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Raw, Unapologetic Artistry

Keeley Brooks

Feb 13, 2023

Jill Mulkey Art

During my years living in the heart of Baton Rouge, La., straight fumbling my life thing after college, I ran across some very talented artists of all kinds nurturing their individual crafts in a most pure, non-conformist way. It was awesome because back then, the city vibrated with electricity emanating from the super-cool types of art being created; the 2000s were quite a colorful time on the BR entertainment scene, if I do say so myself!

Nowadays, the city isn't just vibrating; it seems to be exploding with all sorts of art, and now that I no longer live there, it's kind of up to chance when it comes to noticing more of its artists, whether it be through recommendation or random happenstance online. And that’s how Jill Mulkey filtered into my gaze: She randomly popped up in my social media feed one day, and her distinctive abstract style caught my eye … okay, it caught both of them.


I zoomed in on several of her pictures and noticed some wonderful, subtle textures and shapes full of artistic nuance, and I was intrigued. Her art appealed to me because it said, in a sense, real talk. It screamed honest, real shit like I'm here and I'm colorful and I'm loud, but at the same time I'm also full of depth and exposure because I live, I breathe, I experience, and I create as a result--not for you, for me. There were no distractions. It wasn't all neat and tidy in a perfect, little, expected bow--no. It was loud and vivid and raw and messy in the best of possible ways. It was connectable ... proud ... unapologetically human, purely exposed artistry ... and that's what I loved about it: its humanity. I felt the emotion behind every piece I ogled and believe me, I spent way too many hours on both her social media sites clicking through images and getting lost in them.


Mulkey is a mixed-media abstract artist, photographer, and fashionista out of Baton Rouge playing with different textures of shape and color to express herself, her messages, her feelings, and the world around her. In fact, her expressive patterns of repeating tiny squares and circles have become very popular in her shows and largely draw in the commission requests.

Having always had the artistic talent deep within her, Jill spent her time after high school doing hair and nails by day and painting by night. The more she painted and showcased, the more attention she garnered for herself. Over the past decade, she has done and continues to do some really cool work, like reproducing different Rock album covers, for example. During a time when she was experimenting with multiple new techniques, she took some pictures of some famous people and portraits of rock stars and worked them through her own interpretations.


While her early paintings included a lot of portraits and closeups of faces and different city scenes, her style evolved and delved deeper into the abstract world. Some of her works incorporate printmaking techniques, like doing portraits by repeatedly stamping ink on the canvas in high and lesser concentrations to affect lines and shading, and she isn’t shy about collage work. Her images incorporate paint and print materials to illicit interpretations.


One of her earlier works, a popular choice depicted below, “Pisces Girl" started out with a compilation that included a girl, a guitar, and a pear, but as the woman’s arm began to take shape, Mulkey's focus shifted from the objects to the woman. You can see how gently and effortlessly she and the guitar are beautifully entwined, both revealed with the implied sexiness of the distinct hourglass shape--the neck of the guitar ever so slightly separated from the woman's to partially hide her face just enough to illicit intrigue and admiration while conveying a union between worlds ... ah! What sweet, emotional depth it displays. It showcases beautifully sequenced artistic style. And, to tie in the title, Mulkey added water elements and a fishbowl to represent the zodiac.

Canvas isn’t her only medium, though. Early in her career, she used to paint on bottles and even tinkered with unconventional canvases, like paintings on doors and other found pieces. She also paints on … waaait for iiit … JEANS! I’m not kidding. And they look pretty badass, if I do say so myself. Her jeans became so eye-catching, that she now stages fashion shows in various locations.

“I paint really fast,” Jill says. “I work really fast with my hands,” which explains how she’s able to generate so much in so little time.

This challenge of mixing multi-media efforts into one cohesive piece for visual pleasure has been seemingly effortless for Jill, who is constantly scoping out new outlets.


“I continue to paint and participate in many art shows all over Baton Rouge. … When I [began to focus] on my art career full time, I painted pretty much every day and sold a lot through social media, mostly on Facebook. I still have a large client base there,” she says.


Mulkey has also been featured in several art galleries over the years, including Gallery N, owned by Mark Nikoff, and Williamson Howard Fine Art. It wasn’t long before she realized the gallery display opportunities held more than just a place to display; they became places to grow.


“One of my proudest [shows] was in Downtown Baton Rouge at The Shaw Center in the LSU Art Museum,” she says. “I had an art and fashion show inside and a local DJ outside that I worked with on many shows. He was playing music and above him was a huge, white parachute floating in the air off the building on the 4th floor with images of my art, photography, and fashion flashing across this monstrous screen all night. It was so amazing. I haven’t seen anyone do anything like that since, but I’d love to make it happen again!”


Over time, Mulkey has become an art dealer of sorts, curating shows at different galleries in and around the Baton Rouge area and promoting new, young talented artists, as well as making sales for herself and the new talent. In 2010, she curated a show in Los Angeles at the Thompson Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard that amped up her abilities.


“Somewhere in there, I began painting live—something I never thought I would do years before,” she gleans. “I became a regular in Battle of the Brushes, a monthly live art battle I did in New Orleans with Alex Harvie and TJ Black (and other chosen artists) on Magazine Street.”

It seems more and more people these days find a deeper connection with live painting, and why wouldn’t they? It’s personal, exciting, and curious--utterly fascinating to watch, sober or not. There’s so much mystery around what is being created, that for just a tiny moment, we as viewers often forget there’s even someone there working their ass off to convey to you what they are seeing, hearing, and/or feeling in that specific moment. Then, when an image begins to emerge, a peek of the artist is seen just long enough for the question of why the artist is doing what he/she/they is/are doing to seep in, and once an artist's awareness of that happens, it oftentimes can create an intense palpable pressure . But Mulkey doesn’t seem to mind that one bit. She doesn't even notice, really, because she's a badass who paints right through it as though it doesn't even exist. For those of you wondering, this is what we call "the zone."


“When I paint live, I sometimes start … by writing with paint in cursive across the entire canvas: first line forward, next line backwards, then forward again, and backwards every other line. I’ve become quite good at writing backwards because of this. It’s fun to see people react when they realize what I’m doing,” she explains. “It’s a great touch in the end, even though it’s just a technique for texture and getting an idea of where I’m to go with the painting. It makes for good live painting, too, because no one knows what the painting is going to be until the very end.”

She adds, “People always comment on my process, saying they never know what’s going to happen next or what the painting is going to end up being. The funny thing is, I didn’t want to paint live in the beginning, so it worked out well!”


Today Jill stays between Baton Rouge and Minnesota, where her other studio is. She’s currently working on collections and several commissioned pieces. Her zodiac collection, which instantly drew me in even deeper than I already was, involves characters with traits and symbols from each house of the zodiac. She tells me started years ago with “Pisces Girl” and has since completed the signs Taurus, Cancer, Libra, Virgo, and Sagittarius. As a Taurus, I personally connect to her representation of Taurean nature: still, yet loud, messy, confusing to some, and organically earthbound ... refusing to conform; I love it.

Mulkey says she loves all the interesting aspects of each sign, and there’s so much to include in each piece that the process has been nothing short of enlightening and entertaining for her.


Work on the zodiac series continues, although she’s had to put it on hold, “to complete various commission work, including this Boba Fett piece, which has compelled me to start a ‘Star Wars’ collection. Once I posted the finished Boba Fett piece [online], I got two commissions from it. I grew up on ‘Star Wars’ and love it, and I’ve always wanted to do some art based on the early movies, so that is in the works.”


Other commissions she’s been working on involve religious themes taken from a statue of Mary and the baby Jesus, as well as her popular bikes.

She also works on layering in lyrics and parts of songs into her art.


“I’ll start with the very first songs I remember as a kid and make art out of them. There’s [sic] so many eras of music that I love. … [I] could have a different theme forever. … [E]veryone loves to see their favorite songs in art and connect [with them].”


Speaking of music, Mulkey talks of switching between listening to metal, 90s or Pop music when she paints, depending on her mood, and when she isn't listening to music, she works with a podcast rolling--either true crime or haunted stories, or "Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend," "Jeff Lewis Has Issues," or "Smartless," to be exact. When she isn't painting and is indulging in some well earned chill-out time, she's probably on Netflix, Hulu, or Tubi.

"My latest guilty pleasure has been the Netflix series 'You.' ... [And] for some reason, I've been hooked on 80s cult movies lately ... and Conan O'Brien," she adds with a laugh.

When asked what about this world inspires her most to paint and create, she says she wants to be able to see the things visualized in her mind emerge into tangible form. That's the magic.

"I'm also very into pop culture, and that is very influential on things that I paint," she adds, noting that her absolute favorite mediums to work with are charcoal and acrylic, but she also loves spray paint and enjoys experimenting with all mediums.

Mulkey currently is focused on completing her commissioned pieces, as well as her zodiac collection, and she says she's also looking forward to working with local Baton Rouge gallery owner Mark Nikoff, who is planning future art openings starting in March 2023.

It's no doubt her arsenal is full of an expansive variety of creations on a multitude of subjects with a myriad of focused perspectives and messages, but if you ask her what her favorite thing in the whole world to paint is, she'll smile and tell you it's her faces, which are nothing short of worthy of your admiration and exploration. So, just for you, art lovers, I leave you with a mini-gallery of some faces and other selections from her digital portfolio I found interesting. Enjoy, my friends.

Be sure to find, follow, and support Jill Mulkey Art online to stay plugged into her latest pieces, any current and upcoming shows, and updates to any of her unique collections.

*Images courtesy of Jill Mulkey Art

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