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Jessica Brilli 

My most recent body of work was inspired by 35mm Kodachrome slides and generations-old photographs that were gathered from locations across the United States. Through my experience of painting and sharing these photos, I have found that there is something inherent in them that speaks to many Americans, whether it be a photo taken at a pool party in 1965 or of someone’s mother standing in front of the family car—we insert our own lives into these scenes from the past. 

I view thousands of slides and photos to find the ones that move me emotionally. I’m constantly on the hunt for photos that mirror scenes from my childhood, or that I feel a connection to through personal or familial experience.

The suburban scenes I paint reflect my own childhood in New York on Long Island. The cars proudly displayed on driveways, the meticulously manicured lawns, inviting neighbor’s pools, and 1960’s architecture were the backdrop of my youth. Though I don’t live in this setting anymore, I still feel a significant connection to it. 

This process of photographic research, and painting the essential scenic components, is very personal. I’ve realized, however, that my experiences are part of a common thread that many Americans share regardless of age, race and gender. The images that produce a flood of involuntary memories for me often evoke similar cascades of feelings and thoughts in others. Why is this? 

Another angle I’m interested in exploring is the effect of color on memory. When looking at vintage photography, I see the color as a built-in time stamp. Different types of film age in various ways because of unstable color dyes—the faded color scheme adds a Gestalt effect that evokes these nostalgic feelings. Most of my paintings take place in the past before I was born. The photographs that inspire me act as my window to the past, and in my own case these photos color my impression of the past. Through these paintings I’m engaging with the past, and bringing along the viewer for the ride. 

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Jessica Brilli (Sayville, NY 1977) 

Working in a style that encompasses American realism and 20th century graphic design aesthetics, Brilli’s paintings reveal the beauty in everyday scenes and objects.

The paintings in the exhibition Collective Recollect are from a series of works that Brilli has been producing for several years. These paintings were inspired by mid-to late-20th century 35mm slides and photographs gathered across the United States. Through Brilli’s experience of painting and sharing these images, she found that there is something inherent in them that speaks to many Americans, whether it be a photo taken at a pool party in 1965 or a photo of someone’s mother standing in front of the family car. We sympathize with and project our own lives onto these scenes from the past.

Brilli earned her BFA in painting at the University of Rhode Island, and received a certificate in graphic design from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, MA. Brilli’s work has been recognized in numerous publications and respected internet-based venues domestically and abroad. Her paintings have been featured in solo and group shows throughout the United States, and in South Korea where her work was featured on the cover of Heren Magazine in celebration of the publication’s 10th anniversary exhibition. In 2020 Brilli's painting Night Swimming was featured on the cover of Rumaan Alam's blockbuster novel, Leave the World Behind. Most recently Brilli was named a 2021 Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grantee.