“It was the loudest sound I ever heard, and now my car is a burnt marshmallow, but I feel really lucky to be alive.” That’s mixed-media artist Jacqui Fehl explaining how lightning struck just a few feet from her home studio in early May. “Fortunately, my neighbors called 911, and thank God for the speed of the amazing fire department. Nobody was hurt, my art studio was saved, and I can keep working — which keeps me focused and centered, because I love my work.”
Fehl works both as a visual artist and an actor specializing in voiceover. “I never thought I’d be an artist. All I wanted to be was an actor. I’ve been in a lot of bands, too, and people say, ‘Wow, you’re a good singer.’ But I’m like, ‘Actually, I’m not. I’m just a really good actor playing the role of a singer.’ Fehl’s acting supported her creative hobbies like knitting and painting, until a few years ago when she got more serious about painting — which now supports her acting career.
As is true with her voiceover scripts, Fehl doesn’t stick with just one subject matter or material when it comes to painting. “I’ll use oil paints and pastels, house paint, graphite markers, anything. I am obsessed with paper and will paint on it and then tear it up and collage it. I make ink splatters and marks and use water-based varnishes to build up layers. Then I’ll take an orbital sander to knock them back down.”
Fehl sells originals as well as prints on paper and metal. “But even my paper prints are hand embellished and signed, so no two are exactly the same,” she explains. “I’m like a kid in a candy store with that much freedom.” She takes the same freewheeling approach to framing. Lately her frames are made from vintage teakwood deck furniture that’s falling apart. Someone who bought one of her paintings was worried about damaging the frame, and Fehl advised, “If you drop it, it will probably make it look even better because of the patina.”
It’s perspective she’s after: “I’m an artist, not a surgeon or a lawyer. If I make a mistake with my pieces, nobody dies or goes to prison. I make sure there’s a grunginess and messiness about them. That’s my goal, not perfection. The flaws in my paintings aren’t even intentional. They’re just there, like how my bangs are crooked. No, wait, my bangs are straight. It’s my face that’s crooked.
“I never learned color theory or went to art school,” she reveals. “I just put something on the paintbrush and react to it. It’s a dance.”
She learned to embrace risk through acting. “There’s a lot of rejection, but it’s not personal. The client or ad agency is just looking for something else. You have to leave your ego at the door. With art it’s the same. Not everyone’s going to love it. But you have to be fearless to get the ‘a-ha’ moments.”
Jacqui Fehl, WhiteSPACE studio in the River Arts District (129 Roberts St., Wedge Building, Suite 2B7). Her work is carried at Woolworth Walk (25 Haywood St., downtown Asheville, woolworthwalk.com); Seven Sisters Craft Gallery (119 Broadway Ave., Black Mountain, sevensistersgallery.com); Taupe Gallery (309 10th St., North Wilkesboro, taupegallery.com); and at Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack (in South Asheville and Greenville, SC). Fehl has a solo show, Wild ThingZ, at the Spotlight Gallery (Wedge Building, 2nd Floor) in August, a combination of originals and “Origiclees,” a hybrid of archival giclée prints with embellished hand painting and recycled-deck-furniture frames. In September, her solo show BirdZ & BallZ will be hosted at Woolworth Walk. See jacquifehl.com (and on Facebook and Instagram).