500X Alumna Interview: Jessica McCambly
500X: Tell us a little about yourself. What is your artistic background?
JM: Originally from Massachusetts, I live and work in San Diego, California. I earned an M.F.A. in Studio Arts with a concentration in Painting and Drawing from the University of North Texas, College of Visual Arts and Design. I am the Co-Founder and Co-Director of good good things, a transitory curatorial project based in San Diego, California that began in 2007 as a physical space in Dallas. In addition to being an artist, I am also the Professor of Painting and Drawing/ Chair of Studio Art at San Diego Miramar College in San Diego, California.
In terms of my artistic background, I have had the opportunity to exhibit my work at institutions and galleries such as Kenise Barnes Fine Art, Dunn and Brown, The Dallas Contemporary, Holly Johnson Gallery, 500X, Helmuth Projects, The New Children’s Museum, Cornell Museum of Art, Morris Graves Museum of Art, and Quint Contemporary.
Additionally, my work was included in the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's exhibition Here Not There: San Diego Art Now, and was selected by Janet Bishop, Curator of Painting and Sculpture at SFMOMA, to participate in New American Paintings: Juried Exhibitions-in-Print(No. 109, Pacific Coast Issue).
My work was also included in Women and Abstractionat the Cornell Museum of Fine Arts, curated by Amy Galpin, Ph.D.
I am represented by Kenise Barnes Fine Art in Larchmont, New York.
500X: What years were you a member of 500X?
JM: I was a member of 500X from 2006-2008.
500X: Were you ever a 500X officer? If so, what position(s)?
JM: Yes, I served as PR officer ( not sure if that is still a thing?)
500X: Who were some of the other members with you?
JM: John Oliver Lewis, David Willburn, Sarah Maxwell English, Garland Fielder, Tina Medina, Jim Burton, Shannon Sullivan, Natalie Macellaio, Erik Tosten, Veronica DeAnda Tosten, Simeen Farhat, Brian Spolans, Mirka Hokkanen, Jen Rose, Diane Sikes
500X: Tell us about your time at 500X. What was it like?
JM: I began attending shows at 500X as a teenager and always aspired to be a part of this awesome collective. I participated in the Open Show as an undergrad and during graduate school, I was invited to join 500X.
I cherish my time at 500X. What was is like? It was meaningful, difficult, rewarding work. It was a hustle, but I loved every second of it. It was an interesting time.. We were on the cusp of the beginnings of social media. We were pre-smartphone. We were unable to take credit cards. We just wanted to sell enough work each month to pay the rent and to buy beer for the openings. Afterwards, we would wander next door to the Monkey Bar or down the street to New Amsterdam to continue the conversations/ celebrate another show. We were trying, as you are, to unravel and document the important history of the space as we planned the 30thanniversary exhibition.
We were a group of passionate, committed, driven artists who truly believed in what we were doing. We all realized that this mattered. The energy of it all.. It was pure magic. I miss it dearly.
500X: Do you have a favorite moment from your membership?
JM: I enjoyed the collaborative nature of it all and getting to work with so many outstanding artists/ friends. I would have to say that my favorite moment overall was falling in love with my gallery mate while planning our two-person show. The show was called “Sweet Tart” and we were married three years later.
Oh.. and the day when we collectively saved 500X from being occupied by another entity.. but that’s a whole other story..
500X: What do you think you gained from being a 500X member?
JM: The experience of being a member of 500X was extremely valuable.. the space was an incubator for so many of us. It was so important. We could do ANYTHING.. make ANYTHING.. install it ANYWHERE. 500X was radical, creative freedom with a brilliant art gang. It was an incredible thing to be a part of. I still believe that my time spent at 500X informs both my professional and academic career today. From the practical aspects of learning how run a space, to the enriching experience of working collaboratively with a diverse, brilliant, passionate group of peers. It was so good.. I wouldn’t change a thing.
500X: How has 500X impacted your career as an artist?
JM: Being a part of 500X was a very special time in my early career. I would say that in terms of a professional “beginning”/ feeling like an artist, that was it. I learned so much about the complexities of pursuing a creative life there. It was both an incubator and a launch pad. The space to explore my ideas.. any idea.. was such an important gift and to be given that as I was finishing grad school was so perfect. The chance to apply what I was investigating as a student to a communal space was so exciting. It allowed me to try everything.
In my studio, I continue to find myself still sifting through the ideas that originated at 500X. I keep circling back to many, refining them in my current work. So many creative seeds were planted for me in that space. It was quite honestly one of the best and most meaningful times of my life and I reflect on it and my gallery-mates often and with a very full heart.
500X: Is there anything you'd like to add about your experience of being a member?
JM: My time at 500X taught me that, as an artist, it is my responsibility to create my own scene. It taught me to be my own authority. This creative life, in its beauty, can also be a real heartbreaker. This 500X/ punk rock/ D.I.Y. approach has served me well in those moments and has been an underpinning of my life as an artist and as an academic. I am grateful.