"We always like to say we have several cords tangled in this relationship. So we're artistic collaborators but we're also a married couple and we're best friends, sound technicians and art critics so there's a constant give and take / push and pull where we're exploring together and separately."
BEATRIX*JAR is Artist Collective/Dynamic Duo Bianca Janine Pettis (Beatrix) & Jacob Aaron Roske (JAR). Formed in 2003, the pair works across multiple artistic disciplines. Their eagerness to try anything paired with their “Yes…and “ approach to art making has led them to creating work in Video, Sound Art and Live Performance, Visual Art and Theater.
Beatrix*Jar also works as Artist/Educators having spent numerous years hands-on Circuit Bending Workshops, Sound Art Residencies, Sound Art Festivals and Community Engagement Events. As Visual Artists Beatrix*Jar has collaborated on murals, screen-prints and fabric birds and cats they call Art Pets. Beatrix*Jar explores and encourages experimentation and play through multiple artistic mediums. Together they like to see what happens and share the results.
Jes: I am so into your mural in St. Paul. Can you tell me more about the project? How did you both come up with the whimsical design?
B: Thank you so much for the interview, Jes. We’ve enjoyed taking in The Artists You admire!
B: We wanted to paint something bold and impactful. We were devastated by the murder of George Floyd. We both felt so much grief - fear, paranoia - it was a very traumatic time. When we approached the wall - we thought it needed something unexpected - optimistic and playful.
B: We came up with the birds - because as a girl I had a little company I called “Bird Art”. I would make little cartoon drawings of birds. I had a line of puffy paint t-shirts...holiday cards - my friends would buy them. When I went back to school for my MFA in Art 2017 I started to revisit some of those drawings.
J: Yeah - and for about ten years we’ve sold these stuffed animals we call Art Pets. Bianca makes fabric birds and I make cats. The birds on the wall remind me of the birds you make.
B: We never imagined we’d be mural artists.
J: I couldn’t imagine painting on a wall with Bianca - but it makes total sense because we absorbed so much street art. As musicians we had the opportunity to travel a lot and see a lot of incredible work by artists like Os Gemeos, Mr. Brainwash, Invader, Swoon, Banksy...all of it.
B: Yeah - seeing large scale work is so exciting!
J: Given the opportunity we just went for it! Behind the scenes we did a lot of drawing, researching and planning to see what kind of design worked best.
B: We gave the building owner a few options and this is the design they chose.
As a long-timer collaborators, how do you describe your artistic process?
B: Have we ever talked about our process? No - we do talk about our process. I think our process usually starts with us talking about what the process will be.
J: That's a big question! We’re constantly bouncing ideas off of each other to see what sticks. We always like to say we have several cords tangled in this relationship. So we're artistic collaborators but we're also a married couple and we're best friends, sound technicians and art critics so there's a constant give and take / push and pull where we're exploring together and separately.
B: We like to work in all these different mediums so we’re always learning and reinventing our process. I joke that we have a mental file cabinet that has instructions like “how to paint a mural” or “how to record a podcast” - so when a new project comes our way - part of our work is refamiliarizing ourselves with the process and technique.
J: Lately we’ve been using the “yes...and” approach from theater - building on ideas instead of knocking them down.
B: I like the feeling of learning and creating simultaneously. That’s where the fun is!
What have been some of your most memorable art projects?
B: Painting this mural is certainly top on the list. It was fun to be outdoors, up high. We’ve only formerly considered ourselves visual artists in the last few years - before that we worked primarily as “Sound Artists” leading hands-on circuit bending workshops paired with sound collage performances - and events we call Audio Playgrounds. During that time we had Artist Residency with the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. We worked with a teen group for a week on a program called “Make an Album with Beatrix*Jar”. We spent a week teaching the kids our process as musicians then invited them to form their own bands or solo acts. Each group created a song and there was a performance at the end of the residency. It was so fun to go to Boston and to be able to share our approach to music with a group - and see the outcome in their work.
J: Circuit bending in Hawaii and leading and Audio Playground at Northern Spark 2019.
What kind of resources have you used to help your art career?
J: As Independent Artists we're always making it work out by creating something out of nothing. We imagine an idea and use the law of attraction to make it a reality.
B: Oh we’re always just figuring it out. We’ve reached out to Springboard for the Arts several times over our careers. We’ve received grants from the American Composers Forum, Bush Foundation, Jerome Foundation. I come from a corporate background - working administration positions at places like Wells Fargo and different law offices. At some point I decided to quit my day job and work as an artist - so that administrative background helped me navigate the business of it.
J: I look to people who I am inspired by and what their path has been.
B: There’s not always a clear path for the work we do - so looking at other artists helps! And your blog is a great resource!
I really appreciate that! And the resources you speak of I have used too! What do you love most about being artists?
J: I love the ability to put your most creative idea on the table and make it a reality. I love it!
B: Creating my life and having what I consider to be an authentic life. My strategic planning is like “I want to learn how to...paint murals” for example - and it becomes a goal.
J: It’s amazing to get paid to put your most creative idea into effect. You create something out of nothing - it’s all from our imagination.
B: I love watching my life as an artist unfold.
What kind of challenges have you faced as artists?
B: The usual issues - financial worry - wondering if we should walk away from our practice completely and get normal jobs. We had a few years of medical issues that knocked us off balance.
J: Self doubt is my biggest critic and what I try to overcome when I create new work.
What do you need most right now to support your work and practice?
B: That is always changing. Since we’re living through the pandemic - right now I suppose it would be nice to have more space. Right now our living room is our music studio - and we move things around to make a big painting - or to do yoga on the floor. It would be nice to have specific rooms dedicated to things or a big enough space that all the things we do could co-exist in one room.
J: Yeah - having a large dedicated space for work and home feels essential right now.
Are you working on anything new?
B: We are! We’re back in the music studio playing with new instruments. I’ve been working on a character based self portrait project.
J: We’re taking a music making class together and writing songs in the studio! It’s been fun!
How exciting! I look forward to hearing more about your new music and visual art. Thank you for answering my questions!
Readers, if you are obsessed with Beatrix*Jar now, I suggest you follow them on Instagram and then take a look at Jacob and Bianca's 2020 Round up here.
You can also check out Beatrix*Jar on Bandcamp here.
All images courtesy of the artists. Interview written and edited by Jes Reyes.
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