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On the cover: Jessica Brilli interview

False Start by Jessica Brilli

False Start by Jessica Brilli

Jessica Brilli, whose art appeared on the cover of issue 48 of Delayed Gratification, is known for her beautiful, nostalgic oil paintings of vintage objects and street and swimming scenes, drawn from old slides and photos of life in the US. Based in Quincy, a coastal city in Massachusetts, she sells much of her work in California and is planning to show in London.

Rob Orchard spoke to her about her process and inspiration in our latest issue.

Portrait of Jessica Brilli. Photo: Tony Pinto

Portrait of Jessica Brilli. Photo: Tony Pinto

What lies behind your distinctive aesthetic?
I am drawn to a particular look and it’s hard to really put into words why that is. But I guess it’s a combination of my upbringing on Long Island, my family history and things I find visually appealing.

Morning of the Camping Trip

Morning of the Camping Trip by Jessica Brilli

Where do you find the images you base your paintings on?
A lot of different places – yard sales, vintage stores, people give them to me… I recently got a large collection from a guy in my neighbourhood who goes to a lot of auctions. There are several hundred slides in there, I’ll just hunt through all of them until one stops me in my tracks. Something that makes me think ‘Oh my God, that’s amazing, I need to paint that’.

What sort of image does that?
Things that remind me of happy childhood memories. I paint lots of swimming scenes and that is definitely derived from being a kid on Long Island and pool-hopping with friends. I like the images to be in colour, so I don’t really do anything before the 1940s. And nothing after the 1990s, when I was a kid.

Pool by Jessica Brilli

Pool by Jessica Brilli

What are other people drawn to in your work?
I think they’re relating it to something in their own life. There’s a universal sort of American tint to our upbringing. Visually it looks like a better, simpler time. But if you scratch the surface, it wasn’t really any better. We projected this image of the perfect suburban life with the things that everybody wanted to have, and it was a facade.

What can you tell us about our cover art, False Start?
I have always loved the aesthetics of swimming and I painted an earlier version of False Start six or seven years ago. About 18 months ago I got a much bigger studio and I always wanted to do a very large version of it, so I did it again but switched up the colours and made it really graphic.

Do you ever capture political or news themes in your work?
I dabble in things that are political. My husband’s uncle took lots of photos in Texas in the 1950s and I recently got a look at them. I found an amazing image of two women with guns, and I thought it was interesting. Events in the US right now mean that women once again don’t have autonomy over our bodies, but I could easily go out and buy a gun if I wanted to, which doesn’t make sense to me. But I did this painting of the women and a friend of mine, Robert Mars, added a background collage. We called it Repeat Pattern because it touches on the recurring themes of guns and women’s rights in the US.

Repeat Pattern by Jessica Brilli

Repeat Pattern by Jessica Brilli

Which artists are you excited about at the moment?
One favourite is a painter named Christopher Burk, who lives in Columbus, Ohio. He recently started a series of houses in flood zones from an aerial view, it’s really interesting. And there’s an artist in California, Lena Wolff, who does a lot of work with paper, collage and wood, it is really gorgeous.

Delayed Gratification #48 is available now from our online shop.
You can see more of Jessica’s work at


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