When the perfect piece for the entrance hall can’t be found, what’s a budding artist to do? Create it herself, of course.
This was the conundrum Jessica Jesse found herself in upon her family’s return to Dallas from San Francisco in 2008.
“We started remodeling, and our foyer had very high ceilings,” she recalls. “I’ve always liked fashion, and flowers are a hobby and passion of mine. I thought, ‘What if I could start a sculpture with flowers?’”
“When Pure Sculpture wanted to launch my work and do a catalog, I realized these women had a voice other than mine,” Jesse says.
Her natural insomnia helped with inspiration, as nights formerly spent reading or watching TV were now devoted to taking fabric flowers apart to glue them into intricate patterns on a female mannequin. The life-size result was striking enough that visitors to her home started to encourage her to create more blooming beauties to share with the world.
Jesse found a source for vintage mannequins in San Francisco and spent hours working with silk posies, often applying each petal by hand. Her experience as a former fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus helped her narrow her color scheme for each piece to subtle variations on the same hue.
Soon, her collection of “floral grand dames” was taking on a life of their own.
“When Pure Sculpture wanted to launch my work and do a catalog, I realized these women had a voice other than mine,” Jesse says. “I thought I would see which sculpture would fit each real woman I knew.”
Jesse approached 10 notable men — among them Oldham, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Neiman Marcus fashion director Ken Downing — and chose one of her sculptures to represent a woman in each of their lives. She encouraged them to share narratives that would reflect each subject’s passion and spirit for the Women of Importance catalog, a process that took nearly three years to complete.
The results are “light, but with a lot of feelings.” Some subjects wrote emotional tributes to wives, mothers or daughters. Renowned chef Michael Chiarello simply submitted his grandmother’s tomato sauce recipe.
The one-night-only Women of Importance reception showcases her creations in the Gene and Jerry Jones Great Hall of the Meadows Museum. Jesse hopes to find a home for the few ladies who aren’t yet sold, but she’s also looking forward to her next series of sculptures inspired by the very fabric of her favorite cities.
“I’m going completely in the opposite direction and doing women made of trash from major cities around the world,” Jesse says. “I’ve got people collecting non-organic material from Tokyo, London, Mexico City, San Francisco and, of course, Dallas.”
The Women of Importance cocktail reception is Friday, October 12, 6 to 8 pm, at the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University.