Creating Narratives Without Words.

An Interview with Jessica Haug.

Highland, Indiana is my home. I live with my husband, three kids, two dogs, two cats, three geckos, one tortoise, one hedgehog, and a couple dozen fish. 

Walking into our house you'd be greeted by the dogs with the kids running behind them to hold them back from loving you too aggressively. We're an easygoing crowd; we like to be barefoot with the windows open and music playing, surrounded by nature and lots of color. I also dream of being a crazy plant lady. If my plants could talk, they’d tell you that (like my dogs) I love a little too aggressively. 

As a child, I was in counseling and wasn’t always comfortable sharing things. I didn't feel like I could express myself with my words so I drew pictures to tell stories. That's it. It was that simple for me. I realized that storytelling through drawing made me feel powerful because people could understand what I was saying more clearly. Saying painful things out loud is hard and communication can be confusing. Turning these things into pictures made it easier. This is the foundation of my work.

My life is MESSY (my husband would hate this statement as he works really hard to clean up after me). Most of the mess in my brain and in my life comes from my inability to say no. I am a people-pleaser to my core.

I try to be a happy, optimistic person, although people usually think I am nicer than I really am because I smile a lot. I am almost obsessive when it comes to the news. I watch it constantly (this really hinders my optimism). 

I work a few jobs. I am an instructional aide in an alternative school program, and I love it! I tend to get along with the kids that don't fit into a regular classroom setting. As a teen, I was the opposite of most of my peers, I got one detention in 6th grade for chewing gum in choir. I cried so much that the teacher told me I didn't have to serve it. 

I also work as a photographer a few days a week. My second full time job is my art. I paint a lot. In the last year, I painted everything from 60 foot murals to owl sculptures, dog portraits, and series of my own work. 

Oh, and the parenting thing, I do that too, though never as well as I would like or as well as my husband. Dinner is always late and everything is done at the last minute. I am really forgetful.

I find inspiration in the stories of living things, plants, animals and humans. 

I love symbolism! I use it in everything I do. It probably started with religious stories and allegories. The first cave drawings, Egyptian tombs, our communication attempts with aliens, all symbols. I remember the first time I saw a vanitas still life, I was hooked. It changed my perspective. Artists like Frida Kahlo and Amy Cutler gave me different perspectives on the use of symbolism and creating narrative without words. I love to be able to look at something and make my own narrative in my head. No language is needed. I also love when someone looks at my art and comes up with a completely different narrative than the intention I had for it.

The author, Paulo Coehlo, is also a huge inspiration of mine. Guess what? He also uses a lot of symbolism in his storytelling.

As a creative person, music is my one regret. I wish I could play an instrument. The music I’m listening to often dictates my mood. I listen to all of it; I like it all. From DMX to Norah Jones to STP to Mariachi. My favorites are Lauryn Hill/ The Fugees, Weezer, Carole King, Incubus, Queen, old school country like Travis Tritt. We keep the Jack Johnson channel on a lot, none of us hate it.

When I’m in a creative funk, deadlines are often the only thing that can pull me out of it. If I have to do it, I will. If I'm not inspired, it's almost painful to try to create without a purpose.

When it comes to themes that shine through my work: religion, environmental justice, inequality, evolution, migration, emotion, politics. All of these are the stories of living things. I like to take those stories and tell them in a unique way, flipping the subject matter around; like using a tree to symbolize a saint being persecuted by technology.

I’m so lucky to have fallen into an amazing creative community here in Northwest Indiana. Most of them I know from the Mythos Zine / Green Door Books family. Melissa Washburn, Lori The Knife, Bearhead, Rachel Calderone, Rachel Garastik, David Lubarski and Eric Roldan from Promise You Arthouse; they’re my favs; Michael and Teresa from Green Door Books. Nick Gloom (and fam) and Casey King are fellow artists who I’ve been lucky enough to get to know over the last couple of years. Nick has this unique way of manipulating your feelings with his art and Casey pushes himself constantly and with such heartfelt simplicity. They are also genuinely supportive and kind. Alec Villarreal from Mythos has actually been the catalyst for all of these relationships and I'm unbelievably grateful.

I discovered that my mind worked differently when I was in kindergarten. We were coloring bunnies for Easter. Everyone started to color their bunnies with grays and browns. I started to make mine rainbow. My 5 year old classmates thought the rainbow was cool and followed my lead. At that time I was painfully shy. That is the first memory I have of someone paying attention to my creativity. It seems silly but after that moment, I never questioned my creative power. It's probably the only thing I have never questioned.

I want to be known for empowering people to find commonality with those who are unlike them. I want to build connections and to break down the barriers of communication. Whether it be the natural world, religion, history or your neighbor, I want to be known for inspiring people to explore the unfamiliar.

My name is Jessica Haug. I am an artist living my life, working, creating and loving in Highland, IN.

©Alchemy & Elegy 2020