Jacqueline Kott-Wolle


Tell us about your artistic style?

I love to paint figures in a fresh palette of color, using lots of patterns, capturing sunlight and ‘mood’. I would describe myself as a ‘narrative artist’ because I use my paintings to tell family and identity stories.

Does creating art help you heal?

There is something deeply psychological about my need to dig into the past and paint my family’s story. I never really felt that I needed to ‘heal’ from anything per se but something in my psyche knew that I was always ‘missing’ some very important information about my family history. I have lived most of my adult life with a lot of empty spaces about my past. Given the circumstances of my parents’ and grandparents’ survival of the Holocaust and immigration story, I grew up in a home with no old family photos and a lot of silence about the tragic ends my great-parents and extended family faced during that dark chapter in history. Creating this series, calling my mother almost every day to ask her questions and to finally have her tell me what happened to the family enabled me to close a chapter on wounds that were so deep and pervasive (even though I never realized they were there). Creating ‘monuments’ in the form of paintings for relatives who have no graves was so very emotional. Furthermore I found it incredibly healing and powerful to learn about the ‘rebuilding’ years when my family immigrated and started their lives over again in Canada. It was wonderfully inspiring to see the value and role of optimism in this process and to honor that part of my family’s story with colorful and happy paintings. I have developed such a keen sense respect for anyone who immigrates to a new country, learns another language and starts over again. I also have a profound sense of gratitude for the safety of living my life in two countries where we are guaranteed the right to either engage or not engage with our respective religions and to have freely lived my life as proud Jewish person and artist. These are difficult times. Painting and writing stories about the trials my family faced and overcame has helped me to keep perspective during the last 6 months.

What motivates you to create?

Painting is one of the few places where I can be completely present without the distraction of my phone or my endless and constantly regenerating ‘to-do list’. It is a true meditation for me – often spiritual. I can slow down time and re-live moments and make them last simply by painting the stories from my life. I was motivated to create this particular series “Growing Up Jewish – Art & Storytelling” because I’ve always been highly identified with my art and my Judaism but these were totally separate spheres. Given my connection to my Jewish community I’d often been asked “why don’t you paint Judaic art?”. It was a good question. The truth is I found myself completely avoiding Judaic subject matter because I had some very strong ideas of what I thought it should look like based on the Jewish themed paintings that hung in my family home (namely portraits of stern-faced bearded Rabbis of old or scenes from Jerusalem). There was a strong disconnect between the Judaism I saw framed in paintings on the walls and my lived experience. For example, I never saw a painting of Jewish summer camp but this was one of the defining experiences that shaped my Jewish identity. I became very motivated to figure out a way to create Jewish art that felt authentic to my life as someone who came of age in the late 20th century in North America.

To learn more, please visit Jacqueline Kott-Wolle‘s ARTDEX Profile.

I created my current project “Growing Up Jewish – Art & Storytelling” because I wanted to find a way to create contemporary Judaic art that really reflects the Jewish experience in North America. Drawing inspiration from my personal vintage family photos, I wanted to look at the people, experiences and community that create identity and how Jewish tradition shifts and takes new shapes over time, especially in North America where we all enjoy religious freedom. This is an exhibit that is intended to build bridges and offer an ‘insider’ look at a community that has had a long and storied history in North America. I wanted to capture the fullness of Jewish life in North America. 

What was it that convinced you to join ARTDEX?

I discovered an artist (on Instagram) whose work I truly admire – her name is Jessica Alazraki. She posted that she had won a prize for her work from ARTDEX. I decided to check out the ARTDEX site and really liked that there was a simple, professional (and free!) platform for artists to catalog their collections. I found ARTDEX to be a really useful tool for me, especially because my current project “Growing Up Jewish – Art & Storytelling” includes both short stories and paintings. ARTDEX enabled me to simply and beautifully incorporate both of these elements of my project onto their site.

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