Her House Was a Haven

An Interview with Gina Jo.

I am from Highland, Indiana. Growing up like most other midwestern natives, I spent a lot of time outside when it was warm enough to do so and stayed busy inside when it was too cold. For the past 4 years, I’ve lived in Los Angeles with my boyfriend, and we moved back about a month ago. Most people don't understand how we could ever leave California, but we really struggled with making it feel like home. Now I’m living back in the house in Indiana where I grew up until we find our own place. We’re planning on moving to Chicago once we figure everything out. Until then, I’m revisiting my roots and taking a break from city life.

Life is a bit of a mess at the moment, though I hope to be working all of that out soon. My boyfriend and I were planning on returning to the midwest sooner, but then the pandemic hit. So things got kind of hectic. I was working in a salon in West Hollywood as a hairstylist, but lost my job when the salon closed due to the virus. A few weeks later, we were headed across country in our cars amidst the chaos and arrived safely in the Chicagoland area. Being an empathetic person in these times has proven to be tough on my motivation to create new art. I’ve been spending a lot of time with my dog Echo, my cat Bear, my boyfriend Kyle, and our families. Very exciting stuff, I know.


I’m one of those people who use the clichéd, "ever since I could remember" statements, but it’s true. I’ve always been creative. I really can’t point out a specific time or anything like that, but I do know it really all started with my grandmother, Mimi. Mimi was an adorable little Italian woman and amazing oil painter. She sparked gossip back in the day in Northwest Indiana when she decided to begin teaching painting classes in her basement. People in the town thought she was not experienced enough or ready to teach on her own, but she was stubborn and ignored all of them, holding classes that successfully went on for years. 

She would babysit me often when I was little, and I was at her house a lot while she hosted her classes. I always wanted to be part of that community. Oddly enough, I never realized that I was kinda born into the creative lifestyle. I remember her encouraging me; I was gifted art supplies and put them to great use. I was extremely close with her, and even as I got older, I spent a lot of time with her. We messed with whatever we could get our hands on, from chalk and paint to pens and pencils. Her house was a haven for me, so creating in general was a super positive thing. As someone who has struggled with anxiety, art has been very therapeutic. Each piece I create is a little escape from the stresses of daily life.


I don’t look too far into my work or even really plan it out. I’m not sure I ever intend to tell a specific story with my art, but if I look at my more recent work), a running theme is sadness... which sounds sad! A lot of my characters tend to look sad, and my pieces can have the overall feeling of gloom--even if it’s not my intention. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve struggled with my mental health, and I had an especially tough time during my years in LA. By looking at my work, this may be noticeable, but whenever I see the pieces I created during a tough time, I’m thankful I was able to take that emotion and channel into creating something. I try to see the beauty in the "darker" things like sadness or death.

I often go outdoors to find inspiration; I see myself as a nocturnal being, fueled by the night sky, stars and moon. I’ve always been more productive at this time of the day. With my grandmother being the huge influence she was, especially since she’s passed, I’ll revisit her old books or belongings to be moved creatively.

Tim Burton's movies basically raised me; he is a huge influence and I'm endlessly inspired by his art. I have a lot of books that spur my creativity, such as "Skulls (An Exploration of Alan Dudley's Curious Collection)," anatomy books, the Wildwood Chronicles and books on oddities or strange happenings in history. They all really speak to my little weirdo soul and help give me ideas.

"Celestial Being"

Music is also a big motivator! Sometimes I’ll be listening to certain music, have visions, and usually try to recreate those visions or pictures on paper. I don't know if that sounds weird? I typically listen to moody music, which definitely helps fuel the darker themes that I love so much. The biggest influences for me are the National, Death Cab, Crystal Castles, Beach House, The Decemberists, New Order, Interpol, Chelsea Wolfe, Tigers Jaw, Bright Eyes, mewithoutyou, Neutral Milk Hotel, and many more.

In terms of movies that inspire me, I especially love horror and stop motion animation. My favorites include Beetlejuice, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and The Strangers.

I've always been a gamer and the ones I've been loving right now are Animal Crossing, Bendy, and Zelda. All of the beautiful design and visuals really spark my creative mind! I should probably mention podcasts. I often listen to true crime shows, such as "Morbid," or "Lore," which explores the history behind dark folklore.

Because my art revolves around a lot of natural elements, I take walks and spend a lot of time outside. Lately, I’ve been getting back into gardening. There's something about having my hands in the earth— hearing and seeing all the critters, colors, and textures— that gets my mind going. Taking drives and listening to music also helps. Sometimes I have to take a moment to be alone in order to get focused, because I can procrastinate easily, even if I have ideas.

I just want to be known for providing a unique aspect of life, and for helping others see things a different way; or shining a positive light for those who may really need it. While I’d love to be known for my art, I genuinely make it for myself. I’m always humbled when anyone buys or finds interest in it. I want to share my perspective and spread some kindness and happiness.

My name is Gina Jo. I'm an imaginative artist, hairdresser, and admirer of all things strange and unusual.

©Alchemy & Elegy