Local artist spotlight Jessica Gonzales

March 6, 2023

Jessica Gonzales is the local muralist and fine artist behind lots of murals you’ve seen around town including the Rialto Theater, Antigone Books and the mural aplty named “The Road Unpaved” located at the Special Services Transit office located at 35 W. Alameda. We sat down with Jessica to get to know her better and to find out more about her work.

What was your inspiration and the story behind the “The Path Unpaved” mural located at the Special Services Transit office?

My inspiration behind The Path Unpaved was to convey a sense of exploration and the adventure of new experiences. It reflects the way we can learn and grow as individuals when we allow ourselves to break beyond the boundaries of what we know or feel comfortable within. It is about self-exploration, travel, and allowing ourselves to embrace the unknown. The woman in the mural is gazing towards new horizons, and the landscape behind her becomes progressively more and more abstract and rooted in fantasy. Because of the long configuration of the wall, the design guides viewers along the length of the mural and tells a story along the way, inviting viewers in close to see fine details and small vignettes hidden throughout.  The mural itself not only depicts the notion of escaping the everyday routine, but also encourages viewers to do the same simply by interacting with the art.

We asked Jessica about riding Sun Tran to get around Tucson and she told us “I rode the bus as a high school student and off-and-on throughout my 20s. In high school I loved the bus ride after a long day of school. As an introvert I valued the opportunity to listen to my music and zone out without having to interact with anyone. There’s something comforting and relaxing about knowing your transportation needs are being cared for while enjoying the scenery as it passes by. I sure wish the Sun Link Streetcar was around when I was in college – I’d have been on that thing constantly instead of carrying my heavy art portfolios on my long walks to and from the UA School of Art every day!

The Path Unpaved

Where are you from originally and do you see the culture from that area affecting your work?

I come from a military family, so we moved around a bit in my early years. I was born in Oklahoma City, OK, and then we moved to Germany, where I lived from age 6-12. We then moved to Tucson where I’ve resided ever since. Having spent my formative years in southern Arizona as a young adult, and discovering my identity and artistic voice here, I feel genuinely connected to Tucson as my home. My Mexican-American heritage combined with the rich culture of this city have a heavy influence on the way I express myself through art. I am visually inspired by the boldness of the shadows cast by the Arizona sun, the breathtaking sunsets, the vibrant and lively ways that Tucson’s diverse cultures express themselves through design, music, and food. All of these elements play a role in my creative process and inform the choices I make when developing public art.

Who are your biggest artistic influences?

My biggest artistic influence growing up was my mother. She was the number one supporter of my creativity, and we made art together a lot. One of my favorite things growing up was when she would pull out her college portfolio and let me look at all the drawings she had created. They showed me what art professionalism looked like and gave me perspective into what my future could hold. Throughout my art career I have found myself inspired by artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Gustav Klimt, Frida Kahlo, Yayoi Kusama, Egon Scheile, Alphonse Mucha, Ralph Steadman, and many more.

Tell me about your favorite medium.

My favorite medium is acrylic paint. The quick dry time allows me to layer vibrant colors on top of one another without them blending and getting muddy. I love creating dimension through building abstracted color palettes and letting the contrast between the hues play off each other. Acrylic paint gives me a lot of freedom to explore this technique and develop my signature style.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration everywhere! Sometimes the most mundane things will spark inspiration, and a lot of times that has to do with shapes, how light is playing off something, a texture or contrast that is intriguing, or a mood that speaks to me. I find a lot of inspiration in nature and organic materials. I am also inspired by music and have created entire collections of work based on how select musical compositions have impacted me. I find inspiration in personal experience, especially topics that I have difficulty expressing verbally. I am also incredibly inspired by the creative process – no matter what the art or medium is, I am fascinated by the minds of creatives and how a finished product can start with a simple thought and blossom into a tangible masterpiece. Watching other people create reminds me of how much magic lives in our minds and our hands, and that motivates me to keep creating.

When is your favorite time of day to create?

I love to be creative early in the day, when my brain is fresh, and I have the whole day ahead of me. There is a serenity to the morning, and I love letting creativity flow in an atmosphere that is unrushed and free of outside pressure. I also love creating in the late evening, for similar reasons.

Describe how art is important to society.

Art is important to society because it allows people to have a dialogue about a wide array of topics while providing opportunities for individuals to interpret pieces in their own unique way. This is true for both the artist’s creative process and consumption by the audience. Art depicts and showcases culture, especially public art. Public art is so important because it allows works to be viewed by people of all walks of life, and adds interest, beauty, and insight to its surroundings.

What motivates you to create?

What motivates me to create is that it allows me to connect deeply to my artistic self, which feels like the most genuine representation of me at my healthiest. I am happiest, most content, most confident, and have the most clarity about my place in the world when I am making art. For all of these reasons being creative keeps me grounded, so it is not only a career or a hobby, it is a necessity.

To keep an eye on what this muralist has in store for her next projects or to see more of her work, visit JessicaGonzalesart.com or find her on Social. Instagram and Facebook jessicagonzalesart