Flanelle Magazine - Exclusive Interview with Jesse Draxler

The other night, I was scrolling down my Pinterest feed - in order to make my insomnia a bit more enjoyable - when something caught my attention. Among the images of impossible hair tutorials and mouth-watering recipes was the collage of a woman that appeared to be in a high-fashion magazine. After repining it in my “Art” board, I clicked on my newly acquired pin to know who was the artist behind it. That’s how I discovered Jesse Draxler.

jesse-draxler-art-interview-flanelle-magazine-elisabeth-labelle.jpg

From a small town in rural Wisconsin, Jesse Draxler now lives in Minneapolis (MN, USA) where he works restlessly in his new studio. His artwork reflects the minimalist aesthetic of his atelier, rarely using colors other than black, white and grey. If he used to draw as a child, collage has become his medium of predilection. Paintings, sculptures, gifs and garments are only a few examples of what he can do with his impressive technique and distinctive style.

Beyond the beauty of his collages, what struck me was how often the faces in his work were transformed or covered up – like the hair hiding his face in this portrait of himself. The aura of mystery from his work and being made me want to know more about this artist. Since I find his ability to distort reality into a mesmerizing collage truly intriguing, interview with the mysterious and talented Jesse Draxler.

FM: Let’s go back to the beginning. When did you start making art and experimenting with your own style? 

JD: I’ve been drawing since I was a small child, but I don’t think it was called art until relatively recent. Style has always been of utmost importance to me and my practice, so I’ve always been aware of its role. I think within the past year or so it has become more direct and succinct, closer to my intention.

FM: Your hand-crafted technique of collage is impressive. How did you become interested in this medium? Were you influenced by other collage artists?

JD: My senior thesis at college was on a subculture’s aesthetic being assimilated into mainstream culture using punk in the 70s & 80s as a case study – this was before the death of subculture years ago. I think that’s where I picked up on collage as a viable form of art. In the beginning, I was influenced by some other collage artists, but only in process not in content.

FM: After visiting your Tumblr, I’m curious to learn more about your creative process. Where do you take your inspiration from and how do you transform it into an art piece?

JD: I don’t separate myself from my work. Instead, my work is simply an extension of me. It’s in the moment, meant to be a fragment of a bigger ideal. I feel it’s all pieces of something larger, elements that build up a point of view, and ways of working through ideas and theories I am trying to understand or come to terms with. 

jesse-draxler-art-elisabeth-labelle-flanelle-magazine.jpg

FM: As we can see in KRIZ10, ARMOUR and in many of your UNTITLED paintings, your work often hides or distorts facial features. Why is that so?

JD: The face is a highly relatable signifier, it is very immediate, and quickly brings forward themes of identity and self.

FM: The idea of transformation seems like an important part of your creative process. How did your style and technique transformed over the years?

JD: In every way. A year ago is a lifetime ago. I am always learning from my process, adding new processes, understanding myself and my work more and more. I’ve become stronger in my skill sets and more confident in my intent. 

FM: Aside from collage, you’ve worked on paintings, editorials, sculptures and gifs as well as using various materials such as rice paper and fabric. What would you like to try next?

JD: I’ve played around with Cinema 4D creating 3D renders and animations but I don’t have the kind of brain to sit in front of a computer and labor over such things - I am more entertained by hand to medium contact and instant gratification - but I would love to work with someone who is a master in that field to help me translate some of the ideas I have for the medium. That and everything else ever. 

FM: You worked with fashion labels such as OAK NYC & Emma Berg in the past. What do you find interesting about the art of clothing? 

JD: I am aesthetic obsessed, in this way I feel akin to the fashion world. Designers have a point of view and may have a message they are trying to convey through their garments, but in the end the shit just has to look cool and be made well - I can totally get behind that.

jesse-draxler-art-flanelle-magazine-elisabeth-labelle.jpg

FM: You do sell t-shirts in your online shop. Would you like to make more clothes eventually?

JD: Definitely. Already am. I’m the guest artist for the new Blxcklist line which is was released on July 24th, at a pop up shop in downtown LA. I’m also talking with a new online retailer about creating some patterns to print on textiles to be turned into garments by a local designer. I also plan to release limited edition print shirts on occasion through my online shop. I’ve already done one which is now sold out.

FM: Could you describe your typical outfit?

JD: I’m typically wearing black pants or long black sweat shorts, with a loose fitting tee or sleeveless tank, and either Nikes or Adidas’ sneakers - all black & white of course. Sometimes a plain black New Era snapback. Plain black backpack for my Macbook because I bike most places. Simple, functional, future classics. 

FM: In your studio, do you work with music in the background? If so, which artists inspire you?

JD: I almost always work with music on so I listen to a lot and am always in search of artists to add to my iPhone. HTRK, Arca, Cocteau Twins, Deftones, Forest Swords, Marilyn Manson, Holy Other, MBV, JJ, oOoOO, Pictureplane, Jai Paul, Zebra Katz, Pusha T, Lakutis,  Kool A.D. - all in rotation for the past while. 

FM: I’ve seen a picture of your new studio on Instagram – it looks amazing and quite spacious! What do you like about it? 

JD: Everything. Concrete floors and roughly 18ft ceilings with 4 giant windows for ample natural light, which is priceless. Overall its huge, sparse, modular, and has that slightly comfortable yet sterile feel. It also has an attached gallery which I fill with all my own work. It’s the size of a small gallery you would find in any city’s downtown area, so eventually I plan to host some openings. I’m in my studio 90% of the time so a good studio is one of the most important elements in my life. 

FM: Since you mentioned a gallery, is there a place outside your studio where you dream of showing your work?

JD: Not really. I think more about the range and audience I want to reach so I think about things like publications I want to be in, or brands I want to collaborate with - those things are like galleries to me only widely distributed. I grew up in a small town in rural Wisconsin and I didn’t step foot in a legit art museum or gallery until I was about 21 years old so the gallery construct is not engrained in me. That being said I’d never turn down a good opportunity to exhibit my work.

FM: Do you have other dreams you would like to fulfill in the future? 

JD: I have abstract dreams. A degree of contentment, a bit of satisfaction, true calm perhaps