My Time In Wassaic
Jeila Gueramian is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. She has a background in costume, prop, and art design and had her first solo exhibition in 2012 at Allegra Laviola Gallery in NYC. She has a BFA from Otis Parsons School of Design. Jeila has exhibited with Wassaic Project since 2010 (with an installation on the top floor in 2011), has served on benefit committees since 2009, has taught in our education program, and is a former artist-in-residence.
By Lucy Commoner, May 2018
You have been very connected with the Wassaic Project both as an artist and also as a member of their Board of Directors. Can you speak about your history with the Wassaic Project and how this involvement has impacted your work?
The Wassaic Project, in the very beginning of my involvement with them almost a decade ago, gave me my first art show since college. After becoming a mother, I came back around to fine art after a career in commercial driven art and it was an important vote of confidence.
The community here was so open, positive and supportive, whereas the art world seemed so cutthroat and catty, and intentionally intimidating. I am indebted to the Wassaic Project for their belief in me and for setting me down this amazing path. Being on the Board is part of how I give back to the Project and to the artist community.
In your artwork you are repurposing vintage and found textile materials to create magical environments that jump off from the natural world. How did this practice evolve and what is your thinking on the impact of using found materials that have a previous history?
The inspiration of this magical environment is a response to the negative and divisive times we are in now. Lately I’ve been kind of obsessed and inspired by 1970’s inspirational posters and calendars with quotes like “Hang in There” and “It Will Be OK.” This body of work is kind of my inspirational poster to the world. Hopefully it helps some people out in these trying and stressful times — or maybe just makes them laugh a little.
Found materials — whether from my past or someone else’s past — are a catalyst point. These items often have a sense of comfort and help people recognize things that may have been a part of their childhood or past. That helps them transport back to a time and place and feel those feelings all over again. It all started in my youth as I used to deconstruct anything and everything, from favorite shirts, to toys and stuffed animals, to making custom clothes. Repurposing and creating is in my DNA. I can’t seem to stop it!
You create fantastical, playful environments, both on a macro and micro scale. How do you move between these dimensions and what do they have in common for you?
Movement between scales is a way to bring people out of a normal everyday experience. Having both immersive spaces as well as detail-driven work, sometimes hidden, sometimes obvious, are ways to invite exploration. When you invite exploration, people begin the journey into the art and into themselves.
In this exhibition, you are showing some of your very imaginative embedded light boxes. How do you plan these pieces — do you work from drawings? The viewer cannot resist being pulled in both by the framing devices and the light. Can you expand on the role of light in these pieces?
I don’t usually do drawings for the stand-alone pieces, but rather let them unfold compositionally at scale. So often there isn’t a plan until I start the piece itself, and I draw inspiration from the process, and the evolution. Usually if it makes me laugh, that’s a good sign.
Moving light — and in this exhibition the light is all moving water — is energy. Kinetic energy is a catalyst for closing the gap between artist and viewer. This helps with transference of my creative energy hopefully to the delight and laughter of the viewer, and provides these different focal points to re-engage in with each piece.
Photos by Verónica González Mayoral and Walker Esner