Jessica Burke

Swimming through a sea of humanity – In search of treasured souls

It’s nice to be rewarded – to strike gold…

As I sat in the shade with Jessica Burke I could see the theatrical light of her life reflecting in her eyes: vibrant – deep – full of life and belief.  She’s inspired, bold and sincere.  All of this – All of her, can be seen in the fascinating art she creates.



Ryan: So what was it like growing up in Rocklin California?

Jessica: Oh, it was awesome! But there wasn’t much around then.  We had one market, a couple restaurants and a gas station.  It’s changed a lot in the past few years.

Do you remember when you became interested in art?

Well, I come from a family of musicians and artists. My mom was my teacher in kindergarten and first grade.  She was an amazing artist, writer and musician.  She would always have these little creative sessions with me from the very beginning.

That’s cool.  Did you continue with art classes in high school?

Yeah, I took art classes and sculpture classes.  We had an art contest where we submitted a design and if it was chosen they would make it into a huge banner and hang it in the gym.  My design was chosen and I was stoked!  It was my first big accomplishment as a young artist.

After high school you attended Sierra College.  How was your experience there?

I loved it! They had a good art program when I was there.  This is when I took my first art history class and was introduced to mixed media and collage.  I can’t remember my teachers name but she was well known.  She gave us a project to submit a mixed media piece, I actually did two.  When I showed her she encouraged me to submit them to the gallery on campus and both were chosen for entry.  I think I got a certificate for free framing too.  It was a good experience and allowed me to see my potential.

Do you feel like growing up in California had any influence on your work or your creativity in general?

No, I don’t think so… I mean, living in Sacramento, currently, has helped me meet a variety of amazing and creative people but if I lived in a cabin and no one ever saw my art – I’d still do it.

Your work is a combination of drawing, painting, photography and collage.  Did you ever want to use one medium?

No, I never wanted to work in one medium.  I like doing everything together.

Can you explain your creative process?

In the beginning I started with magazine photos and cutouts.  I would lay out a million tiny little pieces and build it into a multi layered finished piece.  As I developed I began drawing on top of the cutouts and it completely changed it.  You couldn’t tell it was a magazine page underneath.  The next growth in my style was I began to incorporate my own photos in place of the magazine images.

I see a thread throughout your work of expressive faces, prominent hands and exaggerated posturing.  Is there any significance to this?

Well, I usually have an idea of what I want to start with and I have the major pieces laid out, then I just dive in and go with the flow.  As I’m changing stuff and working it I begin to get more of a feel for the piece and it begins to come alive.  Honestly, there isn’t a deep message behind each piece but I do intentionally combine beauty with the grotesque. I don’t know why, but I like it.

It’s also a therapeutic process for me because all the busyness of my thoughts subsides and I get completely focused.

Can you describe the components of the Barbie piece?

Well, she’s kinda naked; she’s got no arms; kinda hanging out with a jacket that she doesn’t want to cover her 🙂

Seriously though, the Barbie doll is from an earlier collage I did. The other stuff is from my photos. The burger king sign is from a photo I took in the Dominican Republic, a photo of some clouds, a music studio downtown, a shot from San Francisco, then I cut out some material in the shape of a jacket added the purse and put a chain on it.

I wanted it to be both creepy and elegant.


Well Done! It’s amazing!

What were you trying to convey in the Paper Doll / Self-portrait piece?   And what are a few of the components you used?

Less is more was my challenge and focus on this Piece.  I also knew that I wanted the collage to consist of photographs I’d taken.  Once the image was completed I then attached it to this old imperfect piece of Plexiglas I found so it can blend in to the surroundings wherever it’s placed.  Then I added the white background while I was editing the Image.  I tend to be a space filler.

Paper Doll / Self-portrait

The two panel recycled canvases are gorgeous.  Briefly tell us how you acquired the original canvases then transformed them.

I was involved with this startup company when the creator asked if I wanted them. He had four!  I absolutely wanted them, I was stoked!  I honestly had no clue what I was going to do with them though. I just knew they would turn into something really neat.

Reclaimed Canvas Collage 1 of 4

Recently you had some art in the East meets West show.  I was curious how you met Lin Fei Fei and got into the show?

I met Lin Fei Fei through Gabriel Sanford. He was telling me about her being involved with Art Street and I wanted to meet her because I think her work is amazing! So I showed up at ‘Art Street’ while they were building her install and we instantly hit it off and became friends.

I knew about her art show in China but didn’t expect to be involved then Gabe told me Fei wanted to talk, so I met up with them and she asked me to be in the show.  It was very exciting! Connecting as artist, supporting each other and showing in a major gallery in China – It was great!

How was your recent show at Café Colonial?  And how do you feel about the venue in general?

It was cool.  It was a good experience.  A lot of people were there and I met a couple cool local photographers.  But, I feel like the venue in general attracts a lot of younger punk rockers that are typically there for the music so it can be challenging to hang a show there.   The good thing is the art stays up all month so it gets good exposure.

Reclaimed Canvas Collage 2 of 4

You also do promotions through Jessica Wabbit Presents what was your inspiration to start this in 2013?

I was working with my friend Lisa on ‘Sounds of Nor-Cal’ but I had my own specific Ideas and style I wanted to explore so I split off and started ‘Jessica Wabbit Presents’.  Which is a platform for promoting local greatness – art, music, food, whatever.

So you had your first show at Harlow’s in 2015?

Well, it wasn’t the first.  I began hosting shows at Blue Lamp but the Harlow’s show was great!  It was both a little freighting and amazing!  My good friend and mentor Elliot Prestwich from Image Punch had connections at Harlow’s and asked if I wanted to do a show there.  Obviously, I said yes.  It was exactly what I wanted to start doing.  It was an early evening show.  I found this flamenco artist from the bay area, kinda niche but it was a huge success, there were over two hundred people there.

What’s coming up for Jessica Wabbit Presents?

Lo & The Mix is a fantastic new band out of Davis, California.  They’ll be at Shine on October 7th.  Honey B & the Cultivation will also be on the bill.  They’re both great bands!

Over the past couple years I’ve spoken with a lot of artist in Sacramento about the local scene and have received conflicting reports.  What’s your take on the current art scene in Sacramento?

I think it’s been booming for the past couple years – definitely a lot more opportunity and more alternative places to show art, not just galleries. There are a lot more coffee shops and collectives. I love it!

That’s cool.  I like it too.  But I think some people are concerned about being edged out by new comers or people with bigger names and budgets.

Part of that is true but I wouldn’t connect it to the art scene necessarily.  I’m not seeing any big art companies moving in from L.A. or San Francisco and taking over.  I think it’s just attracting more creative people and it’s a healthy competition.  The idea in life is to rise up, get better and then you can bless more people around you.

What would you like to see for the local art scene over the next five years?

I’d love to see more opportunities for artists and for more artistic entrepreneurs to step up and keep this momentum going.  And find better ways to engage the general public and introduce them to artists.

What would you recommend to someone visiting Sacramento?  Any must see artists or venues?

Well, I recommend taking a tour with a docent at the Crocker Art Museum because there’s so much history there.  The Brick House has some amazing shows and Beatnik Studios is great.  The Urban hive and 1810 Gallery are also a must see.


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