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From wearable art to 'naked' works, Rochester artist Jessalyn Finch creates experiences

From sculptures to drawings, Finch aims to build a puzzle that allows viewers to think through a concept.

Jessalyn Finch
Local artist Jessalyn Finch on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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From a crow-adorned utility box to concrete construction barricades covered in “space cats,” Jessalyn Finch’s art has permeated Rochester in ways that touch many on a daily basis.

Finch came to art somewhat late in life since her first serious interest in it was aroused while she was a pre-med student attending the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Now, Finch’s artistic vision includes 9-foot-tall nude charcoal figure drawings and even wearable art.

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Finch, 33 and a Rochester resident, graduated with a degree she calls “very confusing.” She has a bachelor’s of science in fine art and Eastern philosophy. As an undergraduate, she started as a med student and switched her major to art and philosophy but had completed so many math and science classes that her final degree fell into the realm of science. A master’s degree in project management led to work at Mayo Clinic.

“It wasn’t until 2018, that I decided to become a professional artist,” she says.

Printmaking and drawing were the focus for Finch’s study of art at the college level. She studied a variety of print-making processes including intaglio, lithography and woodcuts.

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One of her first steps into the professional art realm came when she won a Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council Emerging Artist grant. The grant launched her into a project she been working on for four years called “Shadowform: The Human Body’s Secret Life.”

Twenty-two of the life-sized nude figure drawings from the collection were recently exhibited at the Chateau Theatre through Threshold Arts.

Finch says her Shadowform works are intended to “explore the complex relationships that we have with our bodies.” She hopes the large drawings prompt viewers to consider their perceptions of bodies. The drawings are created through both modeling and an interview process.

“I work with models by interviewing them about their body and then creating a piece based on that interview,” says Finch.

Jessalyn Finch
Local artist Jessalyn Finch on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

During the pandemic, Finch’s art has grown to include sculpture and mural. When she was unable to hire models for her Shadowform pieces during the pandemic, Finch started to upcycle materials like helmets, house-paint and hot glue to create elaborate “wearable sculptures.” The wearable sculptures frequently work like whole-head masks. The first set of wearable sculptures Finch made included a lion and a rabbit.

“I was really compelled by our increased sense of voyeurism and how our approach to viewing and perceiving others changed when we weren’t allowed to be in their physical presence,” says Finch. “I was drawn to creating art that would look back at you as a way to challenge our perceptions of what and how we look at each other and our natural environment.”

Recently, Finch created an exhibit of her wearable sculptures titled “The Heron’s Hunt.” The exhibit had six actors dressed in wearable sculptures representing local species linked to Bear Creek. The living sculpture garden along the banks of the creek represented the predator and prey relationship between the heron and animals like the snail.

“The audience walks through the living sculptures as they are moving around the space,” explains Finch. “It highlights the truth that nature is watching us just as much as we watch it. Reactions to this type of experience can range from fanciful delight to a strong discomfort in being watched.”

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Finch describes creating art as the act of putting together a puzzle or solving a problem. She also appreciates the way art can facilitate an exploration of our world perspectives.

From Sept. 9, 2022, through Jan. 22, 2023, one of Finch’s works, “Distraction” will be on display at the Rochester Art Center as part of the Rochester Looking at Climate Change exhibit organized by local artist Layne Noser.

The multimedia three-dimensional 7-foot by 7-foot by 4-foot piece focuses on the challenges of seeing the entirety of the impact created by climate change.

“Distraction” shrouds a drawing depicting people suffering in plastic with scattered peepholes.

Jessalyn Finch
Local artist Jessalyn Finch wearing one of her masks from "Maskquerade," an interactive sculpture garden featuring dystopian animal masks made with recycled material on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

“The audience must navigate the covering to find openings where you can see parts of the drawing behind it,” says Finch. In part the work represents the way individuals only experience partial information about climate change.

Getting out of her comfort zone to create works that resonate with her beliefs is central to Finch’s artistic philosophy. Despite being an introvert, or perhaps because of it, she sees art as a way to communicate and connect with others.

Finch describes art as “a practice of vulnerability and presence.”

“Art is created not only to be observed and experienced,” says Finch, “but also to be discussed, and the more safe spaces we can create to find commonalities and learn from each other, the better.”

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Jessalyn Finch
Local artist Jessalyn Finch on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Related Topics: ROCHESTERART
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