Jessica Westhafer — Born 1990, Denver, Colorado. Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Westhafer breaks free from religion and elitist art history through cartoon and animation-inspired painting. Her narrative works delve deep into the past — drawing inspiration from early childhood memories and her religious upbringing in Arkansas. Westhafer’s works possess a dark humor as the artist reimagines her life experiences as a dark fantasy. She often plays with form, portraying distorted figures with stretched limbs and elongated torsos.
Despite having a close relationship with her father as a child, Westhafer, now 31-years-old, hasn’t spoken to him since she was 18, when she decided to leave the strict religious community of Jehovah’s Witnesses she was born into. “My whole family cut me off. It’s a very conservative and exclusive religion: you’re not allowed to celebrate birthdays or Christmas, participate in sports, or even associate with people outside of the organization,” she says. Several Jehovah’s Witness doctrines prompted Westhafer to leave the organization, a big one being the fact the religion doesn’t believe in going to university. “I did it anyway: I took out student loans and went to the University of Arkansas to study art. I found friends who became my family, and I just threw myself into my work.” Westhafer’s paintings reimagine the past as a salve for the present. The artist pulls motifs and events from childhood memories as inspiration for her new painted narratives, recalling occasionally emotional events that are then reconstituted from a safer, present perspective and instilled with new meaning, undercutting any lingering darkness or insecurity with a deft imbuement of dark humor.
Westhafer holds an MFA from Indiana University-Bloomington, and received her BFA from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.
Bad Girls 2021 - Featured Work
Feeling Stuck, 2021
oil on canvas
121.9 x 198.1 cm - 48 x 78 inches
Courtesy of the Artist and DUVE Berlin.