Unnamed yet unmistakable, Baltimore-based duo Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn (Jessie&Katey) have made their mark in “The Spine” at AREA15 on the Meow Wolf facade with a classically colorful, topsy-turvy mural made fresh with UV-reactive paint. “It doesn't even look like paint,” says Unterhalter. “It almost has like this velvet texture to it.”
“The UV paints are kind of breathtaking. Even as we’re painting, by the end of a project – we’re like over it. . . we know what it's going to look like, but this is just like looking into a fire almost. You're like, it's so pretty,” says Truhn of the unnamed mural. (“Naming is not our favorite thing,” adds Unterhalter.)
AREA15 is a newly opened immersive experience mall in Las Vegas and home to the newest exhibition by Meow Wolf, Omega Mart. “The Spine” features works by other Meow Wolf collaborating artists such as Valentin Yordanov and Heather Hermann.
Jessie&Katey have been traveling the world, working as a team, and leaving behind large-scale polygonic, prismatic murals for roughly 10 years now. Most recently, an outdoor oriental run on a staircase on the campus of Appalachian State covered by Colossal. They also designed and curated an inside wall of Facebook Headquarters in Washington D.C. using their classic painting style coupled with recycled materials.
They met at Maryland Institute College of Art, and both took some time after college to seek their individual paths but realized that their respective artistic paths were best intertwined. The two. They got involved with Meow Wolf in the summer of 2019 and were brought to Las Vegas to create their mural the following summer.
Their piece inside AREA15 was sketched and conceived how they sketch and conceive every piece; using paper and pencils. They say feeling the curve of the pencil along the paper excites their ideas and brings forth new ways to push the envelope of their signature abstract yet geometric style.
“We've been really into fading colors lately, like gradients. So, we just were trying to do that with the UV paint, it worked pretty well. Just a little bit of white, a little bit of yellow. It was fun. It was really messy though,” Unterhalter says of the color-story.
Having mostly worked with exterior surfaces, the two often allow architecture to inform their style and, as a result, have learned to scale way up. Their mural inside “The Spine,” on the other hand, had to be scaled down.
“When we got there, we scaled everything down because we did not realize how massive the space was. We got the dimensions, but it's so big when you're there that we brought everything down and made it smaller so that . . . you just experienced more of it on the ground,” explains Truhn.
While the curvature of their style screams fun, Jessie says the journey of creation is much more stringent. “Ultimately, it is all pretty rigid in the end. We're just doing a bunch of geometry and math and it's all based on where points lie, where architectural elements are laid in the building.”
Of the added UV element of their mural, Truhn says, “It's like being on the moon or something.” (One might say that the whole experience of AREA15 is like being on the moon.)
Jessie&Katey are taking it slow now that they’ve wrapped on the unnamed mural and most recently, a middle school in Washington D.C. Katey believes that the future of art is public-facing. They are both proud to work in public art.
“I think for a while the whole pandemic and the state of our country made us feel like, what are we doing with our lives? Like how are we helping?” Truhn explains that their quarantine journey has been a bumpy one. “Our larger projects just like dropped off. Now we have more time, which is a double-edged sword. . . we do schedule breaks, but it's hard because everything is always changing, with like Meow Wolf, they like were like, we need you here now and then we're like, okay, we'll go.”
“But it feels really actually like it's good to keep culture alive out in the public spaces that people can safely enjoy as a meetup,” offers Truhn “ because there are not many other new things happening that people can engage in, in public spaces.”
AREA15 offers public art as a backdrop to the immersive experiences it hosts; like ziplining and axe-throwing. We’re excited to be part of the public art movement as purveyors of “The Spine”. Omega Mart is slated to open in early 2021, but Jessie&Katey’s mural is ready to experience now. Reserve your tickets in advance or for same-day access at area15.com.
Follow Jessie&Katey on Instagram to see their art journey unfold.