We recently connected with Jessica Langley and have shared our conversation below.
Jessica, appreciate you joining us today. Earning a full time living from one’s creative career can be incredibly difficult. Have you been able to do so and if so, can you share some of the key parts of your journey and any important advice or lessons that might help creatives who haven’t been able to yet?
I’ve been earning an income as an artist/creative since I graduated. I knew that having an MFA would allow me to at least teach as an adjunct in higher ed, and I’ve been able to squeeze by with minimal income. I graduated and immediately lived in Iceland on a Fulbright grant and another scholarhip, so I felt like that investment in an MFA immediately paid off. From then on, I have been piecing together various forms of income teaching part time, doing freelance as a designer, video editor, or animator. When I lived in NYC, there were so many more opportunities to work as an artist. I worked in Art Production for television and for other artists. I’ve never prioritized making a ton of money. The balance has always been having more money, but no time, or having time, but no money. I prefer having time, because I can do without a lot of material things.
Jessica, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
I started out in art school in Cleveland, then went to grad school where I earned my MFA in Painting and Printmaking at Virginia Commonwealth University. Right out of grad school I received a Fulbright to research how landscape is portrayed in art and culture in Iceland. This has always been an interest of mine. I moved to Colorado Springs after living in New York and Berlin. I’ve been working as an artist, educator, and freelancer since grad school doing about a million things to make money, including TV art production, for which I was nominated for a Daytime Emmy! I also just completed an animation for Wiz Khalifa and Girl Talk of which I am very proud.
Throughout all of these experiences I have centered my energy in my studio practice. Doing so has allowed me the flexibility to participate in residencies all over and follow opportunities when they come. My partner and I are both artists, and we work collaboratively, as well. We moved to Colorado for his job, but we still continue to work collaboratively. Together we curate a project space called The Yard in the front yard of our house. We invite national and international artists to create site specific works as a form of (semi) public art.
What can society do to ensure an environment that’s helpful to artists and creatives?
Society could fund artists. If there were more grants, paid opportunities, a universal basic income, and just a culture around collecting art, I think it would make a world of difference for artists who are not independently wealthy.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on NFTs. (Note: this is for education/entertainment purposes only, readers should not construe this as advice)
I have mixed feelings about NFTs. NFTs and most blockchains are terrible for the environment, wherein one transaction by comparison has some astronomical energy use, and there is so much speculation around them that it feels irresponsible. That said, I am very pro having a system where the artist can make money, and I am excited that people are collecting art. Are they collecting it because they love the artwork and it is meaningful to them, or are they collecting it, hoping to get rich? Are NFTs contributing to mass consumption of energy or are they actually putting meaningful ideas into the world?
- Website: www.jesslangley.com
- Instagram: @therealjesslangley
**please email for clarification the image of the blue wall: Installation view, Lump, July 2021, Raleigh, NC painting of the brown bark: Precarity Oil on Canvas 2020 painting of the green leaves: Stillness Oil on Canvas 2020 the sort of face-like collage: Is-ness XII Watercolor, ink, arcylic, and saprophytic fungi, on polystyrene zigzag collage: Is-ness X Watercolor, ink, arcylic, and saprophytic fungi on polystyrene 2020