Jesse Schlesinger

Artist, Sausalito CA // April 2011
My work is integrally a reflection of self, the world I inhabit, my experiences, and inclinations.

We arrived at Jesse’s studio in Sausalito after a few wrong turns and a lot of awe-inspired comments at just how beautiful the area is. Jesse met us at the bottom of a gravel driveway that led up to a big two-story house. Together we walked beyond the house, past a run-down storage barn and a three-legged cat dozing in the sun, and into a wild looking, over-grown garden. There were bursts of lettuces and greens coming out of the tops of wine barrels, rows of raspberry bushes, leafy fig trees, blooming wild onion and thistle-like artichoke plants. In the midst of all the greenery and growth, is Jesse’s studio. The quaint wooden house-like structure is small, tidy and adorned with great restraint and effect. Jesse utilizes this space a few days a week to work on drawings and sketches for design projects, and does his sculptural work elsewhere. We sat for a while in his lovely studio, amongst the books, the sailing diorama up on the wall, the kerosene lamps, and the collection of little plastic ponies, and just talked— our conversations covered many topics, and throughout I was struck by Jesse’s passion, curiosity, his breadth of knowledge, and his great love and respect for the natural world. He told me he had wanted to be a farmer and was heading in that direction, but then decided to go to art school, and the rest, as they say, is history. But it’s clear that Jesse manages to bring his many affinities and interests together, weaving them together to create an ongoing dialogue and exchange in all the work he does.

When people ask you what you “do”, how do you answer?
I am an artist and a woodworker.

Do you have a day job? What is it? What does it mean to you?
I am finding that there is increasing cross-pollination between my art practice and what might be considered a day job. Work has recently included teaching, building a tree-house, custom furniture, and the (aesthetic finishes) for a new, local bakery, as well as regular markets for a small, local farm.

What mediums do you work with? How would you describe your subject matter? What themes seem to occur/reoccur in your work?
I work in sculpture, social sculpture, drawing, and film photography. My work deals with place, architecture, craft, home, stillness, walking, natural material, agrarian perspectives, the land, interconnected cycles, with an increasingly minimal aesthetic.

What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
Apalache by Paul Metcalf.

What does having a physical space to make art in mean for your process, and how do you make your space work for you?
I love this studio and am immensely grateful for the generosity of the family that shares it with me. They are remarkable and inspiring as is their beautiful home and garden. I continue to find that a place of my own is critical to my process and the wellbeing, development and cultivation of my work.

Has there been a shift or change in your life or work that has led to what you’re making now? Do you see your work as autobiographical at all?
My work is integrally a reflection of self, the world I inhabit, my experiences, and inclinations.

Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?
I have found a rhythm in drawing that is meditatively fulfilling. I am helping to teach an ambitious free class in pre-industrial Japanese woodworking with a master craftsman I have long admired and with remarkable students. The class is a part of a long-term project stemming from a dream I share with a dear friend. I am working with an extraordinary baker in creating the interior and aesthetic of a local bakery. I also have sculptures in shows in Los Angeles and Adobe bookshop and am excited about the work and artists in both.

What are your biggest challenges to creating art and how do you deal with them? How do you navigate the art world?
Time. And as far as the art world, I try to be honest, supportive, and aware of what is important to me and what can be let go.

What are you most proud of?
My sister, her husband, and their new baby girl.

What advice has influenced you?
stay together
learn the flowers
go light

What do you want your work to do?
Inspire and engage. Cultivate wonder.

How will you know when you have arrived?
I am perpetually arriving.

To see more of Jesse’s work: