Artists Jessica Wohl and Jessica Scott-Felder talk being 'Defiant'

Collaborative exhibition explores the struggle to provide for family

For artists Jessica Scott-Felder and Jessica Wohl the collaborative exhibition Defiant Providers is the result of being able to find a common root in their work. Both artists use drawings and collages to show those underrepresented in the workplace with a focus on the self-employed and women.

"We focused our concepts on the defiant actions taken by women and people of color in order to have equal access to opportunities in both personal and professional aspects of society," says Scott-Felder, a Hambidge artist-in-residence and professor at Spelman College.

Wohl, originally trained as an illustrator, spends her time making collages and teaching art at the University of the South in Tennessee. Both artists spoke to Creative Loafing about working together at the gallery and using the underrepresented as inspiration.

Did you collaborate throughout the show or did you work separately?

Jessica Scott-Felder: Jessica [Whol] and I were excited to be working in a gallery that was once a home. As artists that utilized furniture, photographs, and installation, we saw the house as a point of departure for ideas. In order to achieve synchronicity, we worked separately yet kept in contact for several months over the phone and through email. We shared monthly updates on ideas we were exploring individually. Eventually there was an "unveiling" of what we created a few weeks before the show. Jessica and I exchanged ideas on similarities and contrasts that we saw in the work. We decided to embrace the similarities. Looking back at our email correspondences, I find the idea of having the written exchanges valuable as a written history of our process.

Jessica Wohl: We arranged the space within the show together. We actually had plans for a collaborative piece, but our idea for this work was rooted in the work we originally conceived of, not the work we actually ended up producing, so I think we're going to table that collaboration for another time.

Jessica Wohl, the women are often depicted as strong in your work. How did you incorporate your work into this concept of the underrepresented?

JW: As I collaged images of household items and body parts that I gathered from magazines like Better Homes and Gardens, Women's Day, and Hustler, I noticed I very strongly had an aversion to using a woman's face (eyes and mouth specifically) and became much more interested in how these feminine creatures were getting their strength. I liked the idea that we don't need our most sexualized or "beautiful" parts to be strong and threatening. That these women-creatures started to gain their strength from domestic items like kitchen utensils was compelling to me, especially because many of the magazines I was looking through most often portrayed women as homemakers or objects of desire. I actually see these works as ways of working out the things I think about in my own life. I think a lot about how we can do it all, should we do it all, and if we can't do it all, what do we sacrifice?

Jessica Scott-Fedler, your work seems to come more from a self-employed perspective. Did you draw from personal experience for your work?

JSF: Being an artist is very entrepreneurial, as the artist has to develop a business plan in addition to working in the studio. I find my grandfather's story as a businessowner insightful. I have been drawing from ancestral narratives based on stories passed down from family members and historical documentation. I am working from oral histories shared by elders, such as stories told after dinner or various community gatherings. However, the more that I uncover through research I find that many narratives reveal a multi-layered history relating to culture and race, in particular the racial terrains of the South.