An In-depth Exploration of Jess Richter's Artistic Journey: A Contemporary Folk Artist Rooted in Folklore and Witchcraft
Delving into the heart of Treaty 4 Territory, Saskatchewan, we journey through the fascinating story of contemporary folk artist, Jess Richter. Drawing from her personal experiences and inspirations, Richter takes us on a magical tour through her art, which is deeply steeped in mystery and enchantment.
Drought, 2023 by Jess Richter, a short spooky story about droughts, folk horror, and community.
A Glimpse into Richter's Childhood and her Introduction to Art
As a second-generation Canadian, Jess Richter has always been drawn to the arts. Her artistic journey began as a child, inspired by the murals her Oma painted in her farmhouse. These murals, depicting landscapes her Oma missed after immigrating to Canada from Germany/East Prussia, kindled a passion for art within Jess. Despite the lack of art classes in her small K-12 school, her supportive parents found a local artist who was willing to teach her. Today, her diverse body of work includes painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, film, photography, installations in abandoned houses, and more.
Art That Echoes Folklore, Witchcraft, and Ancestral Homelands
Deeply influenced by the folk/witch practices of her ancestral homelands - England, Germany, and East Prussia, Jess infuses her artwork with narratives that challenge cultural identity and colonial implications. Her work also delves into the suppression of pagan and witchy practices in the name of capitalism, empire, and consumerism, values on which contemporary Canada was colonized. It explores the transfer of these practices from England and Germany into rural Canada, reinventing them for contemporary Canadians. Her love for liminal spaces and alternate realities translates into severe, spooky, detailed, and intuitive art pieces that challenge binary definitions of identity.
Creating a Personal Connection With the Audience
Jess believes in attracting an audience that finds the same intense meaning in her work as she does. Her sincere and honest approach to art is reflected in her creations, offering viewers an opportunity to stand still, exist, and appreciate the space she’s crafted. She believes that like calls to like, and her intense fascination with the spooky and folkloric draws like-minded individuals to her work.
Challenges, Overcoming, and Future Plans
Jess’s biggest challenge as an artist was overcoming her inner critic. She found solace in Danielle Krysa's book 'Your Inner Critic Is A Big Jerk' which helped her silence her doubts and continue to create. The book, now battered and dog-eared from constant reading and revisiting, holds a place of honour on her desk. Looking ahead, Jess is preparing for an exhibition featuring a series of short films that explore the genre of folk horror and its relationship to rural Saskatchewan. She is also eagerly anticipating a residency focused on death, grief, and ritual.
Artwork That Holds Special Significance
In 2019, Jess undertook a remarkable project. She transformed the interior of an abandoned farmhouse that once belonged to her Onkle and Tante, recreating it to look like the Black Forest in wintertime and an idealised reimagining of her childhood kitchen. The walls were covered in murals exploring generational loss through spooky fairy tales and representations of the female generations of her family. This project marked the start of her work with folklore and witchcraft and her fascination with abandoned houses.
Her Unique Style and Future Goals
Describing her style as severe, spooky, detailed, and intuitive, Jess creates surreal art pieces that exist within a liminal space. Her work stands out in the industry for being unapologetically sincere and honest. She strives to create spaces where people can stand still and just exist, not being asked to have an opinion but to appreciate the space she's crafted. As for future goals, Jess is planning to create a series of unusual folk horror farm safety videos populated by field spirits, witches, and other such elements.