Wes and Jess Warren Are a Dynamic Painting Duo
Since their arrival in 2012, the couple has embraced the Alameda art scene by winning awards and opening a gallery.
Red Balloon by Jess Warren
Painting courtesy of Jess Warren
Wes Warren was working at his Java Street Art Café in St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1993 when Jess Brock walked in to ask if she could set up a stand protesting alligator wrestling at a local tourist attraction. The two both happened to be painters, primarily acrylic on canvas, and the cafe soon hosted the first exhibition of her artwork. A beautiful creative and romantic partnership followed.
The couple moved to Alameda in 2012, and in the short time since have exhibited at half a dozen venues and, as winners of Alameda Municipal Power’s Power Box Art Program, have their work on public display. Last year, Wes Warren was nominated for a Rhythmix Cultural Works’ Golden Gear Award for excellence in visual arts. That was enough to establish themselves locally, but they also opened their own venue, Studio 23 Gallery, tucked behind Revelation Cleaners, and they have been hosting shows and several artist meetups every month. Watching over it all is Friendly Lord Zondar, the giant robot Wes Warren built from metal duct work.
Wes Warren was selling his paintings at nightclubs by the age of 16, drawing inspiration from Salvador Dalí and other surrealists. His painting Piedmont Avenue depicts the street view from Gaylord’s Caffe Espresso in Oakland, “aside from the two-headed creature, which is actually a tree and a lamppost,” he said. Where does this perception come from? “I have the sense that there’s something hiding just on the other side of reality and you get glimpses of it,” he explained, “but if you look directly at it you can’t see it.”
Jess Warren’s mother was an artist, but her greatest influence was the swimsuit edition of her father’s Sports Illustrated magazines. “I would draw the girls one after the other,” she said, “and I’m still drawing girls to this day.” But these are not simply her father’s pinups. “I’ve been painting women and the world falling apart around them,” she said. “There’s melancholy. I think it’s the fact that something could change and immediately your whole world could be shaken up.”
After two decades, the couple not only finishes each other’s sentences, but influences each other’s art. “Anything that comes out really bizarre is a big tribute to Wes,” Jess Warren said. “We pair really well.”
More of the artists’ work can be seen at www.JessicaWarren.net and www.WesleyWarren.com, or by visiting Studio 23 Gallery, 2309 Encinal Ave., during Alameda’s art walk the second Friday of every month from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Published online on Sept. 14, 2016 at 8 a.m.