July 1 2009 12:00 AM

Artist lets paint take own course


When someone not involved in the creation of paintings envisions the artistic process, they may be inclined to imagine someone holding a paintbrush and a palette, perhaps wearing a jaunty beret while making measured strokes on canvas. Jessica Klumpp Held’s process is pretty far from that. “I pour my paints, so I allow some chance to happen. I don’t have control over it,” Held explained. “The focus is all on the different materials. I have used a paintbrush some recently, but using a paintbrush is weird to me.”

Held employs a variety of techniques to create her abstract paintings and photographs, which will be displayed in the Lansing Art Gallery’s Mezzanine Gallery starting July 7. Some feature black paint on clear Plexiglas, with circular patterns of paint on plastic, allowing the wall behind to be seen. Others involve bits of reflective paint separated by different types of glue or repeating patterns in vague flower shapes over a background of variable colors. Some of the paints shift colors as the viewer moves around them.

Working in the basement of her Okemos condominium, Held starts her paintings on as flat a table as is possible. Many of her paintings are a combination of glue and paint, often enamel. The glue, sometimes polyurethane, is put in place as a guideline and border to what she wants to do, placing a limit on how far the paint can move. Even with the borders in place, the paint’s movement can be chaotic. “Some enamels, they’ll move quickly and then that’s that; it’s set,” Held said. “But the polyurethane/black enamel starts out and moves around, and it’ll take weeks to dry. It will stop moving in half a day or so. But I’ll paint it, and I’ll keep checking on it, and I wish I could control it more.”

Held began pouring paints while attending Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. She started by pouring acrylic paint onto plastic, which would then peel off. “I’d want it to stick, and it wouldn’t, so peel it off, and I’d have paint peels,” she said. “I’d hang them on magnets. I went around town, hanging them up. That started the pouring process. Then after college I started pouring them on tiles and using different materials.”

As Held’s technique progressed, she began exploring different ways of creating images. At one point, she started painting on brown paper. “I’d hold it up to the light and take a photo of it,” Held said. “The brown paper painting is temporary; it doesn’t last. But the photo will, and the light coming through the paper is sort of beautiful and warm.”

Other photographs focus more closely on specific portions of Held’s art, blowing up smaller details. That approach began with a residency at the Anderson Center in Minnesota in 2005, when a photographer began taking closely-zoomed pictures of her work. Those smaller details are part of what appeals to Held about her style of art. “I really feel like if the viewer took time to look at the details, the details are really beautiful,” she said. “So if I take photos, they’ll notice the details more.”

I’d ‘Array’

of Jessica Klumpp Held July 7 through Aug. 28 Lansing Art Gallery,
Mezzanine Gallery, 113 S. Washington Square, Lansing Hours: 10 a.m. to
4 p.m. Tuesday – Friday 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday Closed holiday weekends
Reception: 7 – 9 p.m. July 10 (517) 374-6400 www.lansingartgallery.org