Arts Hero – Jessica Harby

For the Arts Hero section of the Bronze Arts Award: Level 1 Award in the Arts qualification, young people need to research the work of an artist that inspires them. Lewis from The CE Academy met and interviewed American artist Jessica Harby when she delivered two weeks of workshops in January.

What sort of art do you make?
A lot of different kinds – drawings, films, installations, embroidery, digital work. I also write a lot.

Image: The Thing or The Oh Noeux Tapestry, Jessica Harby

How do you make it?
A lot of artists use the fanciest, most expensive materials they can find, but I like mixing the cheapest stuff with professional art materials. So I’ll but stuff off eBay or at charity shops and incorporate it into what I’m making.

Where are you from?
I was born in a really boring suburb of Chicago called Oak Lawn, but I moved into the city of Chicago when I went to art school. My art school is called The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and it’s attached to the city’s biggest art museum, so when I was having a bad day I’d walk out of class and directly into a room filled with famous paintings.

What made you do art in the first place?
I’m an only child and I was raised by a single mother, so I spent a lot of time on my own as a kid. I had to amuse myself. So I did a lot of drawing and sewing and other quiet activities. I got really good at them, and now I do them as my job.

What other artists do you like?
Margherita Manzelli, Ragnar Kjartansson, Heather Phillipson.

Image: Referendum (Ask Me How Do I Feel), Jessica Harby

What is your favourite sandwich?
Grilled cheese sandwich dipped in ketchup.

Where can I see the art you make?
I exhibit my work in galleries regularly. I just had some art in an exhibition in London, and I’ll have some in Cambridge, Sheffield, and Northampton later this year. One of the digital artworks is on the Fermynwoods website right now. I have a website with some of my work on it –

I also make a zine called Tappa Tappa Tappa with my friend Amy. We’ve made five issues.

Image: Banished (Patty Hearst Riding a Mammoth), Jessica Harby

Why did you show me a book by David Shrigley?
Because after seeing your drawings last workshop, I kept thinking they were a bit like David Shrigley‘s drawings. I thought you might like seeing an artist who’s wildly successful with weird drawings and a strange sense of humour.

What is the difference between you and David Shrigley?
He’s funnier and richer than I am.