Featured Artist: Jess Vieira

Jess Vieira is a rising star in Brazil. Her paintings and illustrations have been featured on book covers, in advertisements, and even in two issues of Vogue last year. Jess was born in 1992 in Brasília, and she now lives in Salvador, Bahia. She likes to work with as many mediums as she can, from watercolor to ceramics, and even walls–she created a mural for West Side Gallery II, a graffiti festival in Itapevi, in the summer of 2020. In these varieties of art forms, she explores native Brazilian culture, black sisterhood, and humankind’s relationship to nature. For this month’s issue, Jess told us about her relationship to the places she lived in, how she deals with being an artist in troubled times, and her favorite books.

Who are you?

I think I am a courageous artist. I’ve always believed in myself despite the difficulties I encountered, and I’m building a solid journey. I’m originally from Brasília, in the Cerrado region [a tropical savanna region], but I’ve also lived in São Paulo. I explored my artistic side in São Paulo, searching for a safe place in a city that is so different from my hometown. Brasília has a big influence on my work, which blends my personal stories with the colours and textures of this originário place. I am now based in Salvador, where the Cerrado meets the sea. I’ve been working on a series of paintings about this encounter since 2019, and I’m resuming it now.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

Something playful that unveils a better reality that is inside us. 

How did you find it? How has it evolved since you got started?

I have a strong connection to the female figure, nudity, freedom, nature and expressing the unconscious. When I started painting, all of this appeared spontaneously in my work. I taught myself to paint, so my aesthetic and technique change as I study. My work is in constant evolution, and so am I. I believe that the work is a reflection of the artist. 

What inspires you? Which artists have influenced your work the most?

I am in love with Maria Bethânia at the moment. Her voice, her presence, and the way she moves have inspired me a lot! I’m moving to Bahia and Bethânia represents how this place feels to me.

How do you work? What are the different steps that go into the making of a painting?

I believe that art is freedom. I like to work everyday. I like to start with the morning energy and to stop with the sunset, because I’m a solar person. If I don’t have a productive day, it’s ok, because empty days are just as important as busy days. Sometimes, those empty days are what you need to find the inspiration to make something good. 

Have you ever wanted to experiment with other art forms?

Sure! I always want to try new things : embroidery, ceramics,… I want to try everything. Creativity has no limits.

What have you been reading, listening to, and watching lately?

I just finished Torto Arado by Itamar Vieira Junior, a book that takes place in Bahia and is narrated from a female perspective. Valter Hugo Mae and Clarice Lispector are also two of my favorite authors. I always keep some of their books with me, so I can read some passages during the day. I’ve been listening to Dorival Caymmi and Alessandra Leão lately, they’re my current favorites and I really recommend them! 

What was your favorite experience in your career so far?

It is without a doubt to connect people with their real feelings, no matter where they are. It could be through a mural or a small painting, in a magazine or a book, through a text or a painting. I just want to share feelings and to help others do the same.

What would you like to accomplish through your work?

I want to explore the world. I still don’t know how, but I know I must expand my work platforms. I can feel this.

What is next for you? 

I believe this moment is stranger than ever. Here in Brazil, things are very inconsistent, so I’m taking it one day at a time. 

Jess is a Brazilian visual artist and researcher. She has a degree in Language and postgraduate in Brazilian Studies at FESP-SP.

She is known for her figurative human representations, centering the woman figure and the experimentation of unconscious symbols in her creations. She creates her own narratives and playful scenarios that refer to nature and its connection with non-urban life, similar to that of native Brazilian peoples, approaching their own territorial origin and their ancestry of Black and Indigenous grandparents.

Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, prose, reviews, and interviews from marginalized creators.