Jessica Ross is a virtual reality designer and concept artist, along with being an adjunct in the Digital Design Program at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. She studied fine art and illustration at Montclair State University, where she received her BFA, and is currently completing her MFA in Illustration this summer at Marywood University. She has worked as a concept, storyboard, and character artist for various productions, including an educational video game sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and an augmented reality app for a graphic novel series, Tales From The Myst.
Currently, she is working as the lead virtual reality designer and concept artist for a virtual reality vision therapy game developed by the NJIT Vision and Neural Engineering Lab. Jessica’s work has most recently been published in Infected by Art, Volume 5. She has also been published in various publications such as K.O. Jewel and Condign Art Magazine, where she won a front cover feature and a three page interview.
I have always been inside a bubble of what I both perceive and want the world to be. It is something that I have never grown out of and have been criticized for, yet I embrace that and bring what I see in this bubble of mine to life through my art. I let things into my imagination that should have been left behind as a child; witches, fairies, and ghostly creatures always frequent my imagination and thoughts. They are and have always been how I understand the world and its issues. Over time, I’ve come to realize that the real world is often a very scary and dangerous place, but if you look hard enough you can find beauty, sincerity, and maybe even magic, in those dark places.
My work is meant to give beauty and attention to both humans and animals who are not respected or accurately represented in the society we live in. All of whom are often misrepresented to be of lesser importance, and as a result, are exploited and degraded. I intentionally reinvent seemingly normal human girls into freaks of nature, often depicted with large, pointy ears, horns, or fins-blurring the line between human and animal. In doing this, I feel that I can influence how the world perceives beauty. When someone is able to find my work beautiful, although it may make them feel a bit uncomfortable due to the tinge of creepiness or oddity that is woven into my portraits, I feel I have successfully done my job. I feel that perception changes the world and if people can learn to appreciate and accept things that are unfamiliar and find the beauty in them, that the world of intolerance and disrespect we live in may slowly become a happier and more accepting place.
Perhaps my empathy and defensive attitude towards animal rights and civil rights spawned out of my experiences of being bullied as a child and into my late teens. I was constantly ostracized and humiliated by my peers due to my red hair and pale skin. In this I found happiness with other exiles. This is where I found acceptance; on the fringe of normalcy, popularity or beauty. I place with other misfits, both humans and animals. I began noticing how animals were often the object of abuse and humiliation; being tossed into circuses and beaten into submission for pure entertainment. I identified with this abuse and humiliation and that is when I saw these ties between human outsiders and animals that are so often overlooked.
I created a sanctuary for myself in this unforgiving society by surrounding myself with other outsiders. This sanctuary is my bubble that I have allowed myself to live in, and what strive to show the world through my art: the world through my lens. It is how the world should be or, at least, what needs to be seen with punchy watercolors and thousands of little inked lines.