Local First Nations community champion and artist Jessica Skeen (Widi, Biri, and Kuku Thaypan) is changing the face of the art world – in the Greater Springfield area and across Queensland.
Jessica is also known as “Muralappi”, meaning “youngest of my generation”, a name proudly given to her by her father – respected elder and fellow artist Uncle Joseph Skeen.
She is the quiet achiever whose smile lights up any room that she walks into; however, it is her talent to paint and her truth-telling that will forever change the way we view the world, one brush stroke at a time.
What I love about speaking with Jessica is that this incredible single mum – whose journey hasn’t been without its challenges – has used her love of family to guide her gift to paint.
She has made a name for herself teaching others about her artwork, and being accessible through both professional and volunteer work, something she loves to do.
These days, Jessica’s art can be seen everywhere – not just in galleries, but in schools and hospitals (bringing a smile to those of us who are unwell), at playgrounds, as part of public murals, and even on cars.
These wonderful achievements haven’t stopped Jessica from attending local markets where she talks about her family’s rich history.
Truly, her art is an avenue for understanding and healing for many in our local community.
Q: What have you been up to lately in the Greater Springfield area?
A: It was an honour to visit and work with Kindy Patch Springfield.
I had a wonderful time working with the children to do artwork for their foyer. All the children I worked with and future students can be proud every time they see the canvas panel.
The five collective panels all hung together to be one mural. Every child left their handprint or footprint, and I did individual art projects with the children.
When I visited the school the other day, it was heart-warming to see they still appreciate what I did and how much our First Nations community is appreciated.
Recently, I felt honoured to be asked to do more. So, watch this space…
Q: How can Greater Springfield residents view your work?
A: I have worked with the Orion shopping centre over the NAIDOC period for several years, running the boomerang and canvas painting workshops, and completing a mural.
It’s an awesome feeling that people can still see this when they visit Orion.
It feels like a legacy is being born. I would love to see everyone come together. I feel like my art is bringing people together in a unique way to have a better understanding of First Nations culture and people.
Look for the Timezone end of Springfield Orion, on the right-hand side.
It feels good that cost is not a barrier for people to see and enjoy my artwork.
This is why I volunteer with youth. I want them to be able to make a living from being
an artist but also express themselves and tell their stories via art.
Q: Tell me about a recent painting you’ve completed.
A: I would love to tell The Greater Springfield Times readers about my painting titled: ‘Experience and Growth’.
This painting is about self-discovery. It comes at what one can sometimes feel like an incomprehensible cost to us and our loved ones. Finding the light in the midst of the darkest moments can give us a chance to step up and discover who we really are. We must remember it’s okay to be shaped by the pain but it’s not okay to be defined by it.
Throughout this uncomfortable and confronting process of personal growth you’ll find that so much beauty and strength will be revealed.
This artwork is inspired from my family’s history, and others, in particular the Stolen Generation. To tell of the injustices and tell history as it should be told and learned, and understood through my eyes and voice.
It means a lot that people can heal and feel connected when they see my art or meaning behind my art.
Q: Is there anything else you want The Greater Springfield Times readers to know – about you or your journey?
A: Not to allow the “Nos” to knock you back. Keep striving for what you believe in… You can be a success in any field.
Too many people don’t see art as a reputable job. People think it’s a hobby when it’s really a full-time job.
I am filled with pride to now venture forward in my story-telling journey.
I have also just started to paint stories of my view of what happened during colonisation. These stories are very powerful and can be confronting, as it’s coming from a different place, regardless of the overall ‘picture’.
If you would like to learn more, please contact Jessica via firstname.lastname@example.org.