Artist Spotlight: A Q&A With Local Artist Jessica Wachter

Ever wonder where some of the beautiful art displayed around the mall through our Regional Showcase originates? In our very first artist spotlight, we are excited to share our Q&A with local artist, Jessica Wachter! See what she has to say about her journey to becoming a full-time artist (and about some of her work in West Acres).

By: Niki | August 26, 2016

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I was born in Bismarck, ND, graduated Magna Cum Laude from North Dakota State University with degrees in Art and Interior Design. I am currently living in Bismarck, and practicing as a full-time artist. I continue to explore with new mediums and the scale of my work, the largest single piece to date has been 12 feet by 10 feet. My contemporary mixed media work is strongly gestural, often containing personal celebrations, struggles, joys, loves, and losses… expressing  these experiences through color, texture, and composition.

I’ve served as a member to the North Dakota State University, Bison Arts Board of Directors and the NDSU Architecture and Landscape Architecture Advisory Board. Previously, I was an assistant/consultant at ecce gallery for four years. I had the pleasure to work with the students at Charism, a neighborhood charity program where I mentored and taught Charism: Faces, an after-school art class for underserved female youth in the Fargo/Moorhead area. I was fortunate to have an apprenticeship at Experience Institute in Chicago. At the Tedx Des Moines, I gave a Tedx talk entitled “Everyone is an Artist.”

What triggered your interest in art? When was the first time you told yourself “I want to be in artist”?

Mrs. Olson my 3rd grade teacher combined art into the curriculum! Yes 3rd Grade, I still marvel how lucky I was! It clicked, it came naturally… I was hooked! My parents signed me up for different workshops at a local gallery. I was encouraged to follow what I loved doing and I am grateful and thankful to be doing what I love!

Jessica in her studio in Bismarck, ND | Photo: Melanie Sioux Photography 


How would you describe your art?

Much of my work is abstract. However, is there really such a thing as abstract art? What is abstract about feelings or emotions? I have been told that individuals see sorrow, joy, love and loss in my paintings. I paint and create based on my experiences.

What is your biggest inspiration for your art these days? What drives you creatively? 

Changes and shifts in my life. It always motivates me to express myself. What I see in front of me is what inspires me; painting gives me that channel to put it all in perspective. What drives me? The absolute freedom to express myself! The liberty to go beyond what others may see as pushing the edge. The more people who are provoked by my art, who share their thoughts and feelings and express what it says to them; those encounters motivate me!

Jessica in her studio in Bismarck, ND | Photo: Melanie Sioux Photography 


Do you have a favorite piece(s) or a favorite installation?

When I was young, we went on a family trip, there was a Monet traveling exhibit and it was the first time I saw Monet’s famous painting Water Lilies. I loved the massive scale! Even as Monet’s blindness progressed and he continued to paint, he is in a league of his own! Recently, I saw the exhibition of Joan Mitchell’s work at the Cheim & Read Gallery in New York, she has always been one of my favorite artists and it was very moving to see her work in person. 
A favorite installation as of currently is a pop-up art installation made of floating saffron-colored walkways! Visitors to northern Italy’s Lake Iseo can walk on water….well, sort of! “The Floating Piers” is an artwork which moves with the waves, it stretches across the lake linking two islands to the mainland, it’s absolutely amazing!! Now if only I could experience it in person.

Walk us through a day in your studio.

I am up pretty early, I work out; feel refreshed and ready to take on the day! I then head to my studio. I am there almost every day. I have my cup of coffee or tea and then I assess my work. Some days are very productive and I am on a roll, other days may progress more slowly, if I have a creative block. On these days I back up reassess, study and look at pieces from a different angle, perspective and feel. I have 40 different pieces I am working on at any given time in all different stages of completion. Some works go for months without being touched, some I work on everyday… I give myself the freedom to work on pieces that speak to me. So, with the creative process and the time it takes oil paint to dry, what a lot of people don’t realize is that with some of my oil paintings they can take up to even a few years to create.

 Jessica in her studio in Bismarck, ND | Photo: Melanie Sioux Photography 


How would you say your artwork has evolved from when you first started your career to now?

Life experiences change you, I know it has me. I have certainly grown as an artist. The older I get and the more confident I feel with my finished project; the more invincible I get to feel! Funny…then there is the flip side where I can be pretty sensitive to each piece as they reach completion.

What would you consider your biggest accomplishment to be in your artistic career so far?

Of course the large tile art installation at West Acres was a huge accomplishment for me!! I was so honored to be asked to create it and I am very proud of it. This was installed in the hallway at West Acres. The hallway was designed around my art installation and West Acres did an amazing job of showcasing it.

Recently a big accomplishment for me was the completion of a large12 foot by 10 foot piece which took two years to complete. At that size, it became a part of me and a big part of my studio space for those two years! It was also exciting that it sold quickly at my solo exhibition.

Who is your favorite artist, and why?

Joan Mitchell, she is an American abstract expressionist painter and printmaker. I discovered her work while in college and it immediately touched, moved and inspired me… I love her personal story. The success she accomplished in a male dominate era continues to motivate me. Her large scale work, the depth of color she imagined for her pieces and the power behind the shapes her brush strokes created, still have me in awe to this day!

Jessica Wachter, Fields of Color. Original oil on canvas pieces hang in the mall. This installation is photographs of those pieces that were transferred on to tile. West Acres restroom hallway near the food court.


Can you tell us about the process of creating the large tile hallway installation at West Acres and a bit about the installation?

This was a dream come true. It was so fun working with West Acres, Joan Nelson and the contractors. I was asked to paint seven oil on canvas paintings and then these seven paintings were made into tile. Collaborating, pulling together a vision and color pallet was exciting! Then being cut loose to create a landscape on such a large scale that architecturally was designated for the area, was really a wonderful opportunity!

We love the idea of West Acres being an intersection of fashion and art – do you draw a connection between your fashion choices and your own artwork?

Yes, I do. My artwork is often colorful and unique, so I find myself making the same choices in what I select to wear or put together for accessories and jewelry with my fashion choices. West Acres has really done an amazing job supporting original art work and providing great stores to shop at!

Jessica Wachter, “Weltanschauung” (German for worldview), Oil on Canvas. Sears Court


 At West Acres we believe that not everybody may always see the art that is on display, but they can feel its presence.

West Acres is providing a remarkable experience for shoppers to see and feel local artists! And I feel honored to be included. Local artist’s will forever be indebted to West Acres for having the vision to have art an integral part for consumers to experience at West Acres.

Jessica Wachter, Untitled, Oil on Paper. West Acres Mall Office.


How do you think art transforms people, spaces and even entire communities such as Fargo?

Graphic Designer Stefan Sagmeister: created a show called “The Happy Show”, which is an exploration of happiness. I saw this show a few years ago in Chicago. It really moved me and was able to get me thinking in a new way. I really believe that when people set goal’s in trying to create all types of environment’s and even communities… discussion’s revolve around what might “please the eye”…or make them feel good. It has been exciting to see the transformation of Fargo over the years and how they have integrated this viewpoint into their community and downtown area. Giving so many different types of ideas a platform to explore, dream and create and then getting behind those people and artist in supporting them. I am passionate about believing that when we are all doing what we love and enjoy using our authentic gifts in the world… that is when the true transformation for endless positive change will happen!

Where can we find more information on your artwork, buy it or see it in person?

Visit my website!


I have the privilege of being on the amazing Marketing, PR and Fashion team as the Digital Marketing Manager at West Acres. When I am not managing our social and digital platforms and brainstorming content ideas, I am the woman behind (and sometimes in front of) the camera – creating content and working with the media to create segments to introduce the latest trends! When I’m not at the mall, you can find me watching “Friends,” eating ice cream by the carton, spending time with my family and friends, feeding my Pinterest addiction or crossing off destinations on my traveling bucket list.




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