By Gina Malone
Jacqui Fehl will say that she is not a word person, but accompanying her mixed media works are some highly imaginative and evocative titles: The Unconventional Education of P; Birds of a Feather Have Tea Together, Except for Tilly Who Wasn’t Invited; The Exquisite Seduction of Rose.
“Titles are very important to me,” Fehl says, “as I believe they help tell the story. Well, actually only part of the story. I ask the viewer to fill in the blanks, so basically we are co-creating the full story and it will be different every time, depending on who is viewing the piece and what they are bringing to the table.”
If she painted a still life of a red vase, she adds, it would never be called Red Vase. “I’m more interested in the story of the red vase. So maybe I would title it The Night Before. Now it is up to the viewer to complete the scene.”
Her pieces combine layers, texture, line and, often, text. “As I add,” she says, “I also like to subtract by wiping away or sanding.”
Mediums include acrylic paint, graphite, pastels, crayons, paint markers, inks, oil sticks and paint and cold wax. She incorporates book pages, papers and photos into the works. “I work fairly intuitively with, perhaps, just a loose idea for subject matter; I try to let what I discover in the layers dictate what the painting will become.”
Although the arts have swirled around her all of her life, she has only been painting for six years. She loved to draw as a child growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. There, her stepfather would take her to the Art Institute of Chicago and point out works by artists such as Picasso to her, asking her what she saw in the painting. Her favorite things to draw in those days were princesses. She recalls his saying, “Now take this sketchbook and make a Picasso Princess. He would advise her not to copy Picasso but to create a princess of her own in the style of the artist. “And so it went,” she says, “with Monet, Renoir, Klee, Chagall.”
She dropped out of an art class later, she says, because of a bullying group of older girls. By the time she graduated from the University of Iowa, she had found a new passion— acting—and packed up and headed for Hollywood where she talked her way into a job as an assistant at a Beverly Hills talent agency. Work followed as a stand-in, a voiceover actress and a dialogue coach for child actors on sitcoms.
In 1998, with the advance of technology, she was able to leave Los Angeles, after having married there, and take her voice-over work to a home studio in South Asheville where she and her husband, Alec, have lived since. Their daughter, Haylie, is a pre-med student at UNC-Chapel Hill.
“I love giving life to scripts and characters,” Fehl says, “but I was always reading someone else’s words. Where was my voice?” She found it, she adds, when she picked up a paintbrush.
Now, besides the voice-over booth, Fehl also has an art studio in her home. “I have a large space with an abundance of natural light from a wall of windows.” Her rescue dogs, Ozwald and Bean, divide time between frolicking outdoors and sleeping under her easel. “A work day usually and ideally, depending on weather, begins with coffee and a dog walk,” she says. “After breakfast, I record auditions, answer email and spend too much time on social media. I usually start to paint around 1:00.”
Different days, she says, bring different inspirations. She is most satisfied with works of hers that, without planning at all, “just sort of happened.” She works one afternoon a week at Mark Bettis Studio & Gallery in the River Arts District where some of her work is displayed and where, she says, she can “eavesdrop” on what people say about her artwork as they roam about the studio.
She hopes that she will hear words that she herself uses to describe her paintings. “I would say I border on grungy and whimsical,” she says. “I have a love/hate relationship with whimsy. We are working on a compromise.”
Find Jacqui Fehl’s work at jacquifehl.com, on Instagram @jacquifehl and on Facebook at Jacqui Fehl Art. Galleries showing her work include Woolworth Walk at 25 Haywood Street in Asheville, Oak and Axe in Campbellsville, KY and Taupe Gallery in North Wilkesboro. Her funky bird art is displayed for sale at Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack South in Arden. A September exhibit, Inspiration, including her work, will be held at Mark Bettis Studio & Gallery, and she and Bettis will hold a duo show later this year at District Wine Bar.