Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessy DeSantis.
Jessy, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I’m a self-taught artist and began my artist career three years ago. I’ve always been creative and interested in painting, but I was never encouraged to pursue it as a career. It wasn’t until after getting two degrees in accounting and working in the tax field and having children did I decide this life wasn’t fulfilling or for me. I wanted to change the tempo and was privileged to do so with a supportive family at home. Expression is important to me, and so is family. I started expressing myself in art after moving from Miami where I am from to Baltimore. I started painting a fusion of Baltimore cityscapes with elements of magical realism that represent my roots in Miami and Nicaragua. Essentially a shared expression of myself being multicutural and pf the Central American diaspora. I, along with my artwork, have since evolved with research of my family roots, Nicaraguan history, current systems in place and social justice activism.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I would say the regulated art scene is not supportive of parents with young children. I suppose it’s been discouraging to find art or grant opportunities are geared toward artists assuming they don’t have children. Meaning grant money usually won’t cover childcare and it’s been frustrating seeing childless artists advance, especially men who historically have been represented in the arts and it’s reflective of the patriarchal system we live in. I also see myself as a self-taught artist being disadvantaged within classist systems. For instance, not having MICA on my resume. I use to struggle with this and being told from others in the field I was disadvantaged, but I don’t anymore.
I’m very happy to be producing authentic work that means something to me and resonates within my community and appreciated by the people of Baltimore. I’ve since accepted that I may not get opportunities; I’ve honestly given up applying for many Maryland and Baltimore grants, it’s overwhelming, unpaid labor, and I value my mental health too much to go through the anxiety and disappointment. When I first started painting, I wanted recognition and was looking for it within the system. But I don’t strive for that anymore. That’s not what motivated me to paint in the first place. I am a storyteller. I’m happy to tell my story to those who will listen. The right opportunities have made their way to me, where my art is appreciated and understood and where I can share what I’ve learned.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
My paintings are a reflection of myself and my roots, mainly of being raised in Nicaraguan culture and being of Indigenous descent. I paint an expression of my history and shared roots across the diaspora. And the work is evolving. For instance, lately, I’ve been painting sacred foods my ancestors domesticated and cultivated for thousands of years, like corn and cacao, which we grew up eating/drinking in our Nicaraguan/Salvadoran household. Researching the foods, I grew up eating has taught and given me so much insight on the “where do I come from” aspect of identity.
My paintings tend to be bright and colorful with negative white space surrounding the subject; for example, I grew corn and harvested one last year, which I painted in a form of magical realism where the corn husk transition into Quetzal feathers.
How do you define success?
Success for me can be many things in many different situations… interpersonal, situational, societal. Success is whatever your reality wants it to be. I think success feels a lot like fulfillment to me. Success is a gray term, a fluctuating one. Like fulfillment, I believe we all are searching for fulfilment, much like success. It’s never truly obtained, but maybe experienced every now and then. Am I successful? in some ways; in others, I still have a lot of work to do.
For me, I see success in breaking generational curses. I see success when my young girls feel safe to express their selves completely. I see success when I set a boundary and take care of my mental health. I see success in community building, sharing, and in joy. I see success in abolition and liberation work. I see success in the expression of art.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.jdesantisart.com
- Instagram: @jdesantisart
Photo headshot of me is @bricemyphoto photography