Meet Jessa Gilbert

We call it the #ICMEETSERIES and thought it would be interesting to find out a bit more about the people behind the disposables. We asked a few IC contributors to tell us a bit about themselves and this is what we got in return…

MyTent-MountSeymour-SunriseViewofMountBaker copy


Jessa Gilbert

Who are you?
My name is Jessa Gilbert and I’m an artist and adventurer originally from New York State, living, creating, and exploring in British Columbia.

Where’s home?
I grew up in the small town of Red Hook, New York, but these days I feel most at home in my tent somewhere out of cell range in the mountains.

What do you do for a crust?
I work full time as an Artist, mainly painting and illustration and I have a day job within the Outdoor Industry, which satisfies my adventure funds. I create artwork in two ways, both of which balance and feed the other. One way is through exploration and adventure, part of the #getoutoftownvibe series. I literally take the artworking process into the backcountry with me, and work to capture the passing of time and the feeling of physically exploring these wild and unique landscapes. The second part of the creative process happens in the art studio, where I create large scale paintings based on those experiences, using color, shape, and line to explore ways of articulating what it feels like to explore these environments in a 2-dimensional format.

Can you tell us about your creative background?
I grew up with 3 brothers in a split and often-chaotic household, so my main source of reprieve was wandering around the woods with a sketchbook and/or camera. I have followed this creative pursuit of exploring, painting, and drawing, while also expressing myself through music and action sports, to where I have landed today. I was fortunate to grow up with parents that, either directly or indirectly, enabled me to pursue my desire create in a myriad ways, and to go to school for art (and freestyle snowboarding to be more honest about my intentions of attending the University of Vermont). While snowboarding may not sound like a creative background necessarily, it opened my world up to these incredible experiences and landscapes that aren’t typically accessible to the stereotypical white-walled-gallery-artist. Having the opportunity to fully explore travel through competing in freestyle snowboarding alongside developing my skills as a painter and illustrator allowed me to carve out a creative niche where I have both areas of interest operating in tandem. I work tirelessly on both exploring as much of this incredibly awe-inspiring landscape I am so fortunate to call home and doing everything I can to translate that experience on paper and in paint to hopefully inspire others to get outside and explore.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
One of my professors at UVM, Frank Owen, always talked about the importance of play in the art studio practice. He talked about going into the studio and just having fun, trying new materials and techniques, keeping things light hearted, and at the end of the day making sure he was enjoying the process. It took me a while to fully embrace this idea that artwork doesn’t need to be serious and stoic and make some important life-changing statement in one brush stroke, and I feel I have fully come over to this idea. His advice to keep things fun and explore play changed my approach to artworking, and I feel more inspired to create because of it. I don’t have any fear or reservations about creating on the go in the backcountry, or what will become of these drawings and paintings. I create artwork because I enjoy it, I see it as my vocation, and because I am my best and happiest self when I am doing so. If I am able to sell the artworks, inspire others through them, or change the way someone thinks about exploration then that is just an amazing bonus!

What do you do with your free time?
Free time, hah. I’m really just trying to get out as much as possible, especially if it can involve camping. In the summers I spend a lot of time backcountry camping, mountain biking, and trying to get on top of new mountains and peaks either through mountain biking, hiking, scrambling, or mountaineering. In the winter I’m chasing deep snow on my splitboard as often as possible. The great thing about this art practice I’ve developed is that taking any and all opportunities to explore new terrain is part of the art process!

Tips for making your ideas and dreams come to life…
I’m still refining my own, but at the core of it all is just finding out what makes you tick and chasing that without fear or reservation. It’s so easy to say no, to find reasons not to do something, or to take the path of least resistance, but it’s in those moments of actually stepping through the door and getting out there where we learn the most. Also, don’t let others’ negativity affect you – find a way to trust yourself – get moving towards what enables you to feel like your most full and authentic self, no matter what that pursuit is. Take the opportunities that come, do the things you think are exciting, and don’t put it off – you get one go at this wild ride of life, so make sure your time is well spent.

What inspires you to shoot film?
I love the uncertainty of film and the physicality of it – the rudimentary click from the disposable camera, the inevitable question of “did I hold the camera level to the horizon line”, and hoping that no one was blinking in the photo. The timing of it is something I’m drawn towards as well. What I mean by that is that film doesn’t offer you instant gratification the way a digital camera or phone does, it makes you wait for it. It allows the tension to build, the memory to fade a bit from top of mind, and forces you to let go, a bit, of this desire to edit and reshoot right away. I have inevitably lost touch with the memories at the beginning of a roll of film, so I love having all the memories flood back when you look through an exposed roll. These moments feel more raw and authentic to me than digital because they just are the way they are – no extra filters, cropping, or alterations. They are full, flaws and all.

How did you come to connect with Indisposable Concept?
I discovered Indispoable Concept on Tumblr years ago, and reconnected on Instagram a few years back. Admittedly, it took me a few years of following along while other people shared their stories through film for me to pick up a film camera again and contribute.

How did you find the experience of using the disposable camera? Enjoyable or painful?
I love it – I’m pretty sure I have an audible laugh after every click of the camera. I laugh at the fact that in a pack that I have scrutinized every item to try and make the most efficient and light pack, with only the most essential gear, that I have to find space for a disposable plastic camera. I love the look on people’s faces when I ask them to look over so I can take their photo, and I’m holding a disposable camera, especially when they’re holding a DSLR or any smartphone variation.

How did it make you feel not being able to see the photos as they were taken and not being able to edit or know what the photos turned out like?
Once I accepted the fact that those elements were out of my control the process became a lot easier. I used to shoot film quite a bit on this old Ricoh camera, but I was much more careful and reserved about what I would take a photo of. I felt the need to really plan things out, line up the subject just right, and make sure everything was in its rightful place. For whatever reason the disposable camera, perhaps because it feels more like a toy at times than anything, allows me an opportunity to let go of the pursuit of the “perfect photo” and just focus on working towards capturing a glimpse of a fleeting moment.

Analogue Vs Digital?

It seems film photography and disposables are making a comeback, why do you think that is?
I know I’m more drawn to film than ever because I’m pretty bad at keeping things organized in a digital space, but have an easier time sorting physical objects. I spend all day at work staring at a screen, and the last thing I want to do when I leave is stare at another screen to enjoy and revisit memories. I also love going through photo albums with people – they’re always a bit unorganized, usually some handwritten reminder on the back of the photo about who is in it or what was going on, and the human element ever present. Granted, you can print photos that were taken digitally, but there’s something about the candid quality often seen in film photos that I am inspired by. It feels less scripted and more authentic.

If someone destroyed all the disposable cameras in the world and you had the very last one, what would you capture?
I’d probably continue to capture my adventures into the wilderness, for a couple reasons. Firstly, because it is the story I know how to tell the best, and secondly, because wilderness is disappearing so my affinity towards capturing what there is left to experience is top of mind. I feel incredibly fortunate to live in a place where there is still wilderness available, especially so, relatively, close to an International city.

What Does 2016 hold for you?
2016 continues to be a year of exploring – both physically exploring new terrain and exploring new ways of creating art within the studio and outdoors. Looking ahead I’m going to continue to develop the #getoutoftownvibe series along with the paintings, and will hopefully be getting my Permanent Residency application for Canada approved. In January I will be creating at the Mica Heli Ski Artist Residency, which I couldn’t be more excited for!

How would you describe your photographic style?
I’d describe my photographic style much as I would describe my lifestyle – a combination of art, or subjects, and adventure. Setting is important to me, as I seek to have my photographs stand apart from others due to the remoteness of where they are taken. Incorporating my friends and whatever the activity we are partaking in, mountain biking, camping, splitboarding, etc, is another element I strive to have in each photograph, as it offers a sense of scale, activity, and personality.

Who or what influences you creatively?
I’m a very curious person and am constantly looking outward for inspiration. I’m inspired creatively by those who seek out and chase adventure, and who are excited about exploring new terrain, culture, and environments. Artists whose work utilizes color, texture, and pattern, both new and old, influence me creatively (Matisse, Osgemeos, Kehinde Wiley, Julie Mehretu as examples). Food, Music, Dance, Theatre – it all plays a role for me in the creative process because they tap into different modes of experience.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find the most inspiration in the outdoors and through activity – exploring a new mountain range inspires me visually, while the feeling of surfing powder down an untracked slope excites me physically. Hiking to a remote alpine lake and seeing a glacier hanging over and feeding a pool of bright green water leaves me awestruck and humble, while the feeling of diving down into the glacial water makes me feel alive.

What’s the biggest issue facing the world right now?
One issue I see is the underlying current of fear in the world, which seems to bring out the worst in people. Fear for life, fear for food, fear for invasion, fear for acceptance, etc. We question the motives of others before trusting in someone. It’s difficult to watch on a local and global level people mistreating each other as we lose touch with the fact that we are all human beings.

Worry less about….?
Being accepted and pleasing everyone.

Focus more on….?
Staying humble, being grateful, being true to yourself, and enjoying life.

Fave place to shoot?
In the mountains outside of cell service.

5 at 5… (For lack of a better name)

5 photos from history you wish you’d taken…
I’m going to interpret this as historical moments I wish I could’ve been there to photograph:
In no particular order – Building the Great Wall, Building the first transcontinental railroad, building the panama canal, sailing in an old wooden cargo ship around Cape horn, the Wright brothers flying the first airplane.

5 people you’d like to photograph?
1. Matisse
2. Rembrandt
3. Maya Angelou
4. Lewis and Clark

5 books you wish you’d written?
I don’t truly think I feel like I wish I had written anyone else’s book because I don’t feel like I could have known and/or told the story better.

5 people you’d invite around for drinks and dinner?
1. Dali
2. Picasso
3. Jake Carpenter
4. Plake
5. Bob Dylan

5 go to songs to get you in the mood?
1. Fade Out Lines – The Avener, Phoebe Killdeer
2. Busy Earnin’ – Jungle
3. Smooth Sailing – Leon Bridges
4. Don’t Stop Till you Get Enough – Michael Jackson
5. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen