I believe that art’s timelessness lies in its ongoing resonance rather than its easy pleasures. As a child, making art was like making magic—a simple wave of the wand. A graduate degree in the philosophy of aesthetics nurtured my ideas as I immersed myself in the interplay between image, narrative, language, and silence. But it was when I realized that I had the capacity to show my works in the public arena that I became more aware of the voices that were missing there—those invisible lives coping within the cultural silence of injustice. Now it is our media culture itself shaping my drive to produce media art to confront the constant undercurrents of unjust power in the world. On-the-job realities enrich my techniques as I strive to make art with a moral meaning, whether in video, film, photography, poetry, or animation. Using irony and playfulness, I challenge power relationships central to white privilege, misogyny, and other prejudices that dominate our cultural climate.
Over many years, my art has been guided by what surprises my own assumptions about the world. I think we tell ourselves the wrong stories and I find that the alchemy of media art challenges common narratives our culture naively takes for granted. A far cry from the simple magic of my childhood, my mission now has a much more lasting and resonant method: to transform what seems obvious at first into an idea that deepens with surprising questions.
Long ago Thelonious Monk gave me my aesthetic motto: "First give the audience what they expect. Then give them what they don't expect." In my work, I aim to give people what they comfortably assume, and then steer them to ideas they don't anticipate. Even if the ideas are jarring. Especially if they are animating. Art’s magic is shared when imaginative possibilities invite people to rethink their own inner worlds in new and nagging ways. Ezra Pound once wrote, ‘art must teach, inspire, and entertain.’ My art must also reveal, challenge, and transform.– Jill Evans Petzall