The Never Normal “Normal Landscapes” of Jessie Homer French

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VSF, Los Angeles // January 13, 2024 – February 17, 2024

Various Small Fires is thrilled to announce the opening of Jessie Homer French’s fifth solo exhibition with the gallery. Following her inclusion in the 49th Venice Biennale and the Hammer Museum’s acclaimed Made in L.A. 2023: Acts of Living Biennial, Normal Landscapes presents a collection of anti-pastoral paintings that playfully reflect on the absurdity of earthly existence through French’s whimsical depictions of death, environmental catastrophes, and rural life.

For over five decades, French has cultivated a self-taught, “regional narrative painting” style, one in which flat bold color is met with irony and meticulous brushstrokes to construct poignant compositions. Her recent paintings continue in this vein and range in subject matter from gamboling Los Angeles coyotes and bears ambling up snowy peaks to searing wildfires and cemeteries inhabited by lost friends, visible to the viewer in a cross section view along the bottom quarter of the canvas. Here too are fish swimming upstream, panoramas of rivers and bays, paw and hoof prints in the snow – normal landscape things. And, as in all normal landscapes we encounter, whether on view or not, normal transformation is afoot. 

As such, death and life preoccupy the artist – as one might expect from someone rounding the middle of their eighth-decade on this planet. But for French, it isn’t a sole focus on the doom and gloom of one’s inevitable mortality so much as the fact that death is just part of life, whether that death is of our loved ones, ourselves, ecosystems, animals, or other life forms. It’s simply a moment that marks profound change and what could be more normal than that? 

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