Happy Pride

Happy Pride to my LGBTQIA family and and friends. I want to thank all of you who have talked to me about my journey, helped me find my place, and continue to love me as I figure it out. Back in my early teens I knew I was different, not sure how but I knew. I was raised a boy, and while I did the boy stuff I never felt a part of the team, so to speak. I have always been attracted to women but more so to empathy, compassion, creativity, and inner beauty. That manifests in all genders and identities.

I’ve been a chameleon my entire life, from the time I was a kid. Changing my hair, style, and appearances was part of my way of always being a fluid person. I had crushes on a million people in my day but never felt confident or worthy. Though I’m 6’2” 240 pounds, I’m feel like a skinny little person who is not at all noticeable. I always was afraid of guys and was brutalized by them, physically and mentally. Called fag and homo, weirdo and freak. Assaulted and manipulated. I hated myself for even trying to be apart of their thing.

In college, the first time, I was a 20 year old freshman at a university in Ohio. I tried to find a place amongst the student Christian group but it was a horrific thing so I wandered into the Gay and Lesbian student union, as it was called then. I befriended a bunch of people who just accepted me but I was conflicted having grown up in a very conservative Christian home. I loved those friends and they began to help me find me.

I transferred into a small Christian school in PA and found myself an alien amongst the saints. I believed but with a clearly stated doubt and I featured towards those people who challenged the system. The renegades, activists, musicians, artists and the queer folks that were under the radar.I wasn’t bold enough or educated enough to know what queer was yet but I knew I felt more like them than I did like the straight Christian crew.

I spent the next few years of trial and error between Philly, Cleveland, and New Jersey. I was an addict, an alcoholic and I kept my heavier issues hidden, often going out of town to score or keeping it well out of the eyesight of even my closest friends.

I married a woman I 2002 and served in ministry as a pastor. I worked in music and wrote for publications. I was doing a lot of great stuff but I was also still sick in my addictions but also aware of my queerness but unclear of how I would define it. The next 13 years I was a husband, a mentor, a friend, and a hopeless alcoholic. While I kicked the drugs pretty much out I was a drunk. I also was dying to breathe in the air of my own truth.

It wasn’t until I was divorced, sober, and no longer a Christian that I began to find myself and my queerness. I was embarrassed to be 40 and finally able to be the person I’ve always been. After a dark period in which I did try to end my life, I came out as pansexual and gender non-conforming, though queer seemed more easy as I still find myself fluid despite my masculine appearance. I have never felt I was male but also was not female. I live and breathe in the grey, which was why I used to say I’m just an alien. It’s where I am but it’s who I am. I am still attracted to women fir the most part mainly because I have had horrible experiences with men throughout my life. It’s just that simple. I still find good hearts the best. I’m still growing, so thank you.

10 Questions with Jesse Herzfeld

In this series I ask artist, poets, and other creators 10 questions about how they’ve maintained creativity and sanity during the past year of chaos and isolation. 

10 Questions With Jesse Herzfeld (Writer/Poet/Creator) – Cleveland, Ohio

1. How are you doing after a year of Covid-19?

It’s been a tough year. The pandemic started toward the end of my first solo exhibition and I got sick around that time,which was before testing was widely available. I still haven’t fully recovered but I’m finally able to take deep breaths again. I just had my second dose of the Covidvaccine a few days ago so I’m beginning to feel a bit more hopeful.

2. What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a bunch of things. My visual adaptation of Rimbaud’s Illuminations is an ongoing project and I’ve been making a lot of smaller works that focus on certain sections and characters from my larger compositions. These smaller mixed-media works were pretty popular at my show so I wanted to create more of them and put them up on my website shop. I’ve also completed some pet portrait commissions recently including my first double pup portrait. Mainly, I’ve been working on a book of visual poetry about my personal journey as a psychiatric survivor. It’s nearing completion and I’m excited to let it loose upon the world. I have a few other things in the works that will remain secret for now.

3. How has the pandemic affected your creative output?

Health issues have slowed me down some but also made me more determined to complete things.

4. What has kept you motivated during the last several months?

As I continue to recover and I have more energy I get excited to be able to put more time toward reaching my creative goals. I have been making a lot of progress with my book of visual poetry and I think there is a sort of adrenaline that kicks in when I’m nearing the finish line of a project that has been a few years in the making.

5. What have you been listening to, watching or reading?

I listen to a lot of lectures while I’m drawing. Alan Watts is always a favorite. I also like listening to David Graeber, Camille Paglia and Mary Beard. I’ve been reading Amanda Palmer’s book, “The Art of Asking” and “Aion” by Carl Jung. The best things I’ve watched on Netlifx are “The Dark Crystal” by the Jim Henson Co., the art documentary about Stanislaw Sokolowski called “Struggle” and “My Octopus Teacher”. The new Adam Curtis series “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” is also really fascinating and available for free on youtube.


6. Do you have plans for when things begin to open back up?

I’d like to travel with my partner. We were planning a trip but that has been put on hold. Since I’m a solitary artist with a home studio I feel fortunate that my day-to-day activities weren’t greatly affected, but I do miss going to the theater and concerts and visiting with family and friends indoors.

7. Have you spent the pandemic isolated or have you tried to stay connected to other creatives remotely?

Both. I work best in seclusion but I try to stay connected to my creative friends. Since I went to art school in Philly and also in London (where I was the only American in my program), my artist friends are spread all around the world. I love that the digital realm allows me to keep up with what everyone is working on.

8. Has the last year helped you venture into new creative areas?

No, I’ve still been plugging along on the same projects but without the distraction of social obligations.

9. What would you say the biggest lesson you learned during the past year?

Appreciate breathing.

10. How do you think your creative community will look once things start to open back up and things start to get more normal again?

In some ways, it will look the same because so much of it is a remote community. In terms of my local creative community, I think a lot of people have done really interesting creative work during lockdown and there will probably be some great exhibitions and poetry readings once things are back to normal.

Bio:
Across a variety of forms and mediums, artist Jessie Herzfeld explores dreams, desire, and the fantastic. Inspired by music, nature, literature, and Medieval art. Jessie’s work often contains animal imagery, surreal creatures and unusual landscapes. She works in oil paint, watercolor, charcoal, markers, photography, sculpture, and hair.

Her current work is a visual translation of the poems in Arthur Rimbaud’s Les Illuminations and can be viewed at http://www.JessieHerzfeld.com. She uses a mixed media process combining traditional materials with non-traditional media to create visionary collages that capture the moods, symbolic themes, and lyrical quality of Rimbaud’s words.

She also has a pet portrait business called Modern Tail Studios. To learn more and see samples of her unique style of animal portraiture visit www.moderntailstudios.com.

Jessie holds a BFA from The University of Pennsylvania in coordination with The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and a Master of Arts in Illustration from CamberwellCollege of Arts in London. She has experience with commissions and freelance as well as teaching art classes, and she welcomes further opportunities to be involved with arts education and nurturing creativity.