Abstract Expressionist and Owner of Jessica Wachter Art
“I have dyslexia, which made reading a challenge growing up. In a traditional education system, I had to adapt and learn in my own way. I needed something other than words to express myself. Dyslexia gave me a unique perspective to understand concepts and life in general. It opened up new pathways to self-expression. That’s when I found art.”
Jessica Wachter never let her learning style keep her from sharing her unique perspective with the rest of the world. In many ways, her journey to becoming a nationally renowned artist began with the simple desire to understand herself— to work through the emotions, thoughts, and observations of the world around her through a more visual form of communication.
“The desire to create has always been with me. It’s like breathing,” Wachter said. That doesn’t mean it was always easy, though. “I’ve failed. I’ve hit rock bottom. But I think a genuine passion, a true calling, will always find its way back to you. And, in the end, it’s not all based on talent or luck. It’s the support of your community and the strength you find from your family, friends, and other creatives, too.”
Bismarck Artist Finds Voice and Community Through Abstract Art
Finding Her Voice
At a young age, Wachter found a place in the local art community, attending Saturday art classes through the Bismarck Art and Galleries Association. She discovered abstract expressionism and the art of Joan Mitchell as she continued her art journey at North Dakota State University.
“It was a pivotal movement that changed the trajectory of my work,” Wachter recalls. “Abstract expressionism allowed me to put my thoughts on canvas, to share my most authentic self with the world. But it’s also open to interpretation. The viewer has to think, interact with the brush strokes, and find their own meaning. It challenges you to see the world differently. It challenges you to be vulnerable, and through that shared uncomfortableness and questioning, it promotes inclusivity for all emotions and perspectives. We might not feel the same things, but we feel something.”
However, it was more than just the connection she felt with Mitchell’s work—it was the sheer scale. As a child of the open prairie and the boundless sky, she was drawn to the vastness of the canvas. “In a way, it mirrors the big, open spaces we find all over the Dakotas,” she explains. “It can make some people uncomfortable, but I feel like that space gives you more room to explore.”
“Trust your gut and go for it. Run with your passion. Be yourself, even if you’re afraid. Even if you fail. Learn to sit in the uncomfortableness. To turn your struggles into something meaningful.”– Jessica Wachter
Wachter enjoys the opportunity to play with perspective provided by large canvases. The emotions evoked by the whole painting are often juxtaposed with the feelings found in a single brushstroke. “Paintings, like people, have layers. Spending time with them and discovering the details heightens our compassion,” she said.
Creating Space for Women in Art
There was something else about Mitchell’s work that spoke to her, though. “Quick, name five female artists. We don’t realize how underrepresented women are, not just as artists, but within the industry—female gallery staff, owners, female museum curators, and directors. On those hard days, when I just don’t feel inspired, it’s the support of women creatives and entrepreneurs that pushes me to show up to the studio.”
In terms of support and resources, Wachter feels the Bismarck art community has done well in creating space for female artists while the region as a whole has made great strides to provide women the knowledge and tools for success in any industry. But it’s not just associations and organizations that make a difference, it’s the actions of a single person.
“It’s the easiest thing to show up, whether it’s an art show or a restaurant, but we often underestimate how much it means to other women. I wholeheartedly believe there are many great female artists out there who haven’t made it on the public’s radar yet. It’s not just creative talent that makes a difference, it’s the knowledge gained from the female entrepreneurs in my family, it’s the support of female artists and educators, that has brought me to where I am now.”
And her advice for other young women? “Trust your gut and go for it. Run with your passion. Be yourself, even if you’re afraid. Even if you fail. Learn to sit in the uncomfortableness. To turn your struggles into something meaningful. The people around you will pick up on your authenticity and engage with your art or your calling or your personal flame, whatever it is. And it’s not an age thing, either. It’s never too late to change a career or develop a new skill. There’s no one definition of success. Like a painting, the interpretation is up to you.”
For more information on Jessica Wachter, visit her website below. You can find examples of her work and sign up for her monthly newsletter. Her next public show will be in Washington D.C. later this year. Art resources are available through the Bismarck Arts and Galleries Association, bismarck-art.org, and the North Dakota Council on the Arts, arts.nd.gov.
Connect with Jessica