Jessica Ruggieri

Revealing the Extraordinary Through the Ordinary

“Matryoshka,” oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches.

6-hour Grisaille Paintings, oil on canvas, 12 x 12 inches.

L–R “Gladiator in arena consilium capit,” “Aqueducts,” “Naturalny.”


Artist Statement

In my studio art thesis, my aspiration is to reveal the unexpected realities I see when I marvel at objects in the natural world. Through intense visual examination, I have found that a single object can reveal a multitude of information: distortions, reflections, patterns, and even combinations of designs. I use the canvas and oil paint to record and communicate these realities through quick grisaille sketches and long paintings executed in color. As a language enthusiast who is double majoring in Art and Russian, the objects I paint have a special connection to my history of language learning; each one documents this experience from the past to the present.

I am inspired by artists such as contemporary realist painter, Nelson Shanks, and ethnomusicologist and composer, Bela Bartok. I admire Shanks’ idea that life itself can provide an artist with infinite information. I have also applied to my own paintings Shanks’s bold color palette and his process of direct painting in grisaille style on a grey-toned canvas. This bold use of color and method of direct painting has allowed me to thoughtfully capture the colorful illusions of reality and quickly record the peculiar forms I see in the natural world. In addition to Shanks, I appreciate Bartok’s musical compositions. Bartok travelled throughout Eastern Eurasia and the Mediterranean recording groups of folk singers. Later, he composed music that combined non-western folk melodies with the conventions of western classical music. This idea of combination has also influenced my paintings. I pull objects from different sources and transform them into something unique.

In my work, “Matryoshka,” I have unleashed this idea of combination by zooming into an ordinary Russian nesting doll. I replicate the folk art flowers painted on the doll, while also capturing a landscape and self-portrait reflected on its surface. This also conveys the idea that nature can provide an infinite source of information. Taking a nesting doll outdoors to a train station has revealed more than what meets the eye: distortions, reflections and patterns. The reflections of the pavilion, the train, and the pavement curve into planes that frame the head of the doll. My reflection warps in the center. The glass table that the doll rests on is almost transformed into a pattern of clouds. All of these forms take place within nature.

I personally find it miraculous that the natural world can provide more information than what is typically assumed. Society today is often distanced from nature; as modern-day living is fast-paced and requires the ability to quickly absorb and interpret information in large quantities. The use of technology is becoming more apparent as well. My paintings deviate from this fast flow, by slowing down and finding meaning in what is unnoticed. Painting from life has allowed me to stop and perceive what is extraordinary through the ordinary. My work evokes the viewer to take a second glance at what reality has to offer them within the means of an object. 


Painting Progression of “Matryoshka,” oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches.


“Toy Arch of Constantine,” oil on mixed media paper, 9 x 12 inches. L-R grisaille sketch, finished painting.


“Pysanka,” oil on canvas, 24 x 30 inches.

About the Egg Designs

The various designs depicted on this egg are Ukrainian and have ancient symbolic meaning. Triangles represent trinities. For example, in pre-Christian times it was air, fire, and wind. In Christian times it represents God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Crosses signify Christ. In general, diamonds represent knowledge, and curls inside of smaller diamonds serve as a source of protection. Waves are a symbol of life, in particular they represent good crops and agriculture. Nets signify wisdom, and unending bands of lines represent eternity.

The colors used within the designs also have significant meaning. Red is one of the oldest colors used in Ukrainian egg decorating. It symbolizes passion, happiness, hope, and the sun. Orange has many meanings as well: strength, endurance, and the eternal sun. Black represents eternity and darkness before dawn. White is a symbol of purity.