Written by Haley Schvaneveldt
Photographed by Lindsay Higgins
“I always start with a concept,” Jessica Wortkoetter tells me about her creative process. Jessica is an interior design major who also excels at photography. She is a big-picture thinker. Perhaps this is why she has always been fascinated by 19th century French painter Claude Monet. Monet’s paintings, made up of many tiny brushstrokes, are seen most clearly when the viewer takes a step back. This art of “stepping back” is one at which Jessica excels.
Jessica’s practice of starting with a concept is fueled by her belief that “the point of art is to convey a message.” She wants her message to motivate the details of her work, rather than vice versa. However, those details and the technical aspects of design have been Jessica’s greatest hurdles as an artist. “I’m not a detail-oriented person,” she says. This makes Jessica’s major, interior design, a particular challenge. “You have to do everything perfectly,” she explains, “and the measurements have to be just right.”
Interior design has grown Jessica’s attention to detail and strengthened her technical skills. In her meticulous creative process, this growth is evident. After thinking of a concept, brainstorming extensively, and planning what she wants to photograph, Jessica takes hundreds of photos. “I go through them and figure out which ones are best technically and aesthetically, and which ones get the point across,” she explains. “Most of the time I have to go back and do it all over again because it’s not quite right!”
Another of Jessica’s inspirations is contemporary American artist Andres Serrano. “He’s really controversial,” she says. “His work confronts the viewer and shows them what they’re doing wrong. That’s why people don’t like it.” Jessica strives to confront her audience in her own art. Her photo featured in this years’ Ivy Leaves is a part of a semester-long project that challenges the way “society is making the world around us toxic with their addictions, habits, and misplaced priorities.” Characteristically, Jessica takes a big-picture perspective on this issue. She explains, “People are so focused on the here and now. I want to look at how future generations will be affected.”
When I ask Jessica about her future plans, she doesn’t have a specific answer for me. While she is considering becoming an art consultant and probably staying near her hometown, Greenville, South Carolina, she does not have a definite plan. But Jessica seems more comfortable with this unknown than most college seniors. Perhaps it is because she applies her “idea first, details second” maxim to her whole life. Jessica’s concept for her life is clear. “I want to combine art and design,” she says with a confident smile, “that is all I know.”