In Conversation with Cedar Jeffs

OTOMYS: I am very drawn to your paintings of the girls with birds on their shoulders and would love to hear a little more about how you conceptualized this series. 

Cedar Jeffs: I started working on this series in 2020 when it felt like there was a lot of disconnection in the world. I began to experiment with collage as I enjoy working with contrast, juxtaposing the clean, perfect fashion aesthetic with elements of the natural world. When using this medium I can disconnect body parts and find ways to fit them back together so they still feel harmonious. 

This imagery became a metaphor for the way we present ourselves to the world. Everything looks seamless from the outside and then when you look closer you see/ feel that things are not right. The birds represent the messy, wild, fragile and unpredictable parts of our nature often put aside or hidden within. There is a sense of the birds calling us back into connection not only with this part of ourselves but also with the natural world around us. 


OTOMYS: How has your background in textiles and costume design influenced your artistic practice? 

Cedar Jeffs: I think I will always be inspired by the nature of fabric and the way it falls over the body. I love the potential that costumes offer to transform a person in a certain way, giving them the opportunity to play a different role or embody a mood. 

This same potential is also brought into my paintings through the compositional choices I make.. For this I rely on my dressmaking and costume design experience to create the mood, colour palette and the texture. 


OTOMYS: What is it about the vintage fashion aesthetic that resonates with you? 

Cedar Jeffs: I am interested in the relationship we have to fashion and the way it can shape our lives. 

Fashion can be a practical response to cultural narratives, it can be used as a political statement, to make change or as a form of escapism. For centuries women have adorned their bodies in garments to express themselves, to subvert or disguise themselves and conform to the pressures of society. 

Vintage fashion has a way of evoking a collective memory and a moment in time. As women we all have stories and attachments to past fashion movements. What I am drawn to most is that fashion is a silent language that signifies a lot ,much like painting itself. 


OTOMYS: Despite often only depicting a lone figure, your works are often about humans as social beings and the pressures that come from conforming to social expectations. How much are you inspired by your own experiences, the experiences of people around you and/or external media (film, tv, books, podcasts)? 

Cedar Jeffs: Being a highly sensitive person I am continually absorbing a lot. I make paintings from an emotional place/space and use painting as a tool for processing my experiences and observations. 

I gather my inspiration from a diverse range of places. I am inspired by artists from the past and present and across many different disciplines - including writers and filmmakers, photographers and designers. I source a lot of my imagery from editorial shoots, so I am always looking at vintage magazines and blogs to get inspiration. I find reading novels also really helps with my creative process especially when developing a new series. 


OTOMYS: In what ways do you think nature relieves or further constrains us from the expectations of society? 

Cedar Jeffs: This is an interesting question. I think for me spending time in nature can be a break from social pressure and expectations. When I am alone in the landscape I can be myself and recharge. This is one of the reasons why I love living in The Northern Rivers surrounded by lush rainforests and a stunning coastline. 


July 13, 2022