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Jessica McBride

Jessica McBride
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“Art is very personal to me,” said the reserved McBride about discussing her work. “You’re sharing a part of yourself with others.”

by David Gonzo Gonzalez

DSC_0026As I entered the Harlingen downtown art gallery for my interview with artist Jessica Salazar McBride, her reticent behavior was apparent to me almost immediately. Perhaps it was because I had arrived an hour sooner than expected, but I felt it advantageous in that it gave me an opportunity to get a ‘real’ feel for this Alamo, Texas native and her work.

Fortunately for me, we would be the only two people in gallery early that afternoon, and I was thrilled with the thought of being able to discuss McBride’s art with her without too much distraction. Later, as she relaxed and grew more comfortable with my presence in the gallery, she explained her initial reaction.

“Art is very personal to me,” said the reserved McBride about discussing her work. “You’re sharing a part of yourself with others.”

Perusing the gallery, my eyes were immediately drawn to two pieces that just so happen to be McBride’s “The Healing hand 1” and “The Energy Healer”. Both were created from paper maché and were cloaked in such exuberant color and intricate design that they forced my eyes to appreciate them (even before I knew they were in her collection).

Though both pieces were displayed in close proximity to one another, the two remained uniquely different but were both created from the artist’s own type of paper maché, a medium that McBride refers to as her “Canvas”.

The large amount of color and detail that McBride used in the two pieces helped radiate the energy that the artist was attempting to capture and both symbolized what the artist described as, “the power of the human touch”.

McBride’s next creation was titled, “La pasión del amor es eterno”, and the artist characterized it as “representing the burning fire within each of us.”


Looking at the different collections the artist had produced, I noticed some reoccurring themes in Jessica’s art which where unique to her and her alone.

It is obvious that McBride’s work is influenced by her family, Mexican-American upbringing, and occassionally her pets. Her use of paper maché hold with the traditions of Mexican folk art yet have a modern day touch to them and is what separates McBride from many other artists.

There is a lot of what I like to call, a ‘Dia de los Muertos-type darkness to particular parts of her collection, in which McBride exposes her Valley roots.

Even while particular pieces have an air of “darkness” to them, her art is particularly delightful and has an aspect of happiness to it, as well.

An example which highlights this underlying element in her work is McBride’s “The Seasons”. This collection consisted of four individually decorated “skull” masks, complete with full-sized teeth (which the innovative artist makes herself) and color schemes that represented each season. Though the masks seemed to represent death, they all appeared to be smiling.

My favorite piece in McBride’s collection was her “Andando con mi perrito (Goldie)”.

The work depicts two small paper maché figures, one a finely dressed human skeleton holding a leash and walking the second figure, a dog skeleton who wears a collar that suggests its name.

McBride describes the piece as homage to her grandfather whom she always remembered as a man that took pride in how he dressed and carried himself. The “sense of pride” was something that she believes was unique to the people of his generation and upbringing.

The dog represented was a favorite pet of hers that passed away named ‘Goldie’, which is apparent as the dog wears a collar bearing the name.

Like McBride, some of the work may seem introverted and cultural, but when more time is appropriated to either of them, light and love shine through as bright as the colors that she uses in her work.

As the interview progressed, my admiration of her talent grew, and the more comfortable she seemed to be discussing her work. McBride is a very passionate and innovative artist that the Valley can proudly claim as one of their own.

Leaving the gallery with the realization that her art reflected who she was, I began to think of how we had come from the same place. If her work was, indeed, a reflection of who she was, and who she was was a refection of where she came from, her art (in some strange way) was a reflection of me and the beautiful Valley background we shared.

Knowing that, I smiled, because her work, like the Valley, is beautiful.


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