The School of Art at Montana State University is pleased to announce the opening of Branching Existence: Jessica Mongeon, at Helen E. Copeland Gallery located on the second floor of Haynes Hall, Bozeman MT. Branching Existence will be on view all summer beginning on Friday, May 17th and running through Wednesday, August 7th. The gallery and reception are free and open to the public Monday through Friday, 9:00 am – 5:00 and closed on holidays. There will be a public reception, attended by the artist on Thursday, July 25th, 6:00 – 8:00 pm which is free and open to the public. Hors d’oeuvres will be served.
In Branching Existence, new work by MSU alum Jessica Mongeon discusses the relationship between humans and nature; highlighting the similarities between human brain neurons, natural organisms, and geographical features. Mongeon’s atmospheric, eerily whimsical landscapes are painted with acrylic on tree-free eco-friendly paper. They are inspired by walks in the damp forests of Wisconsin and Arkansas, which contrast with the vast landscapes of the Great Plains where she lived for over 25 years. By using unexpected and sometimes jarring color combinations, she creates a visceral or intuitive response, similar to how humans experience the environment.
By juxtapositioning human neuron paths and entities like lichen and fractals, while also experimenting with the scale of these microscopic formations, Mongeon’s work has a harmonizing analysis of human interplay with the environment. According to Mongeon, “Neurons symbolize consciousness, an awareness of one’s surroundings. They show a connection between humans and nature because of their tree-like branching quality […] Neurons must connect and communicate to keep the mind and body alive. Similarly, lichen is made of a fungus, an alga and sometimes a yeast that work in symbiosis. By acknowledging our embodiment of nature, perhaps we can care for the ecosystems that sustain us as much as we care for our own bodies.”
However, negative human impacts on nature inform her work as well, adding to the slightly uncanny feeling in her prismatic compositions. “The nobler qualities of humanity are explored, as well as destructive tendencies. For example, I depict the destruction at Joshua Tree National Park that took place during the government shutdown,” states Mongeon. There is a palpable Brother’s Grimm feel to the work– an unsettling playfulness that is both haunting and alluring as her pieces seem to grow from a black ground: a possible indictment of humans environmental violations, or an entrancing symbiotic relationship, depending on what the viewer brings to the work.
Jessica Mongeon was born in Rolette, North Dakota and now resides in Arkansas, where she is an Assistant Professor of Art at Arkansas Tech University. Mongeon has exhibited nationally and internationally, including juried group exhibitions at the Painting Center in New York City and 203 Art Gallery in Shanghai, China. She received a MFA in Painting from Montana State University, and a BFA from the University of North Dakota.
For more information on Jessica Mongeon and her work, please visit