Local Artist’s Work, Inspired by Decomposing Bodies, on Display in Petaluma

Artist Jaynee Watson next to one of her installations at the
Artist Jaynee Watson next to one of her installations at the “Discovered: Emerging Artists from Sonoma County” exhibit at the Petaluma Arts Center. (Estefany Gonzalez)

For local artist Jaynee Watson, another person’s trash is her treasure. Using discarded objects and materials she finds on the street, Watson creates unique and captivating three-dimensional art pieces. Her intent is to acknowledge that each object she uses had a purpose before she found it and to honor, even glorify, that purpose in order to make viewers reconsider what art is or can be. 

“Most people would just consider these objects trash or something they can discard. When I see [an object], I think ‘this thing had a life,’” she says. “It’s like I’m preserving its history but also adding to it.”

One of Jaynee Watson's
One of Jaynee Watson’s installations at the “Discovered: Emerging Artists from Sonoma County” exhibit at the Petaluma Arts Center. (Estefany Gonzalez)

While Watson’s style can be a little hard, even uncomfortable, to digest for some viewers, it did not put off the judges of the “Discovered: Emerging Artists from Sonoma County” program – on the contrary. Watson is one of five women, out of 49 applications and 12 finalists, who was recently awarded a shared exhibit at Petaluma Arts Center and a $2000 stipend from the program. 

One of Watson’s favorite objects, used in her upcoming show, is a plastic drain cover made from Elmer’s Glue. She encountered it on a street in San Francisco and it immediately caught her attention. The man who made the glue cover (in order to keep the metal drain from getting stolen from his front yard) saw how excited Watson was about the cover and decided to give it to her. 

One of Jaynee Watson's installations at the "Discovered: Emerging Artists from Sonoma County" exhibit at the Petaluma Arts Center. (Estefany Gonzalez)
One of Jaynee Watson’s installations at the “Discovered: Emerging Artists from Sonoma County” exhibit at the Petaluma Arts Center. (Estefany Gonzalez)

Items like the glue cover stand out to Watson because they make her think of things she’s read and seen in books about forensic pathology. The glue cover reminded her of skin slippage, a process which happens to the body around seven days after death.  

“With that kind of stuff, I feel like people will think about it more at a later date and try to figure out why they felt uncomfortable or weird while looking at my work,” she said. 

Watson’s passion for art developed when she was a child. She would often ask her parents for markers, crayons, and other art supplies during the holidays. “None of my friends were into art, so it wasn’t something I talked about with people,” she said. “I just kind of kept it to myself.” 

Visitors to the
Visitors to the “Discovered: Emerging Artists from Sonoma County” exhibit at the Petaluma Arts Center mingle and take in the different art installations. (Estefany Gonzalez)

Despite Watson’s early interest in art, it wasn’t until college that she realized she could make a career out of her passion. She started as an art history major, and for a while she considered becoming a museum curator or an art historian, but when she took a studio art class as part of her degree at Sonoma State University, she rediscovered her love for making art. 

“I realized I would rather be the person making [the art] than the person writing about it,” Watson said. “I don’t ever really want to do anything else.” 

Watson’s passion for making art is so strong that she sometimes will work through the night into early morning. “I’ll look up at the time and say ‘It’s three in the morning I need to go to bed I have work at 8 am.,’” she said.

One of Jaynee Watson's installations at the "Discovered: Emerging Artists from Sonoma County" exhibit at the Petaluma Arts Center. (Estefany Gonzalez)
One of Jaynee Watson’s installations at the “Discovered: Emerging Artists from Sonoma County” exhibit at the Petaluma Arts Center. (Estefany Gonzalez)

While she remains passionate about making art, Watson is also considering pursuing a Master’s Degree to become a college art teacher.  “My print teacher changed my life. I have so much respect and love for him as an artist,” she said. “ I want to be the person to do that for other kids.”

To view some of Watson’s art in person, visit the Petaluma Arts Center, 230 Lakeville Street, Petaluma. The “Discovered: Emerging Artists from Sonoma County” exhibit runs Jan. 24 – March 18. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 11am-5pm. Closed Sunday, Monday & holidays.

To learn more about the other women featured in the exhibit, visit pressdemocrat.com

crowd shot
Visitors to the “Discovered: Emerging Artists from Sonoma County” exhibit at the Petaluma Arts Center mingle and take in the different art installations. (Estefany Gonzalez)

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