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I’m intrigued and amused when I see labels on boxes and bags of processed foods here in Mexico. Excess sodium. Excess sugar. Excess calories. Excess fat. I wonder if the labels change anyone’s behavior. Why doesn’t the US use that kind of labeling? Oh yes, we don’t do that because so much money would be lost if consumers made more health-conscious choices. Of course, I’m aware of the excess fat on my own body, which I think about obsessively but don’t tackle directly in my artwork.

My mixed media work can also be excessive, thick with making and layering. It's an automatic, sometimes chaotic process in which I paint, print, stamp and scratch to create surfaced papers which became puzzle pieces I put together along with found text and imagery. I work further into the collages with marks and drawings from the outside world, adding another layer.

As I child, I made excessively detailed, pattern-focused abstract drawings with markers, which elicited parental praise. Then, as a teen, I barreled into the first-wave punk scene in San Francisco and my work (and ethos) got rawer and more belligerent. Fueled by punk’s DIY ethos, I cut, ripped and pasted and (safely) pinned to make clothes, band flyers and a photocopied fanzine. That loose, impulsive way of working still informs my work. Yet now I work incrementally, often chaotically, towards perfection and a busy kind of beauty.

During and after the pandemic, I took refuge in nature, gardening and finding new places to walk in my city, Austin, TX. I splurged and bought flower bouquets which gave me joy. I rationalized that small extravagance by making drawings, relief prints and collages inspired by those bouquets so those flowers keep popping up in my work.

Like the fat, Mexican Carpenter bee that zooms around the blooms of El Sur which appears in several of these pieces, I dart from project to project, like the bee flits from flower to flower. I’ll work in one mode for a while and then switch, ricocheting between visual art, songwriting, written memoir and performance. I’ve taught art for thirty years, which also informs my personal work.

In recent years, I’ve created work that looks back on my punk (and pre-punk) days. The comic-style panels and spoken word piece in this show is inspired by those teen years. The painted marked up photocopies also are a subtle shout out to my zine making punk days. I’m happy to see the zine, as a form of individual expression, endures, while continually re-inventing itself.

Excess sugar. Excess sodium. Excess calories. Excess fat.
An excess of disciplines I work in. An excess of noise in my head.
An excess of stimuli, filtered from our fucked up, chaotic, beautiful world, repurposed into art.

You can find my song “I don’t want to kill you anymore” in Bandcamp, I’m in Spotify as Jean Caffeine, and my Instagram handle is @ms.jeancaffeine

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