Jess

Jess’s remarkably diverse body of work in a variety of mediums spans more than three decades. The background and source material that feed that work could not be more heterogeneous. In addition to his association with the 1950s poetry renaissance in Berkeley and San Francisco, any account of Jess’s work must also address his initial career as a radiochemist, as well as his tenacious interest in fairy tales and children’s books, folklore, the occult and Egyptian mythology. An odd mix of inspirations, these are the building blocks Jess uses to explore what is, in his words, “a romantic vision.” Jess’s library, which includes a large selection of mystical texts ranging from the Egyptian Book of the Dead to George MacDonald’s 19th-century children’s novels, has provided the inspiration of many of his paintings. Jess’s work is referred to as “a poetics of enigma, play and resistance to meaning, one that celebrates an eternal strain within the arts, which Jess himself would define as ‘romantic’.”

Source: “Songs of Innocence,” by Michael Auping, Art in America, January 1987, pp. 119-121, and “Searching for Meaning in Jess’ Dreams,” by Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle, Wednesday, March 2, 1994, p. E2, Col. 1

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