The show was a complete surprise because I hadn't heard of her before and didn't have any expectations. I was immediately taken with her combination of found objects and painted wood (basswood) carvings.
I really love her "Industrial Widget" series where she integrates these hand-carved spheres with objects of mysterious history to create an entirely new (and believable) object.
I find these spheres fascinating, especially because of the hand carved aspect, hundreds of carving marks included. How many cuts does it take to carve a sphere? How do you carve a sphere? How long does it take to carve a sphere? I suppose it is a very meditative process, especially when you have hundreds of these things to carve (I didn't have time to count them all, but there were probably over 300 spheres in the show). You just have to love them (as the Jessica must).
And then there is the "Red Dress" series, a story-book like series of Jessica's basswood painted alter ego(?) encountering and conquering a world of dangerous found objects (often old kitchen tools).
She is gets herself in trouble a lot but with "daring-do" she seems to have the confidence to get herself out of any mess she may find herself in. There is a story in each piece, and you really want to cheer for her. I think a series of them would make for a great children's book, or better yet, a picture book where you can write your own story.
She also had Game Boards, Ball Organizers, and Jointed Segment series on display. All of them are a healthy combination of whimsy and controlled lunacy. Her work is successful in doing what art should do, helping the viewer to see the world differently and taking the viewer to a different place.
Not surprisingly, Jessica has an impressive resume. She has shown her in a number of museums, including the DeCordova and the Fuller Craft, and is also represented by the Clark Gallery in Lincoln, MA; so it was a little disappointing to see such "reasonable" prices on the work. Boy, it must be hard to make a living as an artist.