Darklight caught up with LA-based visual artist Jesse Draxler during lockdown to ask him about his creative process and daily routine in isolation. Jesse works in paint and photography to create deconstructed, distorted images that explore ideas around beauty, sexuality and sub-culture. His works are often dark and challenging for the viewer but have a striking beauty that captured our imagination from the first time we laid eyes on it…
What time do you usually wake up?
Around dawn, whenever that may be throughout the year. Those early hours are usually my most productive as well.
Tell us about your creative process.
A big part of my process is trial and error. On exceptional days its like a current is flowing through me and I do no wrong, others it’s a fight to the death with myself. A big part of my process is navigating all that. Because of this I create a lot, quantity equals quality. Quality floats to the top, but quantity gets me there. I shoot photographs, I collage from both those and found imagery, I paint, draw, assemble, work digitally, design, and am always trying to learn something new. Also cleaning and organizing my studio, I realize more and more all the time how much organization plays a role in my creative process both in and outside of the work.
Who’s the girl in this piece? It’s one of our favourites.
I had just gotten a new camera and my friend, Sara Cummings, met me at No Gallery to shoot off a few. This is an analog collage of two images from that sesh.
What music do you listen to whilst you’re working in the studio? [Jesse’s work is heavily-affiliated with the music industry, having created work with Zola Jesus, Chelsea Wolf, Daughters and Nine Inch Nails. He also co-owns record label Federal Prisoner.]
Whatever it is, it’s usually on repeat. I’ll repeat one song for an entire studio session at times, but usually an album is on repeat. I live in it.
How does your practise affect your mental health?
When things aren’t flowing very well it is a disaster for my mental health. Trying to create something that I can see in my mind, or that I can feel but not being able to translate, can make me feel more out of control than anything else, it can send me spiraling. Ceaselessly wanting to make more, better, my practice will antagonize me. At the same time creating great work can act better than any anti-anxiety meds, make any problem disappear, calm me to the core. My practice is definitely not just therapy, its more like a drug, there’s good trips and bad trips.
Can you give us one tip for coping in isolation?
“Just go full bore mad.”
What books have you read in isolation?
When this covid shit hit I was in the middle of The Road by Cormac McCarthy but it quickly felt a bit too real haha – I actually picked it back up today though and I’m really looking forward to finishing. I had never read anything by the author but he’s a wizard.
An exhibition that changed your outlook?
Jim Hodge’s “Give More Than You Take” at the Walker Art Center.
Nah, I’m giving up having favourites.
Where did you grow up?
Did you have a job before you were an artist?
I was a server in restaurants for about 13-14 years.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Do you have any super fans/collectors?
Haha, maybe, I don’t know.
Dark / light?
Two points on the same line.