Words and Photos: Ericka Kastner
Art and Salvage Gallery owner Jessica Vogel says people in Salida bring her windows to paint on all the time, often dropping them off overnight on the sidewalk in front of the gallery, where wood-framed panes of glass greet her when she arrives in the morning.
Jessica, photojournalism major-turned anthropology graduate-turned salvaged window artist, lives in the small Colorado mountain town with her husband Brett and daughter Violet. She spends her days in pursuit of vintage windows to embellish with aspen trees, bicycles and birds in bold acrylic colors.
“I’ve picked up some really cool, amazing windows from Texas (her childhood home). Sometimes huge, old Victorian buildings are renovated and I get the windows. I have 20 windows from an episcopal church.”
During the recent sale of a building in Galveston, a boarded up attic was opened and a roomful of unused windows was discovered. The owners later learned the building was once a commercial window factory and Jessica took steps to obtain the windows.
Sometimes people bring windows from their childhood homes for her to paint. Earlier this summer, a Texas family travelled to Colorado to follow up on their genealogical connections to a remote mine. While exploring the mine, they collected old wood, and during their travels through Salida, came across Jessica’s downtown gallery. She’s since painted on the wood at their request and her art now hangs in the family home in Texas.
Jessica says she loves the idea of utilizing any found object people would otherwise throw away and incorporating it into her art. “Violet (age 9) and I spend hours at the railroad tracks collecting wood or metal to paint on. The idea of using salvaged materials is important to me.”
She also hunts down what she describes as “old, choppy baseboard wood” and vintage hardware. She makes journals out of old books and uses the pages of the books and price tags from reclaimed objects in her art. Her work can be found in vacation rentals and galleries across Colorado, including locations in Breckenridge, Leadville, Colorado Springs and her newest showing at Outnumbered Gallery in Littleton.
Like a number of other Salida transplants, Jessica has a degree in anthropology, which led her to a senior year of study in Guadalajara, Mexico. After college, her travels continued, leading her to live a year in France, tour Europe and explore North Africa. Shortly afterwards, she reconnected with and married her college sweetheart, Brett.
After Violet was born, Jessica says she shot commercial photography and in her free time created Polaroid transfers. These early creations were done mainly for herself, but occasionally she sold some art at small festivals in Colorado.
She went on to work with acrylics, beginning with iconography, stemming partly from her year in Mexico. She says she wouldn’t describe herself as a partaker of organized religion, but acknowledges she has respect for religious symbols. “My early art had angels, religious objects… a lot of angels.”
When asked why birds now so often come into play in her art, Jessica shrugs her shoulders and smiles. “I’ve always loved them. Once I started painting them people responded to the birds.” She says visitors to the gallery will frequently count the number of birds in a painting, naming aloud members of their family as they count.
As Jessica describes it, the window painting began when her neighbor left two five-foot by five-foot windows at the end of the driveway with a “free” sign on them. Jessica asked Brett to bring them inside and she and Violet plastered them with creativity and paint in the form of a family portrait. The windows still hang in the Vogel’s Salida dining room. “They are so vibrant, and we love that we made them together.”
Since then, the transition from garage painter of found windows to gallery owner of six years and widely-known artist has been serendipitous and organic. Nearly half of her work is custom; a client may suggest colors and symbols and Jessica creates the rest. Curiously enough, she portrays a lot of family pets at the request of clients.
When she’s not painting or salvaging, Jessica and her family live in their second home in Dzilam de Bravo, Mexico. She recently finished writing her first novel, set in this land far away from her Salida address, and Jess says a lot of her time in the small fishing village is spent writing and balancing out the business she experiences the rest of the year. A number of anecdotes in the book are from her family’s “ridiculous random experiences in Mexico.”
“Mexico and its people are my biggest influences. When things get hectic or crazy, if I can go there and sit on the porch and look at the water, I’m the happiest.”
121 N. F Street
Salida, CO 81201
P: (719) 221-9284