Paint by magic: Jessica Park is known for her "Pop Architectural" works—not her disability
Art Business News, Dec, 2004 by Debbie Hagan
It's a Sunday afternoon in July when a cool breeze sweeps down from the blue Berkshire Mountains to the Williamstown, MA, home of artist Jessica Park. She sits with her sister Rachel and friend Rosalie Winard, poring over a catalog of expensive Clarins beauty products. Park points to what she wants for her birthday. She will be 46 in two days.
It's incongruous, at first, to think of Park, who doesn't wear makeup, and dresses more for comfort than style, as interested in French cosmetics. This day, she wears a red t-shirt with a crescent moon and a star. After a few minutes, Park coos about how good the botanically fragrant products smell. "They relax me," she says.
Park surrounds herself with beauty. As a painter, she responds instinctively to art. She has never had formal art lessons. She doesn't spend time in art galleries and museums. In fact, when asked which artists she admires, she stares blankly, shakes her head and can't name a single one. Simply, Park paints what she loves--bridges, houses, casinos and buildings. She paints them the way she sees them, bathed in unexpected rainbows.
"The work is highly origin--Pop Architectural," says Margaret Bodell, Park's agent. "It's idiosyncratic and people love it." In fact, Park's paintings sell as fast as she can make them. Many are snapped up by art collectors, celebrities, real estate moguls and Wall Street businesses. She works mainly on commission, with a one-year backlog.
Bodell considers Park to be a pioneer. She is autistic, but she has transcended her disability. She competes on a level playing field in the fine art world against unimpaired artists.
"I think when people buy a Jessica Park from me, they're not discussing her disability; they're discussing the brilliance of her art," says Bodell. "Her work can stand against anyone in the mainstream. People are interested in her as an artist. Labels are falling by the wayside."
Two of Park's early paintings hang in her dining room. One is the "Currier House," a home near hers on the Williams College campus. It's a night scene, focusing on a black carriage-style lamp, filled with radiant multicolored light. The constellation of Scorpio and zodiacal lights shine through the dark background. Park loves anything pertaining to the sky, be it clouds or shooting stars.
But this summer afternoon, Park is eager to talk about the painting that she has just finished, "House on Oblong Road?' It was commissioned by a local attorney. Characteristic of her style, Park chooses the less common, but more interesting perspective--close-in, so that only a slice of the home falls within her frame. It's a section of the porch, dormer window, slate roof and chimney. As if she were a born architect, her line and scale fall perfectly into place. Park's love for detail shows in this work, particularly the repetition of the roof tile and stones in the chimney.
She washes the house in a rainbow of vibrant colors, from bubble gum pink to banana yellow. When asked how many colors appear in the painting, she doesn't know. After a few seconds, she calculates eight shades of pink alone.