Veronica De Jesus

Pub date November 3, 2009
SectionArts & CultureSectionVisual Art

Veronica De Jesus’ art is centered on drawing — not limited to it — and is sewn to the practice of putting lines on a page in a passionate, automatic way. While the Oakland-based artist’s biography and work speak of displacement and nomadism, her art is unmistakably rooted in the urge to copy and recreate images by hand. She defines drawing as "a relationship between myself, my tools, my hand, what I am observing, and what I choose to define or be interested in."

These relations stretch across the surface of what may be her best-known work, the "Memorial Drawings" series displayed in the windows of Dog Eared Books. The imperfect lines De Jesus traces, poised between brittle and globular like Ben Shahn’s, communicate a middle-distance gaze that allows itself to go wide. The artist isn’t a perfectionist — she says she hasn’t erased a line in a dozen years — and in loosening her grasp on her intentions, she trains our attention on the physicality of drawing, how it deforms its subjects and breaks space. These unconscious flourishes may crystallize or chip away at figures like Golden Girls star Bea Arthur, basketball coach Chuck Daly, and J.G. Ballard, soliciting and troubling the thought that De Jesus’ choices represent straightforward endorsement. When she explains that she is interested "in things our culture takes for granted," one imagines she hasn’t entirely made up her mind about who she’s memorializing, either.

Though aspects of De Jesus’ art relate to biographical details — her drawings of intricately embellished, boxy cars derive from having spent much of her childhood on the road — she considers her art personal rather than confessional. The bulk of her contribution to a group show at Receiver Gallery in November 2006 consisted of car drawings done in white ink on birch. These drawings have the feel of ritual. "Once the basic car is drawn, I just go into a trance," she said. "The line gets built up and all these patterns and fantasies come out … I have a strong suspicion that my car drawings are in part a sort of photocopy of the spirit inside me."

One need only look at the sculptural forms in De Jesus’ 2007 Eleanor Harwood Gallery solo show and her sports-themed 2009 show at Michael Rosenthal Gallery to see what she means when she says she’s trying to create an "avalanche with materials, ideas, and space … an avalanche that is perfectly suspended."

>>GOLDIES 2009: The 21st Guardian Outstanding Local Discovery awards, honoring the Bay’s best in arts