Jesse Higman “Studio Pour”

Posted on October 19, 2012, 3:25 pm
7 mins


These paintings are about participation. My interest is in meeting with nature, doing the work to give it what it needs and then advancing, pushing and responding, asking the same from it. These physics are everywhere in the universe. Their effects move us and the life created. In recognizing them together, naming them and relating, we also further creation.” ~Jesse Higman, Vermillion Exhibition Statement

Alluvium on the walls inside Higman’s Studio.

Last night I attended—and participated—in City Arts Fest’s “Jesse Higman: Studio Pour.” If you’re into the Seattle art scene, you have most likely heard of Jesse Higman, who made the scene designing album covers for Grunge bands in the the ’90s. On the top of the list are Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and Heart. However, Higman’s recent work is a whole other universe of expression and experience. Calling it “Alluvium” he invites us into a world where we focus our attention to the dynamic of the creative moment as it would occur in the smallest or grandest, cosmic or geological, physical or metaphysical realities—a higher minded view of our reality.

Look for the man on the corner holding the yellow umbrella— how Magritte!

Participants were instructed to look for the yellow umbrella on the corner of 11th Ave and East Denny where someone would guide us to the secret location of Jesse Higman’s “Studio Pour” experience. The man who greeted us, was something out of a Magritte painting—a surreal and cordial touch that lived up to my expectations. I brought along my 11-year old daughter, and our mood was set for something playful and curious. (Never mind my motherly expectations that I would be sharing an experience with my child that had the potential to be pivotal for her.)

Pouring with Jesse Higman

I met Jesse Higman while walking down the street in Pioneer Square about year ago. It was before I became familiar with his current work, and the moment is etched in my mind. One remembers such meetings with rare, enlightened minds. When I learned that City Arts Fest was offering a “Studio Pour” with Higman, there was no way I could pass up the chance to be engaged in the experience. As he was describing his process and reasoning behind “Alluvium,” I was making a point to keep track of exactly what he had to say so that I might convey his musing of precious and fleeting moments, regrets, and peaks of experience, his adept descriptions of the natural dynamics that create and characterize us. I wanted to share the profundity of what he captures and how it is to be in his light…a big swelling in the chest, overwhelming. Last night, he shared the reason for his partial paralysis. At age 15 while he was driving, he swerved to avoid hitting a squirrel. As questions about coping and transformation flashed through my mind, he simply added,”I like that about my nature.” I realized then I would not be able to capture the soul of him in any brief article here.

Higman sharing his process with participants of “Studio Pour.”

After my daughter and I took turns pouring with Jesse and the other attendees, I caught her poking around the studio at the curious objects that characterize an artist’s space. The things make a room weird and cool, while at the same time giving outsiders an insight into how the material world comes together for someone who spends his time in a world of abstractions. Being with an adolescent who wants so much to be normal, I enjoyed watching her hear Higman talk about his space and how great it is to live in a neighborhood that is getting weirder every day. By “weird” I mean the avant-garde—the few who benefit from that daring and courageous act of being at home in oneself.  The weird and cool are those who simply don’t inhabit the place of normal. For them, there is rarely such comfort. Therefore, they must look inward.

Painting resulting from group pour directed by artist Jesse Higman

Giving us a trip through his own dynamic process where creation and intention make art, Higman is a voice of validation for those who have no other place to be in themselves or in society but at the edge of experience. If that is your place, it can be forever jarring. Yet, one gets the sense that Higman himself is quite at home with who is. The wheelchair, the artist’s poverty, and the alienation that those conditions create are discussed with nonchalant ease. It’s the kind of character one seems to have when there is no longer anything to prove—a knowledge that simply being is a rich experience, even at its most ordinary moments. Jesse Higman still has that weird-cool that seems to have been lost in the current culture of target market identity—the identity that promises to keep us safe from the scrutiny of our peers. Being in his company, listening to his words, sharing in his process, and creating his art, one is served. It seems that there remains a chance to find in one’s hidden self in the place where the dust hasn’t settled atop who we forgot we’re supposed to be and the light of it still flickers.

Sarah Caples has lived in Seattle since 2004 working as a fashion stylist for private clients. Sarah launched an art and society blog in 2008, along with a monthly salon at The Sorrento Hotel, which ran until June 2012. As executive editor of, Caples hopes to cultivate an informed dialog about regional culture and bring people of diverse backgrounds together in support of nonprofits, artists and community builders.