Jessie Noguchi: 2019 Grant Winner

Jessie Noguchi: 2019 Grant Winner

It was early morning in Japan when Jessie Noguchi called in for the interview. She was visiting her family there, following the loss of her grandmother who deeply influenced her life and her art.

“The best thing about being an artist is being crazy, but nobody says you're crazy.”

“My grandmother had an eye for art and she knew what she liked. It always came from her soul and not because the painter was famous or anything like that. In February 2018, before my grandmother passed away, she requested that I do something to express myself to the world because she knew that I am the kind of person who is still dreaming of things I want to do. So I started posting Instagram photos and also digital paintings and paintings on canvas.”

Not Real Art Grant winner Jessie Noguchi with Not Real Art Creator Sourdough Power
Not Real Art Grant winner Jessie Noguchi with Not Real Art Creator Sourdough Power

Noguchi isn’t comfortable with the term “artist,” as she’s not sure she’s earned the title if her style of art is still evolving. “It's funny,” she says with a nervous laugh, “the word ‘art’ or ‘artist’ kind of feels like something phony to me. Am I an artist? I love to hear you say, ‘artist,’ but am I?”

(For the record, we definitely think Noguchi is an artist.)

Noguchi grew up in a small town in Japan and knew early on that she “wanted to do something creative.” She studied classical piano as an early form of artistic expression. “The seeds were planted in a small town in Japan and they have grown little by little as my own world expanded inside me. Later in life, all the things I have done are like dots and those dots are connected.”

Artwork by Jessie Noguchi
Artwork by Jessie Noguchi

“I started off fearless because I had no idea what I was doing.”

Noguchi recalls her first trip to the art supply store. “I started off fearless because I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t even know what art supplies I should use. So I just went to the art supply store and literally didn't even ask the shop people. I just grabbed stuff and then started. Later, I did whatever felt good. Then I saw the same technique was used on social media by popular artists and I was like – Oh, I'm not that bad because I invented this technique by myself.”

Artist Jessie Noguchi
Artist Jessie Noguchi

On Winning the Not Real Art Grant

When asked what her reaction was when she learned that she’d won the Not Real Art Grant, Noguchi reflects on the personal statement she wrote on her application. “It was so full of anger. I was blown away when I went back and read it. My grandmother was fighting for her life. I actually quit my dream job and went back to Japan and decided to be with her until her last day. I started the painting and that was my outlet to express my anger or whatever, so to get some kind of acknowledgment was so important to me. It was so great. I couldn’t even believe it.”

On the Process

One of Noguchi’s influences is Frida Kahlo, “because her pain and realness talk to us.” When describing her process, Noguchi says that while she’s creating her paintings she’s “living inside a poem. I’m going back and telling the story, processing it like dialogue. You know…like going back to the last love or questioning where did it go? Then one creation leads to another creation. But I'm still questioning my creative processes as an artist, like a third person looking at myself.”

Artist Jessie Noguchi discussing her art.
Artist Jessie Noguchi discussing her art.

The Critical Voice Challenge

“I see these artists – they have a continuous theme, but I don't have that. That started to scare me. So I’m like – what am I doing? But the funny thing is, when I create something I really like, I don't care what other people say…I have to keep creating, to find out who I am.

“Some people give me advice…but then I feel like I shame about it like because I don't know what my style is. I’m still struggling to find it. But that's the whole process and that's okay.”

Noguchi’s website reads, “I believe in an art that challenges our way of seeing the world – by encouraging us to see beneath the facade of everyday life, and unsettling our traditional beliefs and common ways of thinking and doing.”

Artwork by Jessie Noguchi

“Be like water. Shapeless.”

When asked what she wants to say to the world with her art, Noguchi paraphrases Bruce Lee, “To be like water. Shapeless. And don’t shame about it, just be shapeless.”

The full quote reads, “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” –Bruce Lee

The Best Thing About Being an Artist

Noguchi’s resistance on being called an artist begins to temper or perhaps become shapeless as she concedes, “The best thing about being an artist is being crazy, but nobody says you're crazy…So all those years, I was thinking – why am I like this? And now, with this Not Real Art scholarship, people think I’m an artist. Really? Okay. Of course, I must be an artist. Because you know, I’m weird. And it’s okay now.”

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Katie Love

Katie Love's name matches her distinct style – she writes, performs, and creates from the heart. Katie is a Los Angeles-based writer-comedian, producer, and writing coach. She is the creator and host of “The Katie Love Show,” a live comedy talk show, and a producer on the new unscripted series, “Laugh Gallery,” for Not Real Art/Crewest Studios. She has written for the Los Angeles Times, Yahoo News, and is the author of the novel, “Cubicide,” and the memoir, “Two Tickets to Paradise, from Cult to Comedy.”