“Learned Memory” & “Under Six” by Jessie Street & Her Students
La Grande artist Jessie Street will unveil her latest series of work entitled “Learned Memory,” an installation featuring collages of old photos and other collected memorabilia at the Union County Chamber of Commerce on June 21 from 5-8pm during Third Thursday Art Walk. The opening will also coincide with the opening of “Under Six,” an exhibit curated by Jessie at the Mt. Emily Ale House, featuring students of hers who were all under six at the time of making the work.
The two exhibits are the culmination of a grant Street wrote and received from the Union County Cultural Coalition, in which she sought to convey
the importance of art educators making and showing their own work, to be artists in their own right and likewise, the role one’s studio practice can have on their teaching and vice versa. Her proposal included having a show of her student’s work at the same time as a show of her own work. The idea being that students would be able to see their own work on display and feel pride in themselves, while also seeing her work and understanding that communication and collaboration is part of the lifelong practice of being an artist.
The last show that Street curated for her students at Art Center at the Old Library, where she resides as President of the Board of Directors and instructor of creative classes for kids, surprised many viewers by the abilities, such as sophistication of color balance and variation of brush stroke, that was apparent in the children’s work. This caused many to ask how much of a hand the teacher has in the student’s work.
“What I’ve found to be true is that you cannot imitate that type of mark making. It varies between sporadic splash of paint and a tiny hand working as carefully as it can; their developing fine motor skills make for this kind of playful and thoughtful painting. People ask me often if I help the students or tell them what to paint. I do not. I am more of a facilitator–I step in when they begin to make a muddy mess and merely suggest they try blow-drying their paintings for a few minutes or switch tools, colors, etc. But I never paint anything on their paintings,” says Street.
As for the work in her own show, these collages of old photographs and other found materials are composed to represent Street’s own ideas on learned memory, which is appropriately the name of her show. “Learned Memory is a memory that has been formed that was never actually experienced in its entirety. It’s formed through story, imagination, subconscious
The photographs featured in these collages were inherited from Jessie’s grandparents’ house, a place where she created many learned memories of her own. This work seeks to create a new narrative for the people within the snapshots, much of which is derived from her own vague memory of the lives of those featured and which also celebrates her lasting fondness for the “happenstance and awkward composition of the poorly taken photograph,” states Street.
Her artist statement for the work summarizes it best with the claim that, ” This body of work is an exploration of visual triggers that
initiate learned memories. A deliberate pairing of objects that form a new narrative and an endearing and fictional portrait of these darling old souls.”
Both “Learned Memory” and “Under Six” will run until August 14. Jessie’s work can be seen at the Chamber of Commerce, 207 Depot St., Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm, and Saturdays from 9am-1pm, and during Third Thursday art walk until 8pm. Street’s students’ work can be seen at Mt. Emily Ale House, 1202 Adams, Tuesday-Thursday, 4:30pm-10pm and Friday-Saturday 11am-10pm.