Jesse has always loved to draw despite significant impairments to his vision as a result of a fever that almost killed him and kept him hospitalized for the first year of his life. Ironically, Jesse believes that the peculiar demands of his vision have enhanced his work.
Always a good student, Jesse would finish his work as soon as he could so that he could draw. He loved looking at pictures of African art and ancient masks and sculptures in library books. “I was attracted to primitive art,” says Jesse, at times even now “I go to the library, I like Aboriginal art. It’s not like I could copy it, though, I go to get inspired.” For Jesse, the symbolism of art is what “rules.” He feels his primitive work is most is most natural to him, “it’s strange, I really do see them in dazed states…also during Tai Chi they will flash through my closed eyes.” Jesse is troubled by “the lack of ideas” that people have regarding art, “buying and selling art you care nothing about, because you think it makes you look cool, because it’s expensive, or whatever…the ancients believed in what they were doing, it meant something to them.” Jesse works on his pieces until they mean something. A recurring theme with kings and crowns relates to his commentary on how people, who need money, are ruled by it instead.
Jesse approaches his creations in the same way and believes this is what motivates him and makes him avoid submitting to materialistic pressures to serve other people’s ideas. “My art captures whatever feeling I had. I know I felt it. I know what was going on in my head.” If you can relate to it great, if not, that’s okay with him, too.
Tai Chi has been instrumental in this focus. Jesse suffers from the chronic pain and tendonitis in his neck – he has to hold his neck in awkward postures to see his work. “Sometimes I’m crouched over it 1 foot away. Actually, a lot of times the work is done before I can see the whole thing!” He took up Tai Chi to help reduce the pain and strain from the demand of seeing. “I had to do a lot of meditation, I become more aware of my posture, I became more confident about my art…soon, I didn’t question myself. I knew when it was done.” Jesse eventually learned to “go with” the more frustrating aspects of his vision -- some areas of his eyesight are blocked, his right eye is particularly sensitive to light, and color is seen as brighter and darker. Further, he has found that something happens when his eyes are strained to fatigue – “I can see shapes, see things I haven’t seen all day.” It is at this point that he lets go of his vision. “More is accomplished, sometimes drastic things happen at the end of the day. I’m more fluent. I’m looser, I draw faster, I run with the (new) perspective. I rework it until it means something”.
Jesse was initially discouraged from pursuing art and pursued music instead. He moved out on his own at 18, earned an Associated Degree in Radio and TV, had a home recording studio, played guitar in a band while supporting himself as a mailman. Of course, he drew all the time in the mailroom, too. A few years ago Jesse got excited about another artist’s work “and I started painting a lot, quickly”. The artist he admired saw his work and was enthusiastic and supportive. “Then I got fierce. I painted all the time."
Jesse was supported at key points by the enthusiasm of other artists and did everything and anything he could to show his work. “I put on a show, I organized shows, I went anywhere – tattoo shops, salons, coffee shops, record stores” – where they hung art, “I promoted it, I did the publicity, art walks, anything was worth doing to get people to see it. Even if I didn’t sell anything, it led to a commission.” About 3 ½ years later he was able to quit his job as a mailman. His hard work paid off. Eventually he earned the attention of regular collectors in the United States and abroad.
Jesse moved from Pennsylvania to Portland, Oregon. He has stayed busy particularly after being promoted by a well-established gallery in Los Angeles. He has also started painting live for commissions, which he says he enjoys quite a lot because he likes being engaged with people while he works. He now considers his music career a hobby; although, when he has time he plays and records--he is currently playing experimental music.
The art produced for the Rougette Gallery 2007 show reflected his awareness that in 4 short years his life has taken a dramatic course from where he thought he would be. "I'm not where I thought I would be and that may have been irrelevant. My personal measurement of what I thought I would be doing isn't what I think now. That's why there are a lot of arrows in my work now -- it feels like all of these ideas are coming out of me and that I should look at all directions, all ideas at what I could be. As long as I move forward, stay on my game, go deeper, and never cop out. Push, push, push myself. What's certain is my work is all I think about right now -- and, how I work out what's in my head. It's important that I claim who I am by letting myself think what I think and say what I say and not worry about it."
When Jesse started to show with this gallery he had been a full time artist 6 months. Jesse notes at that stage it was easy to dream about being a working artist but he knew he wasn't free of the mindset of being a guy with a job who hopes to be an artist until he recently got a tattoo on his hand in a place where "everyone" could see. (He has others.) This year he has been feeling that he is free to fully be himself as an artist and is aware this attitude has led to some critical success and constant work. The important element in his creative work is to use his art to make sense of his own psyche and what is going through him. "If I pay attention to my art, I have a clear sense of what's going on inside of me. It's funny, when I look at my old work I can tell exactly what was going on with me then. Now, when I'm working on something, I ask myself 'why does this mean this to me?, what am I learning?' Lately, I feel like the Phoenix Rising and a lot of that (feeling) has shown up in my work."
Jesse also spent some time this Summer in Winnipeg, Canada, working with underprivileged teenagers, mostly native kids, teaching them to paint murals through structured graffiti art programming. "The provincial government funded a huge grant to bring in 3 international artists and 3 Canadian artist to work with the kids." We'll skip the part about the Byzantine governmental/non-profit hierarchy which caused a delay in the arrival of the paint but Jesse did enjoy working with the teens and created a 1000 sq foot mural as part of the commission.
Jesse's art has been published in a number of books, including "Truth Will Measure: The Art of Jesse Reno" . 2009 brought a prestigious award: he was the winner of the " Most Expressive Artist" Award at the Festival International Art Singulier Contemporain in France.
Devil Bunny -JR13
11" x 14" - Acrylic on WoodPrice on Request
He Chipped His Tooth Eating a Stone -JR14
11" x 14" - Acrylic on WoodPrice on Request
No Point in Being Chief He Has Magic to Experience Again You Rise -JR2
24" x 24" - Acrylic on WoodPrice on Request
12" x 12" - Acrylic on WoodPrice on Request