PORTRAIT of the EMERGING ARTIST: Jaci Rice
A Multimedia Look at a TFA Fellow who captures the aftermath of the Industrial Age in West Virginia
Photo-illustration of Weirton WV artist Jaci Rice, a 2020 TFA Emerging Artist Fellow.
Greetings. We continue with profiles of the five multi-talented artists who make up the 2020 class of TFA’s Emerging Artist Fellows. In this newsletter, we showcase Jaci Rice of Weirton WV. Jaci holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in painting and drawing from Tyler School of Art, part of Temple University in Philadelphia. As a transplant to the Ohio Valley, she says she has been “afforded an opportunity to see the area’s beauty with eyes not accustomed to it.” Her work started out purely figurative. But in recent years, she has been inspired by Weirton’s dramatic sky and landscapes, intermingled with ghostly and active warehouse spaces and the hulking remains of the Industrial Age in West Virginia’s heartland.
VIDEO by Braiden Maddox. | STILL PHOTOS by Douglas John Imbrogno. NOTE: If you were forwarded this TFA newsletter, subscribe for free at: tamarackforthearts.substack.com. | Renee Margocee, TFA executive director
Portrait of the artist as a parent, in the home studio of Weirton WV artist Jaci Rice. She puts out art supplies for her kids to channel their own Muses.
Media depictions of artists in their studios routinely show them intently focused on their work, surrounded by the many, often messy, tools of their trade. See Jaci in some of those sorts of shots below. But pull the camera back on many an artist and you reveal that not only are they working creatives in home studios, but working moms and dads. Juggling the challenges of a career with the challenges of being a parent is an underappreciated part of the story for artists with kids.
A video portrait of Weitron WV artist Jaci Rice by Braiden Maddox of Lady Mountain Films in West Virginia
Q&A With the Artist
How has the pandemic and quarantine affected your work and creative output as an artist?
JACI RICE: Surprisingly, having everyone home together all the time during quarantine has been helpful. No longer did I have to schedule my time in the studio around taxi-ing my son to and from school during the day and packing lunches and washing uniforms in the evenings. Homeschooling for the last part of the school year was actually kind of fun and happened easily, thank goodness, even with the two little ones wanting in on the action at times.
And when I finally got that time away from the family (my husband taking the kids to go check on his mother as the restrictions started to lessen), I was super-productive. Being an introvert, this time at home has been pretty great. (I do feel guilty about that a bit because I know it has been hard on so many others.)
What has been the financial impact of the pandemic on the business aspect of your art production?
JR: This pandemic has caused me to lose a few opportunities that might have given me more of a presence, so to speak, in the local communities. But things are bouncing back slowly.
Tools of her trade. Videographer Braiden Maddox focuses on a splattered workspace where Jaci Rice does her stuff.
What are you looking forward to in the year ahead?
JR: I am looking forward to finding some sort of calm in all these storms we are weathering right now. I want to be in the studio regularly, teach some classes, and make work that others will enjoy. I look forward to being discovered by collectors and conversing with other artists and art enthusiasts. I look forward to more sunrises and sunsets from my porch and favorite window. And of course, I look forward to the changes happening in my family and working alongside my husband on making our old, crooked house into more of a home.
Over the years, I've learned enough about myself that the way I see things and make work is crucial to my person-hood.
Do you think of who your audience is? If so, how might you describe that audience?
JR: Sometimes I do think about this. Some people in an area might not be able to relate so well to what I find so compelling or interesting. Yet, if I were to show that work to another demographic or exhibit it in another region, I might just find people who can relate to it. I used to feel so strongly the uncomfortable vulnerability of putting work out only to hear the crickets or confusion or complete disinterest. It's pretty deflating.
But over the years I've learned enough about myself that the way I see things and make work is crucial to my person-hood. Taking another person's opinion—unless it's constructive and useful—is optional. It is, however, ingrained in me to make work and if someone out there can relate to it, find joy within it, or share my vision, therein lies the audience.
If you could name an artist or creative person who you would love to appreciate or come to know your artwork, who might that someone (or someones) be?
JR: Tough question. There are so, so many artists I admire. I follow so many on Instagram these days and I so easily go down the rabbit hole when researching. But to be almost embarrassingly honest, however, I have been trying to track down my AP art studio teacher from high school for the past couple of months—with unsuccessful results. She was paramount to my going to art school and in developing my skills and talents as a visual artist—and as a person with a voice. One of the last times I ever saw her was when I delivered the portrait she purchased from me at my senior show when I graduated from college. I have been wanting so much to find her and show her where I am, what I have become (and continue to become), and what I am making. I think she'd like it, and probably have some good criticisms to share as well.
Remaining focused on the end goal of being a self-sustaining artist, all the while staying present with life drives me along, even at tortoise speed.
Jaci has made a mission of creating striking portraits of the shuttered, aging warehouses and massive buildings in Weirton WV, which harken back to the roaring days of the Industrial Age.
As a working artist, who creates and sells her artwork and has a profile as a TFA Emerging Artist in West Virginia, what words of encouragement, practical advice or hard-won insights might you have to fledgling artists, wondering whether it’s possible to turn their pleasure for art into a more serious life commitment?
JR: It's a rare thing to be that overnight sensation, right? And often, what we see when we look at others in comparison are these great websites, tons of work, followers, and sales. But hardly do we see the anxiousness, the tired and absolutely frustrated side of committing to making work while working a full-time job, or having kids and a marriage, or other commitments.
For me, it's been a slow journey, which is hard at times for such an impatient person such as myself. But remaining focused on the end goal of being a self-sustaining artist, all the while staying present with life drives me along, even at tortoise speed. Sometimes the process takes time. If it is in you, and you know you are to do it, then there is no other way around it. Find a few minutes out of the day, experiment with those materials, seek out others that have it in them, as well, and allow yourself to enjoy it all.
Then, take the next step. Baby steps. One of the best pieces of advice that I ever had bestowed on me was: "There is always an audience out there ... It might not be right here, at this very moment. But it’s guaranteed there is someone out there that will love your work.”
Ask yourself a question about art, the creative process or the business side of art or what it's like making a go of it as an artist— then answer it.
How do you break away from those depressing downtimes when nothing feels quite right and you can't seem to pull yourself back into the process of making work?
JR: It is such a terrible feeling to not want to go into the studio and make myself work. Those little pesky evil thoughts start to creep into the mind and whisper—just don't bother trying anymore. Don't even consider yourself an artist!
I sometimes battle the panic of what will happen if I never go back. I can sit and stew on that internal dialogue, all the while complaining out loud to the annoyance of my family about having to get into the studio, only to find other ridiculous and menial things to consume my attention. I believe this type of terrible thing is called "Resistance." (See “The War of Art by Steven Pressfield).
Giving yourself grace, having patience with yourself, and sometimes the simple act of making a doodle on a Post-it note, or having an interaction with a commiserating artist, or ... just not having anything worthwhile to watch on Netflix, will spark a resurgence.
These dark times happen every so often and what remedies them can vary. BUT—what doesn't change and is so needed, is patience and grace. The fear will often be dissolved by it.
Here are some links to view more of Jaci’s artwork online:
TFA Links of Interest for Artists
Opportunities for Artists & Creatives: Funding & calls for RFP’s & RFQ’s.
TFA Artist Resources Library : A curated collection of helpful information.
Join the WV Creative Network: Apply to increase your visibility with a TFA listing.
Spotlight: Art, Podcasts, Books & Articles We’re Enjoying
Covid-19 WV Artist Impact Survey: How is the pandemic impacting you?
Support TFA: Help us empower artists to grow the creative economy in WV.
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Be well. Stay Safe. Wear masks. Make art.
Renee Margocee | Executive Director | Tamarack for the Arts