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Portland Artist Jessica Jackson Hutchins Makes Meaning From Everyday Life

That old couch on the curb might not look like much to you, but to Portland artist Jessica Jackson Hutchins, it could be something.  

“Seeing potential in everything,” says Hutchins. “It’s sorta like the world is dancing with possibilities and options and everything is speaking to you at once.”  

Hutchins is known for making striking, profound art out of unlikely materials. Newspaper, old T-shirts, paper cups and broken glass can all work their way into of her pieces if the mood is right.  

Hutchins’ art was selected for the Whitney Biennial, the Venice Biennale and the Portland Biennial and has been exhibited throughout the United States and around the world. Her latest work is a series of colorful, provocative glass panels forged at Bullseye Glass Co. in Portland. Like so much else in her career, the glass happened somewhat by chance after she worked with a studio to create some stained-glass panels for a show in Pendleton.

“Then I wanted to touch the glass,” she says. “I wanted to do my own painting and my own cutting and I wanted to kind of do that in defiance of even the structural rules of stained glass.” 

She did learn to touch the glass — during a residency at Bullseye. There she created a series of colored glass panels, glowing and chaotic with what Hutchins describes as “a polyvalence and a punkness.”

After she had children, Hutchins used her own kitchen table as a canvas, literally carving out space for herself as a working mother in the art world.

She filled two decommissioned TriMet bus stops with the panels as part of the Seattle Art Fair this fall. 

A mother of two, Hutchins explores the domestic sphere in her art, along with the politics of the day and everyday life.

“It felt like a fight,” she says of making art after her two daughters were born. “To make work as a mother of young children felt like a fight every step. It really did. I was fighting against the idea of the perfect mother and yet wanting to be the perfect mother. And it’s like women work and men accrue power — and that is what the world feels like still to me and I feel like it’s in the art world and it’s in the home and it’s everywhere.”  

Despite the challenges, Hutchins continues to make art in Portland, at her gallery in New York City, and anywhere else chance might take her.  

“You’re doing it just for the belief in art and just in the belief in messing things up,” she says. “Do something weird — there’s power and value in that.”