My practice revolves around the body and ritual. Printmaking, for me, mimics this idea of the interaction of the body and ceremony. The medium is a meditative exercise: one that is repetitive, physical and solitary. My artistic research is centered in African American history and culture as well as my personal experiences within these contexts. Most recently, I have been interested in the rituals one creates in response to tradition, social norms and 21st century challenges. In exploring my own routines, I began to investigate the African American hair industry; with special regard for the burgeoning natural hair trend. My resulting prints are studies of everyday products and objects used for Black hair; some directly related to my daily routine, others emblematic of broader experiences. My process – printing with hair, combs, and styling pomades – provides an alternative, contemporary approach to traditional printmaking. The use of product as medium unveils some of the mystery of Black hair while also questioning the unhealthy and unsustainable practices connected to concepts of beauty.
Jessica Gatlin grew up in Jackson, Tennessee. She received her BFA in Studio Art from Florida State University, with a concentration in printmaking. After graduating, she moved to Philadelphia, PA, where she engaged in the established print community as well as the city’s rich historical and cultural offerings. Gatlin comes to the University of Tennessee Knoxville having just completed the apprentice program at the Fabric Workshop Museum and a yearlong residency at Second State Press.