Toronto Artist Offers Nostalgic Look Into Saturday Mornings Past

Your Saturday morning sure looks a lot different right now than it did in the 1980s, doesn’t it? Growing up, there was something distinctly special about Saturday mornings; you know, the days of saving the marshmallows for last in your Lucky Charms cereal, morning cartoons in your super hero PJs, and the excitement of the seemingly never-ending weekend ahead. Now, you can revisit these days as Toronto-based artist Jessica Gorlicky, or Jessgo, as she is better known, offers a relatable blast from the past with a nostalgic collection of 95 new works that celebrate the simple joys of Saturday mornings back in the day.

Saturday Morning portrays Jessgo’s favourite 1980s memories, including kid-favourite cereals and beloved cartoon characters on canvas and through installations. It serves as a reminder of once glaringly familiar faces, some now distant memories, like Richie Rich, Marvin the Martian, Gonzo, Smurfette, Jessica Rabbit and many others. It features things like vintage candy and life-size Monopoly pieces and offers the types of colourful, homey visuals that make you smile in reflection.

If you haven’t heard, Jessgo is a live performance painter who has become a fixture on Toronto’s art scene among hipsters, socialites, seasoned art enthusiasts and art newbies alike, who are drawn to her colourful, urban works and ability to create in front of a live audience. She has sold over 1,000 works – everything from murals to canvases and chandeliers – and has collaborated with major brands like Cirque du Soleil, Holt Renfrew, Coca-Cola, the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games and TOMS shoes. Her artwork has graced the walls of trendy restaurants worldwide and the runways of retail powerhouses and private collections around the world. We caught up with her in Toronto to hear a little more about Saturday Morning.

How did you get started in art?
I studied art history in Italy at the age of 17, and I never looked back; I came back a changed person. Prior to that trip, I had already been painting a few years in a really classical landscape style, but I guess I grew up and changed a little in that six months I spent away, and those changes caused me to come out of my shell as an artist a little.

Did you study art after high school?
My degree was in political science and fine arts. I took more art history than practical hands-on art classes in school, actually.

What was your inspiration for the exhibit?
My nostalgic love for all of the characters on Saturday mornings. I have a true passion for every one of these characters you see around the space. It makes me so happy and I don’t think I will ever grow out of it; I will always stay in those Saturday morning happy places. And that’s just it: it represents happiness. It’s those simple, free moments when we’d rush downstairs, have a massive bowl of cereal and enjoy some quality cartoon-watching. That’s something everyone can relate to it; who didn’t do that? If you didn’t, you should do so now.

And it will appeal to the typical young professional for this reason…
Yeah, I mean, anyone will relate as soon as you walk in. It offers crazy flashbacks to childhood; if not one, it’s all 95 of them. I see each and every character being like friends of mine that I can revisit each time I turn on a nostalgic show. I loved it then and I love it now. The reaction of people in our age demographic has been positive and really great to see.

What type of people would you expect to buy your pieces and for what?
Everyone and anywhere. I would put them anywhere in the home, from a kitchen, to 75-year-old man’s boudoir, to in a child’s room. I mean, these are things like The Muppets, Alvin, Tom and Jerry; they can only make the home happier. I loved that this one shows Tom and Jerry as friends, because they were the best when they were friends, they were the perfect tag team. I think people like the spinoff on some of this super creative and artistic stuff, like Miss Piggy in the kiss makeup or Mr. T being Pink Panther, because he is a tough cat, then there’s Gonzo in the limelight…

What inspires you to create? Do you need to be in a particular mood?
I didn’t have time to be in any mood with creating this, but when I got working on a certain thing, or a new subject, my mood instantly became better. I had some vision about the whole thing and I didn’t feel overwhelmingly frustrated. Inspiration started coming from all kinds of places and discussions with friends about characters we missed – people would be throwing out new names at me all the time. It was too many; people would be like, “Did you get this one” and, “Did you get that one?” all the time. My husband and I would be in bed on Sunday mornings reminiscing about characters, recalling ones we had forgotten, making notes of ones we had to include. I know I missed a few, and I already have 95. It was impossible to get the entire 80s decade into this show.

What is your personal style?
Abstract and colour-based, definitely. I am moving in the direction of pop art, which was this show for me. As this show is entirely pop art, I see it as my coming out as such an artist. Before, pop art has sort of slipped into my show, now this is me being a pop artist. This is it.

How much time did it take for you to create the exhibit from start to finish?
Oh, definitely not enough. I worked around the clock and am now completely drained. I started about four months ago. That’s not normal for me though. This is about a good year plus normally. I just had so much fun with this show though. I especially love the spinoff of all the products that I love, like Pillsbury and all that sugary cereal. I have a great graphic designer, Jeffrey Kahane, who is a genius and helps with background and colours and to put it together graphically. We just went for it. Never before have I been able to let people in to my art, I never needed to. This was a whole other level.

What is notable to you?
The entire generation that shares the same nostalgia of a wonderful Saturday morning in the 1980s or late 70s or early 90s. As you can see, this is it. It really speaks for itself. I think in its own Jessgo style it’s able to show really well, because I am colourful in my work and I think that everyone can relate that it was a colourful era.

What is success to you?
Painting, all the time. Having fun. Pleasing people. Have reached a happy place for myself and my clients and continuing to receive wonderful feedback. Even without all that congratulatory amazing stuff, it’s really about so much more. I get happy just looking around my studio and loving my space and getting to throw one or two events per year where people flood into the place. It makes all of my hard work in those months leading up worth it.

What was the biggest challenge in putting this all together?
The biggest challenge is the physical and mental overload of ideas and turning those from blank canvasses. I mean, I am tired after creating 95 pieces. Plus, putting it all together is a challenge in itself. You’re wearing more hats than just that of an artist. You become an event planner, work to get sponsors, work with a PR team. It’s a huge undertaking. But it’s about doing it, loving what you’re doing and just believing in it. Seeing people’s reactions was amazing. It makes me want to do it again, and not do it again at the same time! It definitely requires a bunch of people; 10 sales people on the floor, volunteers, candy volunteers… but this is living for me. I have to do this, it’s my calling.

What’s next for you?
Well, I need to try to physically recover for a few months, even though I have a ton of performances booked. I will be doing a bunch of live painting for private and public parties, some across the country. I also have a bunch of commissions that my clients are waiting on, but they’ve been patient for me well I did the show. A lot of them have come by, so they understand why I’ve been a little MIA.

This is kind of a trick question then, given that it’s your calling… but if you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
An artist. If I weren’t an artist, I’d still be an artist. Hmmm. I don’t know, a travelling writer. A world traveller.