Visiting artist Jess Leo talked about her current show, past/presence(s), at Brookdale Community College’s Center for Visual Arts (CVA) Gallery on December 5.

The show’s theme is absence and loss. “The show and my earlier works are deeply seeded in the idea of memory,” said Leo. “What does it mean to exist and what does it mean to exist after loss?” are the questions the show explores, she explained.

Jess Leo in front of her drawing.
Jess Leo, visiting artist, said the show’s theme is absence and loss.

“The medium itself makes it seems as if all the works are the same, but in fact there are various correlations between each body that you are witnessing,” she said of her pieces which are all graphite on paper. “I love drawing as a material and I wouldn’t choose anything else,” she said.

“I found I only needed the essentials,” Leo said of her choice to use pencil and paper. “These are the same tools I had when I was 12 years old, and now I’m here today with those same materials” she said.

“It’s chaotic close, and then from far away it’s very delicate,” is how Leo described her works.

Jess Leo and Amy Faris.
Jess Leo, visiting artist, and Amy Faris, gallery coordinator for the CVA Gallery.

“One of the things that struck me about Jess during the summer session when she took my class was her intense focus which is evident in her work,” said Amy Faris, gallery coordinator for the CVA Gallery and adjunct art instructor.

Leo was born and raised in New Jersey and took a number of art classes at Brookdale. She earned her Master’s of Fine Art at the New York Academy of Art and has taught at Brookdale as well as in New York. In 2016, she won an Emerging Artist Award for her work in a cross-cultural exhibition in New York City.


Leo’s past/presence(s) will be on display in the CVA Gallery through December 13.