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Art & Art History
University of Mississippi

Q&A with MFA Painting Student, Jessica Counterman

Introduce yourself and tell us where you are from?
My name is Jessica Counterman and I’m a painter from Ohio.

What attracted you to the graduate program at the Department of Art & Art History?
I wanted others to refer to me as “Master” when they addressed me.

When did you start getting into art?
I’ve been drawing characters and comics since I could hold a pencil, but I got more seriously invested in realism and the academic side of art when I was about thirteen.

What type of artist do you consider yourself?
I like the vagueness of just referring to myself as an artist. I don’t even know what that means sometimes, but I explore all forms of 2D and digital art.

What type of artwork do you create and can you explain your process?
I paint about death! And I’m really interested in mythology, folklore, and religion. I wish I believed in anything, but I don’t, so I make them real in my work. My process varies heavily, but there is almost always a digital collage somewhere in there, as well as painted elements. The painting process is important to me since it allows me to meditate on whatever I’m making. It’s a slow, methodical process, and when you’re staring at gore or religious iconography for hours at a time, I think it changes the way you process the world and your place in it.

Which artists do you look to for inspiration?
Painting-wise, I have a similar painting philosophy to Rene Magritte. A lot of my main influences, however, are not usually painters, or even traditional 2D artists at all. I love Mark Z. Danielewski’s writings, Poppy’s sanitized popstar persona, and Alan Resnick’s weird internet rabbit holes. I follow a lot of 2D artists, as well, and I support and love seeing their work! But I don’t find that paintings on their own tend to haunt me in the same way as more immersive storytelling does.

Has your artwork changed during the coronavirus?
Ironically, no. I know my work is about death and we’re in a global pandemic, but there’s not a correlation between the two, aside from one painting I made specifically about how funeral homes have been overwhelmed with dead bodies from the pandemic. But honestly, the issues within the funeral industry, the lack of support from the government during crises, and the looming reminder of mortality is nothing new. It’s all cyclical, and it’s funny to me that we still don’t know how to solve the same problems that keep repeating.

Could you tell us about your MFA thesis?
My thesis is about the absurdity of death, and what we do in our lives to pretend it doesn’t exist and can’t affect us.

Which professors inspired you the most?
There’s been a lot! Particularly, I think Durant Thompson, Lauren Cardenas, and Dr. Kris Belden-Adams have all led me to specific breakthroughs in my work and concepts.

Do you have any advice for incoming art students? Undergraduate or Graduate.
Invest in a tarot deck and check in with it every week or so.

What are you looking forward to when things get back to “normal”?
I’ll be happy that my social friends will feel less confined to their houses, but I’m going to miss the excuse of, “Sorry, I can’t hang out with you, there’s a global pandemic.”

Can we find you on social media?
My Instagram art account is @jescount! I have a few other accounts, but they’re secrets.

Has social media helped you more during this time?
Yes! I’ve always thrived online. Since everyone else is stuck inside, too, I’ve been able to infiltrate a few wonderful art communities.

Do you have any plans after graduation?

What type of music do you listen to while you’re creating art?
Lately, it’s been a lot of music from the British Invasion.

What’s your favorite thing to watch while being a couch potato?
Neon Genesis Evangelion. Please watch it and also discuss it in great detail with me.