Jessica Ward Art

Fine Art Drawing Portfolio

About

About Jessica Ward

Jessica Ward is an American artist who works primarily in graphite to create powerful drawings that possess a strong sociological voice. She was born in Agana, Guam on May 14th 1982. Growing up she traveled and lived in many places around the world because her father was an Officer in the USAF. She attended Kendall College of Art & Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan and received a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art -Drawing with a minor in Illustration. She continued to study at Kendall for a Master's in Fine Art - Drawing until moving to Los Angeles, California instead to break into the art world. There she had her first gallery show in 2008, and has been exhibiting her work in galleries internationally since. Ward’s art work is inspired by eating disorders, which she herself has struggled with with since adolescence.  Her work focuses mainly on the female form and portrays women often wrapped in and bound by hordes of the female crowning glory, hair. These magical sorrowful tales are encrypted with messages about human sexuality, compulsion, weight obsession and conventional standards of beauty. Her style is reminiscent of vintage sewing pattern packages and nostalgic fashion illustration as it relates to her ability to beautifully capture the female form and face.  Working exclusively in the drawing medium, she uses graphite, color pencils and chalk pastels on paper. It comes as no surprise that Ward's work is collected by artists and celebrities alike, because of her amazing skill in juxtaposing images of beauty and horror all at once. Ward currently resides in Michigan and enjoys playing video games in her spare time.  

~ Lana Gentry 

Artist Statements

“Hair Abjection” 

2010


“It is, at the most basic level, a bundle of contradictions: a desire for power that strips you of all power. A gesture of strength that divests you of all strength.”
- Marya Hornbacher, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia 1998

♦Anorexia nervosa has the highest premature fatality rate of any mental illness
♦The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15 to 24 years old
♦In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia
♦Age at onset of an eating disorder:
♦10% report onset at 10 years or younger
♦33% report onset between ages of 11-15
♦43% report onset between ages of 16-20
♦86% report onset of illness by the age of 20

My current body of work is a series of drawings done in graphite, color pencil, water color and chalk pastel on archival board and paper. I am addressing the issue of often hidden neuroses of eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, Compulsive Over Eating and Body Dysmorphic Disorder. In some of my drawings I explore the start and cause of eating disorders in child hood and it’s long lasting affects through the adult life. I use my own personal experiences to flesh out stories in each drawing. I place symbols that embellish themes of fetishes with the body. The subjects are abject female figures that are grotesque or incomplete. In these figures I include a sense of body dissatisfaction and thus showing body image coping patterns through sealing or idealizing the body. Hair plays an important role in my work, it is my visual representation of the multidimensional eating disorder. When hair grows it starts from inside our skin then grows out like ideas and emotion, this is where I give it a life of it’s own as a metaphor. For example, so much about eating disorders has to do with feelings of control and by cutting hair that is a symbol of a loss of power or control. Hair evokes a long history of symbolism from around the world which I often reference. My drawings have almost a trichophilia for hair. The cat represents regressive fantasies. Regression is a form of retreat, going back to a time to when the person felt safer. I view them as an escape, craving of their simple lifestyle. They are often observing and appear to be loyal and non judgmental companions. In allot of my work I draw on pastel or kitsch colors this is a reference to childhood and innocence. I often use pink because pink encourages action, motion, courage and passion. Pink is viewed as gentle and appropriate color for healing and can be used to relieve depression. I use these colors for their comfort or warmth in juxtaposition to disturbing subject matter or imagery. The use of patterns literally mean patterns that eating disordered individuals often take on in their manic routines. Another symbol I use are spirals, like a downward spiral into a cycle one feels as if they cannot escape from. Forced to repeat the same self destructive acts over and over again. My work is an intended catharsis for the viewer, evoking overwhelming feelings, resulting in restoration and renewal in oneself.

"Spiral of Rituals"
2005

My body of work is a series of life-sized drawings. They are done on paper with graphite pencils, which are then turned into cutouts that are freestanding from the wall. The subjects are mannequin like, abject women who are drawn as if they are monsters or freaks being displayed on a stage or in a circus sideshow. There is a voyeuristic element to the work because they are torturing themselves on display and we are allowed to watch. The figures are watching the viewers watch them and therefore are in control of the situations they have placed themselves in. At the same time there are no sexual organs on the female creatures and there are allusions to self-inflicted eating disorders as well. These are two different ideas merged together to address the issue of often hidden neuroses.

Distorted and contorted bodies are an important part of my work. They represent the internal struggle that is twisting and pulling in impossible directions. The drawings are a way of visually representing the sense of an uncomfortable and disturbing presence. Eating disorders and the women who house them are similar to how the world perceives and often times idolizes freaks. We are surrounded by images everywhere of idealized females totally devoid of any humanity, and they are fetishized. I place symbols in my drawings that embellish these themes of fetishes with eating and the body, like hair. Obsession surrounds the simple task of eating, how much is eaten, digestion, and how the intake is purged. The purging process becomes a fascination with many gratifications.

My work deals with the abject body, female figures that are grotesque or incomplete. My skills with the pencil draw the viewer in through technical virtuosity. I seduce the viewer to examine the work, and upon further inspection they realize that they are looking at something disturbing. I hope to evoke a negative aesthetic response from people. To achieve this goal I render images that create connection and rejection, repulsion and attraction.

"Drawing upon her dark past, Ward illustrates an unflinching look into the neurosis of young women in the face of society’s ideals. Working almost exclusively with graphite, her statuesque heroines are riddled with disorders that decay at their allure, rendering them both beautiful yet repugnant. Witness the stunningly beautiful, deformed nymphs from the mind of Ward”

- WWA Gallery 2012

“Jessica’s beautifully macabre artwork will seize your attention in an instant. The message that runs behind her depictions of dual-limbed temptresses that snack on their coiffures are much deeper than what meets the eye. Her graphite charm uncovers ugly truth in the realm of eating disorders and body dysmorphia. Every spiral, skeleton and string of hair represents something different in her ward of mysterious mistresses.” 

- The Hive Gallery & Studios 2010

Jessica Ward has a brilliantly dark mind. The majority of her work is black and white, which really helps to maintain her macabre aesthetic. The nature of her drawings feel sexual and violent, while tempting and frightening the viewer. She has an interesting series of drawings that depicts deities of various eating disorders. According to her bio, Jessica has struggled with eating disorders herself, so the diety series comes from a very personal place.

- Beautiful Decay Magazine 2010