PowerArt! Profile: Cathy Jacobs
Cathy Jacobs doesn't remember not being an artist. As a child she sat at the vanity of her upstairs bedroom drawing obsessively for hours.
"I was always drawing from the time I was 3 or 4. When I was 7 or so, I thought I can be an artist! I had a vision of a sort of Salvador Dali character in a beret and a pencil mustache."In fact, she remembers dressing up as the surrealist master for Halloween one year. This seemed perfectly natural to her, since art was a man's world at the time.
"I always thought I’d grow up to be a man” she says, laughing.
The image Starry Sky that was chosen for the PowerArt Project box now installed at Miller and Main in Ann Arbor, comes directly from her childhood memories. She vividly recalls looking out of her bedroom window at the night sky and the houses in her Ferndale neighborhood. "I didn't like that they were so uniform, so I invented columns and balconies for them in my mind," she says.
Jacobs' interest in painting and drawing was a constant throughout her childhood and adolescence and was followed by college art studies. She studied painting at Wayne State University where she earned a B.F.A. and continued at Eastern Michigan University where she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Painting degree in 2015.
Her paintings from this period are figurative and show a strong interest in fantasy and storytelling. Fairytale archetypes and mysterious situation, puppets, dolls and queens populate her pictures. They have the quality of half-remembered dreams, fascinating and just out of reach.
Her work at this time was well composed and expertly painted, but Jacobs felt dissatisfied. She wanted the color, translucency and light in her paintings to escape from the picture plane and from narrative imagery. She experimented with various sheer or translucent materials--metal screen, gauzy silk and the like--collaged onto her paintings. The kind of lightness and atmosphere that she wanted seemed impossible to achieve with the media at hand.
But then, in 2014, Cathy Jacobs discovered weaving. Finally, this new medium allowed her to escape the painted canvas and the drawn image.
"It immediately took hold of my imagination. Through weaving, I found that I could express the full spectrum of colors and moods, but in real 3-dimensional space...I learned weaving and all of a sudden all the things I was thinking about in my paintings, the depth you would get through layers of color and translucency, I found I could get in 3 dimensions."
Cathy Jacobs sees the way before her clearly now. "My current focus is in weaving panels of linen that, when layered together create vibrating fields of color." She has already had some success, exhibiting her woven panels at Sofa Chicago 2015 on Navy Pier, and in the 2016 Architectural Digest Design Show in New York City. This fall, her work will be featured in World of Threads in Ontario, Canada.
Jacobs enjoys both the process of weaving and "the sense of finality and completion that comes when I finish a piece“ She seems to have found the means and medium to bring to the real world the contents of her imagination. Every working artist knows that this clarity is a temporary thing in a long creative life. Cathy Jacobs is a young artist and the future may see changes in her art practice, but for now she is happy in her woven world.
"It feels like a really good fit," she says, smiling.
K.A. Letts is an artist and art blogger. She has shown her work regionally and nationally and in 2015 won the Toledo Federation of Art Societies Purchase Award while participating in the TAAE95 Exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art. You can find more of her work at RustbeltArts.com.
Take a walk and see the PowerArt! boxes up close and personal; a map of PowerArt! box locations is available to download. PowerArt is a partnership between the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority (AADDA) and the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission (AAPAC), The Arts Alliance is managing the selection and installation of artwork by local artists on power boxes throughout downtown Ann Arbor. You'll find more info about the project at the Arts Alliance website.