Jesse Townsley fuses realism, abstraction, graphic communication, and, occasionally, the written word in his mixed-media sculptures and wall art. Thematically his work generally involves large doses of science, and, more recently, ancient art as well.
Currently Townsley is focused on the development of human consciousness: how our ways of thinking and communicating got to where they are now and how we might want to develop in the future. For example, many symbols we use today were invented by people in the Ice Age. As much as history fascinates Townsley for its own sake, he thinks that an understanding of the past gives us to better sense for where we are in the present and where we might be heading in the future. He also finds ancient cultures to be a treasure trove of inspiring ideas, images, and techniques
Townsley is particularly interested in forms of graphic communication. In his recent work he has been exploring symbols and other forms of graphic communication in ancient rock art, especially from Ice Age Europe and cultures of the US southwest. The series has developed to the point that Townsley is now inventing a graphic “language” based on symbols and principles from these cultures, with the addition of hieroglyphics and symbols from contemporary road signs. The road sign symbols help viewers more easily relate to symbols from ancient cultures—and links between the people of those cultures and us. The most recent pieces in the Mind Bucket series are sculptural books, the “text” of the books being in this graphic language. Rauschenberg and images of things seen under microscopes were the main influences on the first couple of decades of Townsley’s work. More recently, Basquiat, Keith Haring, Matisse, Picasso, the NY abstract expressionists, Joseph Cornell, etc. have also been added as influences.
Townsley started doing art inspired by science in college in the 1970s after drawing parts of plants seen under microscopes in a botany class. He received a BS in graphic design and worked for a few decades as a designer while doing art on the side. In the late 80s and early 90s, Townsley studied with Tom Buechner and Martin Poole as a member of the realist Corning Painters Group. Townsley has had work in juried shows in various cities in New York State and New Jersey. In May 2015 Townsley had his first solo show, at the Community Arts Partnership Artspace in Ithaca, which received an arts grant for expenses. He received the Betts F. Komer Purchase Award at a regional competition at Arnot Art Museum in Elmira in 1989 and the Award for Excellence at a Conception Art Show in New York City in 2016.
Meanwhile, Townsley’s research into ancient rock art has developed to the point that he has become an “artscientist”.The art and science sides of Townsley’s work influence each other and cannot be completely separated. The Mind Buckets, for example, grew out of a paper he is writing on visual thinking as exhibited in Paleolithic art and the first of the Mind Bucket books illustrates a section of this paper. Townsley attended the “Prehistoric Networks in the longue durée : Palaeolithic Innovations enabling the Neolithic Revolution” conference in Berlin in 2015. He launched the website Lithic Age Art & Design Research with his first published scientific paper in 2016. An article he wrote titled “BP: Time for a Change” was published in the journal Radiocarbon in 2017.
The history of art happens to be important to Townsley. One of his goals is to help move art forward and create new forms of art, both thematically and stylistically.
Opening night of solo show at Community Arts Partnership Artspace
Ithaca, NY May 2015
25th Annual State of the Art Gallery Juried Exhibition, Ithaca, NY