, Raychael Stine, Nancy Zastudil, Jazmyn Crosby, Scott Anderson, Sean Hudson, Mark Murphy, Mat Gleason, Lisa Derrick, and my collaborator and partner Max Karson. You have all been so essential in getting me here, I am unbelievably grateful.
Max Karson, Shaelin Jornigan