We had the good fortune of connecting with Jenelle Esparza and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jenelle, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
The work/life balance is tricky in the arts because artists often have a full and/ or part-time job along side the art practice. And both are absolutely necessary to live, and one sustains the other. The balance is scheduling enough time for a meaningful studio practice while maintaining the day job. I’m sure everyone differs in how they balance them out.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My direction towards a career in the arts was intuitive rather than planned out. I had always been creative, and I enjoyed making art as a young person. My father was the artist in the family as was my maternal grandma. I would watch my dad make charcoal drawings of us as kids, and he taught me how to use his 35mm camera in high school. My grandma taught me how to sew and embroider when I was 8, and I loved it. I used to help her with her quilts and sewing projects and I always considered that an important skill. I didn’t realize I could get a degree in art until I started community college classes after several years of cooking in various restaurants as a line cook after high school. There was a strange pull towards studio art that I leaned into, and I really loved learning each of the different processes and techniques to image-making. Eventually I developed a practice and a voice of my own, and I’m still learning, growing, receiving, and giving back artistically. I’m proud of my persistence thus far, and I can’t even be mad at the struggles. It’s a blessing to be able to create art and I appreciate that gift every day.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Check out the exhibitions and events at Presa House Gallery, we have new shows every month. Ruby City, the McNay, and SAMA are wonderful museums with incredible collections, but also Un Grito Gallery, Not For You Gallery, and Flight Gallery, are just a few of the many awesome and unique artist-run art spaces in the city. Cascabel is a great place to eat, and Viva Vegeria is a great veggie option. I love walking near Espada and the missions; The Modernist is a great spot for a fancy cocktail; The Lighthouse Lounge is the best neighborhood watering hole with great music and even better vibes. The annual conjunto festival is always a blast, and check out all the public artwork along San Pedro Creek.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’m fortunate to have been uplifted by many along my endeavors, but I owe a great deal of gratitude to my partner, Rigo Luna, whose support means a lot to me. He’s the most dependable, thoughtful, strong, loving, and supportive presence in my life every day and he sets a great example for hard work and dedication. Dr. Jeffreen Hayes, Executive Director of Threewalls in Chicago, is another who deserves a shoutout. She has a unique practice of searching in the margins and supporting those who are ready for the opportunities around them. Her support spurred so much growth in my practice and I’m very grateful to her for that.
04_SeepAneDancer : Image by Charlie Kitchen for Artpace 2018. Courtesy of the artist. All other images, including the headshot, are by Jenelle Esparza, courtesy of the artist.