Gallery Review: NYC-based artist blurs the line between fairy tale and reality

The Texas stars dotting the sky glimmered down on young Jessica Boehman in the observatory near her house, sparking her love of nature.

The pull of Boehman’s personal connection to the earth from her life in New York underlies her autobiographical collection currently showing in the Eide/Dalrymple Gallery.

Stories I Tell Myself, a series of lyrical drawings and paintings by Jessica Boehman, connects the artist’s life with 19th century fairy tales for a relatable, meditative mood.  

“You have the sense of the care and the craft of the individual line work,” director of the gallery, Lindsay Twa said, “and the compositions move organically and elegantly to draw you around and through the composition.”

Boehman said her love of nature stemmed from her childhood. Just as the Texas night sky did, she said living in Germany and Virginia between the ages of seven and ten tied her especially to the woods.

“This is me.” Boehman said. “I feel like myself when I’m out amongst these trees.”

After moving to New York, Boehman searched for the natural connection she felt as a child but found the feeling elusive amongst the city streets.

“Bedtime Stories” from the gallery section Stories I Tell Myself depicts classic fairytale characters hibernating from the cold outside in cozy nooks lit by stars. Boehman said this piece comforts her from the wall of her New York bedroom.

In 2013, Boehman moved to Queens, New York, where she said greenspace is rare.

“I started to feel this really deep longing for the earth.” Boehman said. “I’m this nature girl.”

The similarly titled collection Stories the World Tells Me is a group of natural and plein-air watercolor paintings Boehman said she used to spark her creativity and reconnect with nature.

Boehman’s book “The Lions at Night,” which will be released Mar. 26, is based on the iconic lion sculptures, Patience and Fortitude, who guard the New York Public Library. In the book, the lions travel to Coney Island to experience strange sights Boehman said she saw herself.

The Lions at Night
Illustrations from Boehman’s book “The Lions at Night.” Pieces by Jessica Boehman.

For instance, in the painting, “The Lions at Night: Luna Park Parade, a skateboarding dog in a red jacket slides past Boehman’s nephews and mother.

Boehman marveled how people in other areas of the city rarely look up even at the strangest sights, but at Coney Island, she said people react differently.

The vibrant yellow, red, green and blue in the drawing symbolize the people of Coney Island seeing the lions as they are.

“I thought the Lions would fit in with everybody else there.” Boehman said. “People would see them, but they would expect them just as they are.”

Stories I Have Been Told, the fourth section of Boehman’s art, illustrates universal themes and characters from fairytales.

“Behind some of these images that do look so playful or so cheerful as fairy tales, sort of like the Grimm’s, there’s this dark, powerful underlying story about how people suffer and about how you work to still overcome the things that life throws your way,” Twa said.

“February,” colored pencil and pencil. Piece by Jessica Boehman.

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