Mugshot

Painter Jesse Joshua Watson will be teaching at Centrum March 8-13 for Explorations, our residential program in the arts for middle school students.


Jesse original mug Coming up Saturday, January 17, is "Mugshot" a new show of portraits by Jesse Joshua Watson & a book release party for Patrick Jennings. Jennings will be reading from and signing his newest book entitled "We Can't All Be Rattlesnakes." The opening and reception is at 2 p.m. at The Vault in Port Townsend, WA.
(Above Aldrich's, corner of Lawrence and Tyler Streets, in uptown PT.)

Here are Watson's thoughts on why he chose to make the work for this show:

I wanted to share a little bit about this show since it is a transposition away from the style I have worked very hard to establish over these last ten years or so. (Not that I am abandoning my current style. By no means. But this is a separate vein I intend to explore further.)

During the two months of painting for this specific show, with each piece I felt the control slip away from my fingers. (And I see that as a good thing.) With much of my illustration style, I am bound by the artistic techniques and "laws" of realistic painting. But by the end of this process I was seeing a completely new style emerge; one that did not require accurate depiction, lighting, perspective… Oddly, it is not truly new, as it reminds me very much of the kind of art I did in High School without giving it much thought at the time. (Who knows? the more things change the more they stay the same!)

The subject matter for this show came from a photo I saw online. There was some buzz about the Nassau County Sheriff releasing the mug shots of people who had been arrested onto the internet. After all, these photos are public record, but the ACLU and others felt that it was unfair since nobody who is arrested is guilty until proved so in a court of law. They were simply arrested. Anyway, I was looking at this site for some reason and I got stuck on an image of an older man. His eyes were so full of something. Not sadness. Not guilt. I don't know what it was. All I know is that it is was so similar to looks I see from people staring across the aisle in the grocery store or driving in traffic.  It made me realize how our society divides people into two general categories. Normal people and everyone else. (And there are endless ways to categorize people into the not normal box.) Obviously, the problem with this is that if you look deep enough, long enough, you will find that there are no normal people. We all have pain, sickness, guilt, regret, sadness, all this weight that brings us low, regardless of how well we disguise it.

My portraits have always been a glorification of the humanity in my subjects. I have painted hundreds of portraits, many never even making it to my website or archives. But they were always prominent or beloved figures for whatever reason. Musicians, historical icons, Obama! You know? People who "deserve" to be portrayed. In this show I wanted to give that attention to these people who were in the midst of some real bad days. The outcasts of our society. (Mind you, I did not paint serial killers or anything. These are all fairly mild offenses.) I did not set out to "make art" about convicts just to be artsy. I would have to kick myself if I tried to pull something like that. I just wanted to convey beauty and sadness and glory and life through paint.

To further complicate the issue in my mind, I kept thinking about people I know who are or were locked up. Some come out and try to feed their family. Some seem like they can't wait to get back in. Some are able to cast it off, though most of the time this requires that you are a celebrity or rich or win Nobel Peace Prizes. From prison to President for Nelson Mandela. From being arrested in cities all across the south to having days and streets named after him in Dr. King's case. Mug shot to big shot for Bill Gates. Back of the cop car to the top of the box office for Heath Ledger, Mel Gibson and all those other drunk driving, gun wielding  football players and movie stars.

Finally, before I hung the show, I painted in a few "normal" people. Folks who weren't arrested at all, just to make it more like real life.
Which ones?
Judge for yourself.
The way you do on the street.

However that may be.

Please check out the video if you have a few spare minutes:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stgKhDWv8J8

Top