Having always been interested in art, photography, and making things, J. Woolard” took a job in a one-hour photo lab at age 16. That job turned into a theme in her life. A succession of camera equipment, paint and photo processing labs have surrounded her ever since. She now has more than eight years of one-hours under her belt, about a year after earning a BFA from the University of Louisville.
Jessica has dark brown eyes and usually has her hair dyed black. She is pictured with blonde hair on the cover and on some of the following pages as the result of a wager with me. It went something like this:
YOU SHOULD DYE YOUR HAIR BLONDE.
You should get a job.
IF I GET A JOB WILL YOU DYE YOUR HAIR BLONDE?
If you pay for it.
So the dark, skeptical chain smoker who sometimes hid her face behind asymmetrical jet-black hair, became a blonde. I loved it. She was okay with it for a while, I guess. But after a battle against dryness, a few cuts, and more attention that she thought it was worth, it met its end after a few months. The journey ended with a shaved head.
All this talk about the way she looks is a misrepresentation of what she’s all about. Jessica, who almost never wears makeup, is typically more concerned with creating something or hanging out with friends than spending any amount of time in the mirror. Her art and photography generally depict unembarrassed naked forms that are not always the popular idea of beautiful, and are occasionally intentionally objectionable by being decorated with blood or immodesty.
Somewhere mixed between the reluctantly cute façade and the sick thrill of a penchant for deliberately invoking unease, is a secret, endearing person who is inevitably developing a new, bizarre catchphrase and appreciating its acceptance among friends with an impossibly wide, crushworthy smile.
DO YOU DO YOUR OWN LAUNDRY?
Since I was in 5th grade. The one time my mom decided to do it, she found cigarettes. Not awesome. I told her I would never do it again. I lied.
WOULD YOU RATHER BE SEEN AS ARTISTIC OR INTELLIGENT?
I don’t know if I am either. Not yet at least. I am very observant, which is something I often confuse for intelligence. Which is better, I guess. Anyone can know the capital of Nebraska. But you can’t find what I know on Wikipedia.
WHO WOULD YOU BE MOST SURPRISED TO FIND OUT IS STILL ALIVE: ELVIS PRESLEY OR KURT COBAIN?
I really don’t care.
YEAH, BUT REALLY, WHO WOULD YOU BE MOST SURPRISED TO FIND OUT IS STILL ALIVE?
I guess Elvis. But I really don’t care. Back to that intelligence question… I also have a shit load of common sense.
DO YOU KNOW ANY GOOD JOKES?
A new favorite: What’s the number one cause of pedophilia?
Sexy kids. [much laughter]
THAT’S PRETTY AMAZING.
My friend Drew [Sellers] told me that one. He likes to imagine kids in sexy clothes, where as I like to imagine kids looking like kids, and someone thinking that’s sexy. [laughter]
WHERE IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE EVER BEEN FROM HOME?
San Francisco, I guess. But that used to be a lot closer to home than Louisville. Too cool!
[laughs] HAVE YOU EVER GOTTEN ANY GOOD ADVICE THAT YOU REMEMBER FROM TIME TO TIME?
Yeah. When I was younger I was in the Smokies hiking. We came across a sickly looking fellow and decided that it was a good idea to talk with him for a few hours. [laughter] He told us that he had AIDS from a blood transfusion after getting stabbed.
Getting stabbed is something that you expect when you fly a plane full of drugs. Getting AIDS is something you expect when you had a blood transfusion in the 80’s. So he seemed okay with everything. Instead of inching away, we proceeded to listen to everything he had to say.
His main point that he stressed was, “Live life with no regrets”. I paid attention. I even wrote a shitty personal narrative about it for my “portfolio” in high school. From time to time people will try to give me the same advice. Except they don’t have AIDS, or any credibility. I want to tell these people “too little too late.” Instead I pretend to listen and be impressed. [laughter]
Sometimes I do a really believable nod, as if what they just told me is really profound and it’s going to change my life. People are retarded.
[laughs] HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE YOU MURDERED?
WHERE ARE THE BODIES BURIED?
Nowhere. I ate them.
IS YOUR SKIN PALE OR DARK?
Depends on the season. Fall through winter I look sickly. Spring I look healthy. And summer time is Mexican time.
HOW CAN YOU BE GOTH IF YOU’RE SO CUTE?
I don’t think Kynt or Vyxsin would approve of anyone calling me goth.
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN COWBOYS?
Like Garth Brooks? No, not so much. But as far as the other ones go, I am pretty indifferent. I guess the novelty is fun.
TELL ME ABOUT THE PROGRESS OF YOUR DRINKING CHOICES OVER THE YEARS.
It’s been up and down. Some might compare it to a roller coaster. I wouldn’t, mainly because I don’t think roller coasters are that much fun. Drinking is a lot of fun. I’ve been a diehard drinking fan since the mid 90’s. It started out with whatever could get me drunk. Then onto cheap beer. Then good beer. I’ve been with my current lover, vodka, for a few years now. [laughter] Vodka and I had an abusive relationship when I was 14. I had to get out. But a friend reacquainted us in the winter of 2004, and we’ve been inseparable since. Sure, it’s not as passionate as it used to be, but at the end of the day, I know that vodka is the only one for me.
[laughs] IF YOU HAD A DAUGHTER WHO TURNED OUT TO BE EXACTLY LIKE YOU, WOULD YOU BE PROUD OF HER?
She will turn out exactly like me. And if she doesn’t… That’s what dumpsters are for.
[laughter] WOULD YOU DISCIPLINE YOUR CHILD MORE OR LESS THAN YOU WERE DISCIPLINED BY YOUR PARENTS?
I like to think that they did a great job. And then I remember that I have a worthless degree and an STD that’s not going anywhere anytime soon. [much laughter] Jokes! Not really… Does that answer your question?
YEAH. TELL ME ABOUT YOUR FIRST BOYFRIEND.
We lost our virginity to each other.
Then we dated, then he dumps me on New Year’s when I’m drunk off Bud Ice. [laughter] Then he makes out with a girl that looks like a horse two hours later. [laughter] Then we continue to sleep together for the next 3 years…
Then one of my best friends starts fucking him at some point in there, and he lies about it. Then I meet new fun people that I know now. The end. He’s not a bad guy, just a jerk. He really screwed that whole trust thing up for me. I feel bad for anyone that wants to try a relationship with me. It doesn’t work.
REALLY? YOUR EXPERIENCES WITH YOUR FIRST BOYFRIEND IRREPARABLY DAMAGED YOUR ABILITY TO TRUST PEOPLE?
Oh, it can be repaired. And one day it will, but right now, the kind of people I tend to be attracted to are not very trustworthy as it is, so my first boyfriend just added to that.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN HOSPITALIZED?
I think I took some of my dad’s blood pressure medicine when I was a kid. I don’t remember. When I said I thought my parents did a good job, I meant it, really, I wasn’t joking.
WHO ARE YOU?
Just some girl that eats slow.
[laughs] YOU HAVE BEEN COMICALLY DESCRIBED AS A “RELUCTANTLY CUTE TORTURED ARTIST” – DO YOU THINK THAT’S ACCURATE?
I think you are probably the only one that has comically described me that way. [laughter] But sure, I’ll take it.
DO YOU THINK A LACK OF PHYSICAL ATTRACTIVENESS IS NECESSARY IN ORDER TO BE CONSIDERED INTELLIGENT OR ARTISTIC?
If you’re mildly intelligent or a mediocre artist, then yeah, it probably helps to be ugly. But let’s face it, it sucks to be ugly, we can give them that one advantage.
WOULD YOU RATHER BE SEEN AS ARTISTIC OR INTELLIGENT?
You already asked that.
OH. SORRY. LET’S SEE… YOUR ART AND PHOTOGRAPHY ALMOST ALWAYS INCLUDES NAKED FEMALE FORMS. WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?
Lots of stuff.
WHERE DO YOU GET MOST OF YOUR CLOTHES?
My uniform is easy. Always cheap and very simple. Tee shirts: American Apparel. Jeans: Levi’s from Dillard’s, only $40. Sweaters: Gap outlet. Everything else: thrift stores usually. But I don’t have a whole lot a patience for looking for clothes, so not too many items are bought there.
ARE MOVIES BETTER THAN MUSIC?
For me they are. Especially when it comes to trying to see/hear something new. For the most part, movie synopses are pretty accurate. I have a good idea if I am going to like a movie or not. But music reviews? Not a chance. Most of them are just a bunch of garbage that I can’t trust. Here’s a fun fact: the movie “Armageddon” is a part of the Criterion Collection. Can’t win ’em all.
[laughter] HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BOYS? WHAT INTERESTS YOU ABOUT THEM?
They’re okay, I guess. I used to really like having sex with them. [laughter] But I’m kind of over that. The old answer would be their penis. [laughter] Now, hmmm, [sigh] I guess conversations with them? I’m usually less intimidated talking to guys, unless there is a tape recorder in the room.
[much laughter] WHY DO YOU HAVE SUCH BAD TASTE IN GUYS?
It’s not that bad. There’s only one person that I am literally embarrassed about. And I have an excuse, I was 19. The rest of them all make sense in their own way. There really aren’t that many, so you must be referring to my ex- fake boyfriend. He’s not that bad.
OH NO, ACTUALLY I WASN’T REFERRING TO ANYONE IN PARTICULAR. I WAS JUST TRYING TO GET A SENSE FOR THE GROUP AS A WHOLE.
It’s really not that hard to win me over. All that’s needed is: tall, skinny, charming, knowledgeable in a subject I know little about, good drinking partner.
COOL. TELL ME ABOUT YOUR HAIR.
It used to be long an thick and beautiful and asymmetrical and fun to touch. Then you got a job so we bleached it. [laughter] And half of it broke off so it became medium length, stringy, ugly, boring looking straw. Then I dyed it black again. Then it still felt like shit. Then I shaved it all off. Now it’s growing and you can see my gray hairs. [laughter] The end.
HOW MANY YEARS HAVE YOU BEEN BREATHING ONE-HOUR PHOTO CHEMICALS?
Since I was 16, so close to eight years now.
WOW. ARE ONE-HOUR PHOTO CHEMICALS DIFFERENT THAN TRADITIONAL FILM DEVELOPING CHEMICALS?
If by traditional you mean black and white, then yes, very.
WELL, NO, I GUESS I WAS WONDERING IF THE CHEMICALS IN A ONE-HOUR PHOTO MACHING ARE DIFFERENT THAN, SAY, THE ONES YOU’D USE IF YOU WERE MANUALLY DEVELOPING YOUR OWN FILM IN A DARKROOM.
I guess they are a little different as far as
concentration goes, but that’s probably about it.
There are three different kinds of chemicals that I have worked with, C-41 which is color, E6 which is slide film, and black and white. But, to my knowledge, it’s not the chemicals that have changed, but the machines. Although, I did notice one recent change in the C-41 developer. They started adding a scent to it so it smells good. [laughter] But I think I would rather it smell bad. I tend to try not to breathe-in things that smell bad.
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THERE ARE PRIVACY ISSUES INVOLVED IN FILM DEVELOPING AND, IF SO, HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THEM?
Sure, there are plenty. But I tend to believe if you don’t want someone to find out something, then don’t do it.
ABSOLUTELY. I AGREE.
Of course, that doesn’t really justify me making copies of other peoples images for myself…
WHAT ARE THE WEIRDEST PHOTOS YOU’VE EVER DEVELOPED FOR SOMEONE?
The best would have to be the skinny little naked redneck sitting on a chair with the biggest boner you’ve ever seen holding a giant pot leaf. [outrageous laughter] He had long flowing hair, and a truly genuine smile. If the word “fantastic” needed a picture in the dictionary, that would be it.
[general cackling] WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN IN THE FUTURE OF FILM CAMERAS?
Everything. I have a feeling there won’t be any mini labs capable of developing film in Louisville very soon. I really hope I am wrong. Everyone once in a while I’m wrong, but not often.
HOW DO YOU REACT TO STRANGERS WHO ASK YOU FOR MONEY?
Thanks to technology I have the option of telling lies like “I only have a credit card.”
Sure, they know I have 45 cents in the bottom of my giant purse, but I also know that they are not using that money to buy a well-balanced meal. You know what I’m saying?
SURE. WHAT WERE YOU LIKE WHEN YOU WERE A LITTLE GIRL? HOW ARE YOU DIFFERENT NOW?
I was pretty much the same. Maybe a little more cynical. Definitely more confident and arrogant.
I CAN IMAGINE. I DON’T THINK I KNOW ANY CHILDREN WITH YOUR DEMEANOR. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO BE LIKE WHEN YOU’RE 50?
Although I haven’t spent much time with her, I would have to say that Thommy Browne’s oldest daughter, Eva, really reminds me of myself when I was her age. When I’m 50? Probably the same, definitely more confident and arrogant. And with more gray hair.
[laughter] WILL YOU GET MARRIED AND HAVE A FAMILY?
That’s the plan. But at one point I thought I would be married by the time I was 23. As most of us know, that did not happen. The chances of me meeting someone that I respect enough to date for more than 2 months are very slim. And if by some miracle that does happen, the chance of that person being able to tolerate me for more than a month is even slimmer. Right now I guess the plan is to stop taking birth control at the age of 30, and just see what develops…
OKAY. HOW DO YOU LIKE SAN FRANCISCO NOW AFTER AFTER HAVING LIVED THERE FOR 8 MONTHS?
[much laughter] It seemed like a great idea at the time, no regrets here.
DO YOU LIKE LIVING WITH ALICIA?
She is with out a doubt, the very best roommate I never had.
ARE YOU DIFFERENT THAN THE OTHER GIRLS?
If by other girls you mean all girls, then yes, very much. But as far as the girls that I surround myself with, not so much. We are all a little crazy, very independent, and – I like to think – fairly low maintenance.
DO YOU GET ENOUGH VITAMIN C?
Ithink it’s safe to say that’s the one vitamin that no one should ever worry about not getting enough of. It’s in everything.
WHAT NICKNAMES HAVE YOU HAD?
Pretty much anything you can think of with the word “wool” in it.
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE? YOUR SISTER? YOUR BROTHER? YOUR PARENTS?
Me, hmmm that’s tough. I’ll let you decide.
WITH YOUR CURRENT HAIRCUT, I MIGHT HAVE TO SAY NATALIE PORTMAN. BUT I’M GOING TO HAVE TO INSIST THAT YOU ANSWER FOR YOURSELF.
Yeah, I’ll take that. Jenny would be played by Kirsten Dunst.
Like you, she loves her. And used to kind of look like her. Mikey couldn’t be played by any young actor today. Every actor I can think of that ever has a socially awkward role, plays it in some way to still seem kind of cool or “cute”. It’s really annoying. He would have to be a mix of James Case and Dan Meismer.
THAT’S WEIRD. YOUR BROTHER WOULD BE PLAYED BY SOMEONE WHO IS A CROSS BETWEEN YOUR ROOMMATE AND A GUY YOU DATED?
Yeah. I guess that sounds kind of creepy. But I don’t want to have sex with him, and he was one of my roommates for a year. It makes sense, I adore my little brother and I adore all of my friends. [pause] Mom would have to be a cougar like Susanne Sommers. But only if Susanne Sommers wore tee shirts, played a shitload of golf, and drank vodka straight. I keep thinking my dad should be played by Robert Downey, Jr. If he was shorter, heavier, not on drugs and ten years older.
WHAT IS THE TITLE OF YOUR LIFE STORY?
HA! DO YOU LIKE SWIMMING? OCEAN, LAKE OR POOL?
I love swimming! They are all great in their own way. There is nothing better than jumping off a boat into a lake. There is also nothing more relaxing than laying on a raft in a pool. And if you’re in the ocean, that means a beach is moments away, which is also awesome. The only body of water I can never truly enjoy myself in is the Ohio River. It just feels dirty.