At the crossroads of painting and cultural, personal, and family history, my work explores how experiential processes confirm various visceral and fragmented links of life.

Source materials have included an archive of family photographs and documents, as well as images from old books, news footage, popular culture ephemera, nature studies, and reproductions of art from through the ages. Ancestor worship provided the basis for much of my earlier painting and continues.

Themes/subjects have included self, women’s, familial, cultural, and national identities, healing from trauma and disease, biology and belief systems, food (including American food and the foods of my ancestors), and the challenges of documentation amidst a rapidly changing technological world. Observational painting from life has always been and continues to be essential to my practice. Figurative and non-figurative elements make up a personal vocabulary of marks, patterns, and forms, which find their way into wall works, sometimes clustered, differing in scale and media. I feel strong kinship with the Pattern and Decoration and Feminist Art movements.

In 1980 as an undergrad environmental science/biology major at WWU I took a genetics course – long before the human genome was sequenced and DNA became a part of popular culture – and it fascinated me. That same year I picked up a camera during a summer job at Moran State Park on Orcas Island. The impetus was so that I could capture the landscape around the rustic cabin (no electricity or hot water) where I lived, so I could continue to paint in oils, after dark, late into the night, by kerosene lamp. For me, photography became a way deeper into my favorite activity of painting. Ultimately attending Calarts, I found my voice telling family stories via painting family photos.

Inspired by Kandinsky’s writing, I used white for many years. Then the black took over. Initially, it bore a relationship to the darkroom and photography, but then I realized that the black came to symbolize buried trauma and PTSD, loss and grief, both my own and others’. But it’s not just about the pandemic and grief over the loss of our loved ones, it’s also the loss of our beloved planet, loss of the biosphere and destruction of the natural world. And I hope not the loss of democracy. I still use white though, too.

My paintings, works on paper and embroideries have been shown in galleries, libraries and museums internationally. Some of these venues include Thomas Solomon’s Garage, Los Angeles; POST, Los Angeles; the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles; Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE); Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, California; Annika Sundvik Gallery, New York; OTIS Gallery, Los Angeles; the Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, California; Grant Wahlquist Gallery, Portland, Maine and the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockland, Maine. A group of embroideries toured libraries of Italy as part of the First International Fiber Art Biennale. I participated in two painting residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Alberta, Canada.

In addition to earning a BS from Western Washington University, I hold a BFA and MFA from California Institute of the Arts, where my painting studio was next door to the Gamelan room. That hypnotic, beautiful steady beat transformed me and provided seeds for an almost trance-like painting practice. Designing and teaching my own courses, beginning with “Portraiture and the Family: Behind the Snapshot” at Art Center in Pasadena, instilled in me a deep fondness for teaching and I’ve always considered these duties to be an extension of my studio practice. I currently teach painting, drawing, and design courses at York County Community College in Wells, Maine.

Please email me at: jillpoyourow@gmail.com

Visit my full artist website: jillpoyourow.com