Jessica Libor is the director of Era Contemporary Gallery, showcasing imaginative, contemporary realism.
When did you first recognize your passion for the arts?
I first realized my passion for the arts when I was around five years old. I was holding a pencil in my hand and I was drawing while sitting on the blue carpet of my family's home. I just remember the delight in creating images on a piece of paper and knowing that I was going to be an artist. I have never wavered in my decision! Curating art through Era Contemporary Gallery is just another outlet of creativity. It allows me to celebrate the arts and help other artists see success, as well as bring community to the idea of being an artist, which can sometimes be lonely.
Were there any specific events that led you to your role as curator?
I began my role as curator while I was still in college. I created a "night of the arts" that ended up being me as the visual artist, a friend as a poet, and another friend who played the harp. We created this interesting blend of artistic expression at a local restaurant! It was super fun and I sold one of my first big paintings there. I continued to seek opportunities to curate while in college, and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts while getting my graduate degree, I was in charge of Gallery Eight, a student work gallery that put on rotating exhibitions curated from the student's artwork. I did that for a couple of semesters; it was really fun. Once I was out of school, I worked as a makeup artist for a while at a department store. I asked the manager if I would be able to display some art of my own and some friends at a table during the holidays. They loved the idea, and that was the first show for Era Contemporary! We've had over a dozen shows since then and things have steadily gotten more professional as I've invited more and more artists to participate and more and more people have heard about it. It's been an amazing journey thus far and I can't wait to see where it goes.
Era Contemporary has moved from brick and mortar exhibits to being a strictly
online platform. How do you feel about this transition and do you plan to keep it
I was disappointed when we had to move to strictly online because of the coronavirus. However, I believe that it actually ended up benefiting both the artists and collectors. Artists no longer had to ship the work, and collectors from all over the United States can attend our exhibitions virtually! Although we did lose some of the social aspect by not gathering in person, I really try to make up for that by scheduling live zoom receptions where people can come and talk to the artists and still feel like they have a connection to them. I feel like that's really important especially when you are thinking about investing in a piece; to understand the artist's vision and also get a sense of who they are. I'm not sure what the future holds, but for now we're going to continue doing online exhibitions with the possibility of physical shows again as the world opens up.
What do you feel is the ultimate purpose of art within our society?
The ultimate purpose of art within our society, to me, is to delight and uplift. However, Art can also be used to communicate a very specific message, even if that message is not a very pleasant one. Art is a reflection of the human experience and the human spirit. It reflects consciousness and humanity in a way that the chaos of nature does not, even though it is also beautiful. Art is different than nature's beauty in that it reflects a very specific viewpoint and vision of the world. I think that Art brings us together because through looking at art, we realize that we are all in this human experience together. Even though we may see things differently, we have the same fundamental experiences and that is something that is uniting.
Era contemporary leans towards imaginative and contemporary realism aesthetics. Are there specific kinds of qualities you look for in artists in deciding who you will showcase?
The specific qualities that I look for in artists when I exhibit them is a beautiful vision of the world, excellent craftsmanship, a "life" to the work that is hard to define, and also professionalism in communication and presentation. As a curator I do tend to lean towards work that is mysterious, fascinating, or magical, and I love marveling at the craftsmanship of an artist's work. That being said, I have certainly been moved to exhibit some works that do not fall within these criteria, so it all really depends on the vision of the artist!
The most rewarding thing about the curation process is seeing the show installed. It's an amazing experience to see everything working together, not unlike finishing a piece!
What do you find most challenging?
The most challenging thing about creating an exhibition is all the little logistics. Sending emails, making sure all the details are right, following up with the artist. It's a lot of administrative work! But, seeing it all comes together makes it all worth it.
Are there any areas of improvement artists should be aware of in terms of the
submission and exhibition process?
I think artists who are thinking about submitting should submit their best work, and also be friendly and professional. If your work isn't the right fit for a show, don't take it as a personal rejection, because your work might be right for the next show! Just continue refining your art and being friendly and positive. Also, having a clear artist statement and up-to-date professional website helps a lot so I can understand the context of your work.
Do you have future plans for Era Contemporary, beyond what it is today?
My future plans for Era Contemporary include growing the platform to include more artists, expanding the Era Contemporary Artist Prize, and possibly getting a physical location. I can't wait to see what the future holds! And for any artists interested, the Era Contemporary Artist Prize is open now and has a deadline of June 10. You can find all the info at eracontemporary.com!