NAME: Jess Irish
LOCATION: Gardiner, NY
ORIGIN: Washington, DC
ART: Film, video, poetry, animation, web
MAIN GENRE: Experimental nonfiction
TRAINING: MFA Studio Art (UC Irvine), MFA Creative Writing (The New School)
ARTS AFFILIATIONS: Associate Professor of Design & Technology – Parson School of Design, The Artists Forum
BIO: Jess Irish is an award-winning artist, designer, and writer who makes lyrical nonfiction films and cross-genre media. She is an Associate Professor of Design and Technology at Parsons School of Design, where she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in design research, hybrid works, and new media. She lives in the Hudson River Valley, NY with her family of humans and dogs.
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Jess has received honors such as Best Director of Documentary Short, Best Long Short Film, Best Inspirational Film, Best Environmental Film, Best Hybrid Film, Best Female Director, Best Experimental Documentary, Best Video Art, and Best Editing. Her films and artworks have screened in festivals both nationally and internationally, including The Artists Forum Festival of the Moving Image, winning Best Editing 2019 for her film The Phantasmagoria of Offense: The Male Version, Best Documentary Short 2021 and 2021 Juror’s Award for her film This Mortal Plastik.
A recipient of a Creative Capital Award, Jess’s artworks have been featured in media such as LA Weekly, Art Forum, METROPOLIS, RES, and Artweek magazines. Collaborative design projects include Visualizing Pipeline Impacts and open-source software projects DataMyne, Urban Research Toolkit.
Jess was the founding co-director of OnRamp Arts, an award- winning non-profit in central LA that produced innovative, interactive collaborations between artists and local youth.
LATEST WORKS: This Mortal Plastik (2021), For While (2019), and The Phantasmagoria of Offense: The Male Version (2018).
MEET THE ARTIST PROFILE: MEET Jess Irish (2021)
2021 JURIED ARTS AWARDS-FILM FEST WINNERS: Jess Irish Acceptance Speech
WORK SAMPLES: This Mortal Plastik (2021), For While (2019), and The Phantasmagoria of Offense: The Male Version (2018).
Please describe your artistic themes
I’m drawn to topics that present a tension between promise & failure. We like to think of them as opposites, but really they are two sides of the same coin. My recent film, This Mortal Plastik, for example, looks at plastics as both magical and monstrous.
The other theme I hold in an aspiration way is from famed educator John Dewey: “To be playful and serious at the same time is possible, and it defines the ideal mental condition.” I’m drawn to serious issues, but I’m also a playful person. It’s important for me to have both.
Please describe your creative process
I subscribe to the idea of having a “creative compost” where ideas percolate over a long time, and it’s my job to notice and collect them, even if I have no idea why. Once something has gotten under my skin, I generally proceed with a deep research process and draw out ideas in a sketchbook.
Writing things down helps me remember them, but more interesting to me is playing with ideas as visual forms. Putting it on paper let’s then be stupid. Sometimes they stay stupid, other times it clarifies an important choice in how a project comes together. I am always advising my students to “get specific” and so have to follow this advice for myself.
What are your artistic goals? What do you need to achieve them?
My goal as an artist is ultimately to offer the audience a shift in perception. I think that is a powerful thing that the arts can do. I generally find myself needing to question the “straight on” approach to really make this happen. I enjoy making things beautiful, but that feels much easier to do.
What are your views on the industry?
I’m an outsider to industry, but I’ve taught in tech media for the last 25 years. There have been enough examples of something being declared as “dead” or “over” only to be revived or strengthened a few years later. So, best to focus on what humans value – meaning and connectedness. I hope the industry will continue to open up and offer more modes of finding new content, especially from underrepresented makers.
What advice would you give to emerging artists?
Notice what you notice. Be rigorous with your curiosity. Have fun.