Catching All the Artistic Opportunities: Jessilee Hari

Jessilee Hari in her art studio, various paintings and collage on the wall behind her

Besides family and a career as a logistics specialist in the Air Force, Hari works across both visual and performing arts fields. You can also catch her catching Pokemon in downtown Fayetteville on Community Pokemon Go! Days.

I was born with a natural drive to create art. I began with doodles, which turned into painting murals on my bedroom walls. That drove me to create completed works of art. I am skilled in modeling clay, pottery, drawing, painting, vocal arts, and performance arts. I attended Mississippi School of the Arts, a high school for artistically gifted kids, where I found out I could compete vocally. I sang at Carnegie Hall in NY and performed John Rutter’s “Requiem” with our choir. I also fell in love with dance: I created my own choreography for a show. In the visual arts, I was awarded the highest accolades for my portfolio in MS. I put on my own show and fell in love with displaying my works. Years later I put on a second show held in Memphis, TN and am now currently in the works for my third show to be held here in Fayetteville.

Put your voice in your art and you will find gratification in your work.

Jessilee Hari

Favorite Local Third Place: I have to admit, I am stuck on Latitude 35’s shrimp tacos with sweet potato fries. I crave them. So, I like to take my out of town family and friends there to enjoy the patio seating. I have been to a few events there, one of which was with the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County. I have had art discussion meet ups on the patio as well. I love it. It is a wonderful place to sit down for a discussion and a meal with a breeze on your face and a cold one to sip on. The staff is friendly, and the establishment has a family feel to it, as if they genuinely appreciate you coming to dine.

3 Things you can’t live without: Standup comedy. I LOVE to laugh, and many nights I fall asleep watching Dry Bar Comedy videos online. I feel like laughter is a medicine of its own. Just a few laughs every day keeps me feeling positive. It is so easy to get caught up in all the negative parts of life right now. 

Cereal. It is its own food group in my home.

Outdoor experiences. Camping, canoeing, rock climbing, hiking, tree climbing, inline skating, biking, sky watching, rainstorms, stone skipping on lakes, fishing, etc. All of it. Many of my most nostalgic memories are from the outdoor moments in my life. Being outside inspires me to really take in life in the moment. It inspires me to create.

Local artist (any genre) you admire: I have fortunately had the opportunity to meet several local artists. One of my favorite local artists was a woman I met through the Cool Spring Downtown Street Busker program. I wish so badly I could remember her name. Fortunately, I can’t forget her performance. Her confidence in her art form was striking and mesmerizing. Belly dancing is so physically demanding. She had the moves and security in her own talent to perform in front of hundreds of people both on the street and at local events. She was a beautiful soul. 

A practice you’ve started during quarantine that you plan to continue: I have begun illustrated journaling. Covid-19 has completely changed the way I live my life. With all the added stressors, I needed a cathartic outlet I could pick up and put down with no associated time limit. I found illustrated journaling to be an important part of stress relief in that the images do not need to be planned out or utilize any formal techniques like I would with a painting. The images also flow freely from my mind like words would for a writer. I began my artistic journey with graphite #2 pencils and pens in the classroom. Going back to that baseline feels like a blast from the past.  I forgot how much I love to draw. I usually utilize painting as an outlet, so I like to incorporate mixed media in the journal illustrations: graphite, tea, pen, or watercolors. 

What is one of your current artistic experiments? I love to experiment with new media. Right now, I am experimenting with adhesives and glass. I am only using the glass as the material to create the images on. I am using adhesives to create textures and translucent imagery. I am enjoying this form of experimentation quite a bit. It feels like a problem to solve since I am learning the capabilities of each adhesive. I love mixed media. 

To give an example, I used a glass pane as my canvas. I used color pigment in an adhesive to create solid color marks on the glass. Then I filled in areas with a clear adhesive and strategically implanted pigments into it to leave the translucent effect. My favorite objective for mixed media is creating art that makes onlookers want to touch it. 

Who is someone who encouraged or championed your art work? Out of all my mentors over the years, there has always been one constant supporter of my art: my Father. I have had art instructors when I was a teen, admirers in my friends, but no one who has ever believed in me more than my Dad. If he could, he would buy every piece of art I ever create or commission me to create works for his home. I have a completely biased supporter, but he has encouraged me to pursue my artistic interests over anything else due to the intrinsic rewards I get from them.  He would say “you can work any job to get money; why not be in a career that doesn’t feel like work?” He always seemed to have all the right words to say. My Father put many miles on his vehicle transporting me back and forth from his home to Mississippi School of the Arts. He encouraged me to attend their program there, for which I lived on campus for 2 years. I have not had formal training beyond those 2 years, but they impacted my entire view of what art means. If it were not for my Father, I would have never had that opportunity in my life. 

What advice would you give to new/younger/less experienced artists in your genre? Don’t feel like art is a competition of skill, but rather a journey to self-discovery. No, seriously.  So many people criticize the definition of art, trying to fit it into one description or another. “That’s not Art; that’s a craft” or “That’s not Art; I could do that if I felt like it”. Lose the labels and ditch the unnecessary censorship. Your art is just that. I used to strive for perfection in my drawings. For a little while, I thought my art was poor quality because I was not creating hyper-realistic images. Then I remembered the reason I first picked up the brush in the first place. The process of creating was more important than the result. What ended up on the paper or canvas was my voice. Put your voice in your art and you will find gratification in your work.

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