Jesse Mockrin’s Artistic Enigma

A Tragedy in Two Parts

An Interview with Jesse Mockrin

In a recent artwork titled “for she died,” artist Jesse Mockrin reimagines Francesco Furini’s 1632 painting, “The Birth of Benjamin and the Death of Rachel.” The captivating aspect of this biblical scene lies in a seemingly inconspicuous gesture: a figure sewing up the fabric of a woman’s dress just moments before her death. Delving into the symbolism and historical context of this gesture, Mockrin discovers a possible allusion to a caesarian section procedure, accentuated by a man’s presence suggesting complications.

The nuanced exploration of this painting strikes a chord in the present era, where issues of women’s autonomy, the intervention of men, and the politics of belief, morality, and justice continue to unfold. Mockrin’s rendition of this scene at Art Basel Miami proves to be thought-provoking, inviting viewers to engage with the broader conversations we should have been having all along.

Unearthing Lost Elements in Renaissance and Baroque Paintings

Based in Los Angeles, Mockrin’s artworks transcend time and distance, drawing inspiration from renowned artworks of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. With a discerning eye, she zooms in, crops out, and fixates on specific elements that often get overshadowed by the theatrics and drama of the larger composition. Her canvases shed light on these forgotten aspects, urging us to reconsider and discuss their significance in our contemporary world.

Mockrin’s artworks courageously confront burning topics such as gender, power dynamics, violence, and sexuality. They serve as irresistible conversation starters, ripe for exploration at dinner parties. These topics resurface repeatedly, demanding our attention and questioning why we still grapple with them. Ultimately, Mockrin’s art poses a seemingly simple yet profound question: Who determines who lives and who dies based on the choices and consequences laid upon us by men?

An Insightful Conversation with Jesse Mockrin

Revisiting the Year and Momentous Achievements

Reflecting on the year that was 2022, Mockrin finds herself amazed by the compressed nature of time. It feels as though two years unfolded within a single year, with significant milestones blending together in a whirlwind. Among these achievements, Mockrin highlights her fourth solo show at Night Gallery in May, showcasing new moves and exciting developments in her paintings. Additionally, she excitedly announces her collaboration with James Cohan Gallery and her first participation in Art Basel with them—a promising new venture in New York. Amidst the chaos, Mockrin cherishes the consistent schooling of her two young boys, bringing a sense of stability to her life.

Influence of Motherhood on Art

The journey of motherhood has undoubtedly influenced Mockrin’s artistic perspective. It has shaped her notions of what is interesting and worth exploring. Surprisingly, it wasn’t until she became a mother herself that she found Madonna and Child images compelling, recognizing the inherent significance of the maternal bond. Moreover, observing her artworks through her children’s eyes has led to deeper reflections on the violent elements in her work. Sometimes, her kids express discomfort with certain depictions, highlighting the impact artists have on others’ perception and the responsibility that comes with it. These experiences have made Mockrin more aware of the impact her art has on the people around her.

A Personal Journey through Art History

Mockrin’s artistic process takes her on a journey through art history, delving into museums, books, and libraries to unearth visual inspiration. She relishes the excitement of visiting unfamiliar museums in different cities, expanding her exposure to diverse art collections. Her extensive exploration includes university art libraries and research in various locations. With a collection of inspiring images fueling her creativity, Mockrin distills their essence into small sketches, which later become the foundation for larger paintings or diptychs that form cohesive exhibitions. Her creative process involves meticulous planning, countless drawings, and carefully curated imagery.

Choosing Subject Matter and Inspirations

When it comes to selecting subject matter, Mockrin follows a meandering path guided by her instincts and aesthetic interests. Often, a single idea sparks her curiosity and leads her on a fascinating journey of exploration. For instance, her show centered around St. Sebastian at Night Gallery originated from her contemplation of Dutch still-life paintings. This initial spark ignited a profound fascination with the story of St. Sebastian. Mockrin’s interests are ever-evolving, and ideas that are put on hold may find their way back into her artistic repertoire when the time is right.

The Fascination with Mannerist Hands

One distinctive aspect of Mockrin’s work is her captivation with hands. In her artworks, hands play a central role, often serving as sources of gesture and expression. Mockrin appreciates the elegance and theatricality of hands portrayed in mannerist paintings, such as those by Bronzino and Rubens. Their linear figuration appeals to her aesthetic sensibilities, while the exaggerated visual language of the hands adds a touch of grotesqueness. She finds beauty in the delicate yet distorted nature of these hands, where elegance clashes with the loss of practical function. Hands, for Mockrin, symbolize the entire body and its significance within a painting, constituting a powerful means of communication.

Challenging Gender Stereotypes and Reclaiming Art History

Gender plays a pivotal role in Mockrin’s artwork, intentionally blurring the lines and defying traditional notions of masculinity and femininity. Her own experiences as a person with a unisex name inform her exploration of gender dynamics. Mockrin’s parents, influenced by the Civil Rights movement, gave their children unisex names to mitigate gender-based discrimination. This aspect of her personal history has shaped her perception of gender and provided a lens through which she contemplates alternative possibilities. In her artworks, she aims to dismantle the binary understanding of genders and embrace fluidity and individuality. By reclaiming art history from a feminist perspective, she sheds light on female characters often relegated to the periphery and explores their relevance in the contemporary world.

The Cyclical Nature of History

Engaging deeply with historical research, Mockrin recognizes the cyclicality of human experiences and the misconceptions surrounding the past. Contrary to popular belief, historical periods were not devoid of creativity, perversity, or complex gender dynamics—themes still prevalent in contemporary society. Furthermore, understanding the history of violence and struggles faced by women highlights the persistent battles over bodily autonomy, which continue to this day. Mockrin’s exploration of history both uplifts and saddens, drawing parallels between past and present while emphasizing the resilience of such struggles throughout time.


Jesse Mockrin’s artistry captivates viewers by shedding light on forgotten elements and narratives in iconic artworks. With a careful eye and a talent for reframing, she confronts gender, power, violence, and sexuality, sparking meaningful conversations. Through her thought-provoking reinterpretations, she urges us to reconsider existing narratives, question societal norms, and embrace individuality. By peering into historical moments and resurrecting marginalized characters, Mockrin reclaims art history from a feminist perspective and offers insight into the perennial struggles faced by women.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How did Jesse Mockrin’s personal experiences influence her exploration of gender in her artwork?

Jesse Mockrin’s personal background, including having a unisex name, has played a significant role in shaping her understanding of gender. Her parents’ intent to protect their children from gender-based discrimination heightened her awareness of the societal constructs surrounding gender. This awareness is reflected in her artworks, where she challenges traditional gender stereotypes and embraces fluidity and individuality.

2. What inspires Jesse Mockrin’s choice of subject matter?

Jesse Mockrin’s choice of subject matter emerges from a multifaceted process. She draws inspiration from various sources, including visits to museums, exploration of art books, and research in libraries. Mockrin’s keen eye and desire to highlight overlooked elements drive her towards specific figures, gestures, or themes in iconic paintings. This selection process involves personal interest, aesthetic preferences, and a commitment to reframing narratives.

3. How does Jesse Mockrin approach the depiction of hands in her artwork?

Jesse Mockrin’s fascination with hands is evident in her artworks, where they often occupy a central role. She appreciates the elegance and theatricality of mannerist paintings, which influence her portrayal of hands. Mockrin seeks to convey gestures and expressions through hands, believing they can encapsulate the essence of a painting and communicate its message. She explores the tension between elegance and grotesqueness, adding depth and complexity to her artworks.

4. What insights has Jesse Mockrin gained about history through her artistic endeavors?

Jesse Mockrin’s artistic exploration of history has challenged common misconceptions and shed light on the cyclical nature of human experiences. She emphasizes that societies throughout history exhibited creativity, perversity, and complex gender dynamics. Mockrin’s journey into history highlights the struggles faced by women, particularly regarding their bodily autonomy. By examining historical events and narratives, she aims to provoke thought and create connections between the past and present.

5. How does Jesse Mockrin’s artwork contribute to the dialogue surrounding gender, power, and violence?

Jesse Mockrin’s artwork serves as a catalyst for conversations about gender, power dynamics, and violence. By reframing historical narratives and focusing on marginalized characters, she challenges conventional perspectives and sheds light on important social issues. Her intention is to empower viewers to question societal norms, consider alternative interpretations, and appreciate the resilience demonstrated by those who have battled gender-related struggles throughout history.