I have known Jessica Cannon now for nearly two and a half years. We met through instagram, which is the lightning rod for image based culture and the social community that revolves around it. I loved the way Jes painted landscapes, untethered as if everything might turn into snow, or as if mutated by memory gazing into ethereal futures. Jes’ paintings repackage paradox as an easy-chair for sublime reclining. In any case I reached out to her immediately after thumbing through her feed. We began collaborating in the spring/summer of 2016 and will open an exhibition at Not Gallery in Austin, TX February 23rd.
We’re very excited, but that’s not what I’m writing about now. The collaborative dialogue with Jes has been colored by many shifts. This past year was aloft on new wrinkles of closure in the fickle draperies that mediate the light of our reality. It is in the dim light of the Cheeto dust that Jes decided to do something she’d never done before. I asked Jes if she’d be interested in a dialogue about her ventures into the philanthropic realm and she was.
JAW: Jes how would you describe Far X Wide and what was your initial motivation?
JC: Far x Wide is a monthly series of art benefits presented through the web, instagram, and sometimes in pop-up spaces. Each month’s selection features a group of artists organized around a particular theme. There is a short text that accompanies each grouping and any sales are split 50% to the artist and 50% to a social or environmental justice organization.
The idea for Far x Wide came out of a few things that were going on last year. First I saw quite a few artists independently offering works for sale to support organizations they cared about. I had some success selling an open edition block print for the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center, and wanted to make that a more regular thing. Then when the hurricanes hit last fall I wanted to put together a benefit to help but didn’t have a physical space where that would work. I started thinking about doing something online, and was interested in how without the constraints of a physical space it could happen more often and we could quickly respond to things as they came up. For example, our benefit for Earth Justice happened right after renewed threats of offshore drilling and a reduction in protected National Park lands. The last thing that went into Far x Wide was seeing the amazing things going on in artists’ studios and wanting to share that work and write about it.
JAW: I feel like you’ve really done a great job of combining compassion and compulsion. Ring of Fire is the most recent exhibition with contributions going to Earth Justice, how do you go about choosing different causes to contribute toward? Further, how much do the curatorial parameters of each selection dialogue with the artists whose works you choose? I’m also wondering to what length you’re satisfying personal curatorial visions? I’m really enjoying some of these groupings and am continually surprised by the artists whose works I’ve never seen.
JC: Thanks! I’m glad you’re enjoying them and being introduced to new artists through Far x Wide. I usually choose the orgs with the artists that are included each month. There are some exceptions, like when the hurricanes hit, or if there’s something I’ve really wanted to support, I’ll put that out as an option to the group. I usually try to switch back and forth between higher visibility organizations and those working more locally. Each month’s selection of artists and artworks depends on a theme, so it follows a logic similar to curating, but the online selections feel somewhat looser and faster than projects where I’ve curated in physical spaces. Also once I know which artists are contributing and which works will be included, the theme evolves from there and takes me in directions I wouldn’t have necessarily gone on my own.
JAW: I would imagine that there might be certain works that emerge in the setting of the group that feel like swing votes or tide turners for thematic direction. Was there a particular work or submission that you received in this month’s group that might have manifested theme? Perhaps it’s not so specific. I’m also curious to know if this month’s theme and cause are related?
JC: I’ll generally reach out to artists with a theme in mind to see if it’s something that feels like a good fit. Once works start coming in the theme will evolve and that’s always really exciting. I love having those conversations and getting a chance to learn more about artists whose work I admire. The organizations we support are independent of the theme that’s explored each month, though I’m open to bringing the two together sometime.
JAW: Aside from the obvious answer which is instagram, I’m wondering about where you’re finding artists? Do your selections fall along lines of actual acquaintance or are they completely open sourced? How do you see the process of selection or solicitation evolving as the project progresses?
JC: I try to get out to shows and studios as much as I can. I’ve had a few artists ask about submitting so that’s something I’m thinking about in the future. I’d also love to invite guest presenters to put together their own selections and benefits.
JAW: In a similar vein I’m wondering whether or not there are promotional devices at play beyond instagram? And I suppose that question begs another which is how long do you anticipate keeping this up as a monthly regimen?
JC: Each group is shared on instagram and through an email list from the website. I’m currently working on ways we can get the word out through the organizations too. Far x Wide is still so new and I’m learning as we go so it’s helpful to have monthly selections to keep the momentum going. As time goes on maybe there will be another model that works better, but for now once a month feels good.
JAW: Is there an impactful moment or inspiring experience you might share relating to correspondence or your experience in general related to the project?
JC: I think the most impactful experience so far is how generous all of the artists have been in offering work and supporting the idea. I’m constantly blown away by their contributions.
JAW: Would you be willing to share the theme for next month’s selection?
JC: Sure! The March selection is Beer, Soda, Cigarettes, and Lampshades. The title came from a highway sign I photographed near where I grew up. It will include works that have some kind of poetic juxtaposition in them, as well as works that feature objects that inhabit or are inhabited by our interior spaces. 50% of all sales from the March selection will go to PEN America’s Prison Writing Program.