Jessica Curtaz is a Philadelphia-based street artist and arts advocate. She transforms public space through installing crocheted weeds, insects, real and imaginary creatures, and other, over-sized flora and fauna onto the urban landscape, bringing a feminized craft out of the home and onto the streets.
Born and raised in California, Jessica holds a BA in both plant biology and fine art from the University of California at Santa Cruz. Her background in science, and early career as a researcher at UCLA, collecting water samples off a boat in the Santa Monica Bay and staring at diatoms through a microscope, has been a huge influence on the subject matter and style of Curtaz’s work. She plays with and distorts natural elements, elongating forms, tweaking shapes, and creating the macro out of the micro.
Being seasick for two years prompted a career change. Jessica completed her MFA in drawing from Claremont Graduate University in 2006, shortly before moving to Philadelphia. Jessica now works as a teaching artist, specializing in adaptive teaching methods to special needs populations including the blind and visually impaired, and adults and children with physical and intellectual disabilities. These classes focus on art both as a creative outlet and a vocation. She is an advocate for increasing the autonomy of marginalized populations as well as strengthening their voice in the larger community. To these ends she has led several public art projects, including a knit bombing installation with students at the PA School for the Deaf focusing on de’VIA (Deaf view/image art) principals and the specifics of communicating when deaf. She also organizes community volunteers to participate in her classes, work with students with disabilities and further increase understanding and communication between differently abled populations.
My work challenges the boundaries we impose around art, making it accessible to everyone. I take a practice often considered as feminine domestic craft and bring it into public space, imposing my imagination and “feminine” perspective on the urban landscape. I crochet giant weeds, insects, real and imaginary creatures, creating oversized fantastical renditions of flora and fauna, that I install, with and without permission, on chain link fences, city lampposts, and, occasionally, gallery walls. My public installations play with scale, with subject, with context and location. I spend just as much time crocheting paper airplanes that will last less than 24 hour on a chain link fence as creating a giant garden for an interior space. I am interested in navigating this struggle between creating ephemeral works, in unexpected outdoor locations, and more solid, more permanent pieces. I am interested in challenging how location equates to monetary value. What does it mean when a crocheted nasturtium is installed on a gallery wall versus when it appears outside that gallery on a chain link fence. I want to make art a part of people’s everyday lives. I want someone to be confronted with a seven foot crocheted praying mantis on their way to work, or for the fence around their parking lot to suddenly sprout giant dandelions. These pieces incorporate humor and escapism into an explicitly political feminist project, blending the banal with the fantastic, the domestic realm with the public sphere.