Jill Allyn Stafford
Working with collage and mixed media, Jill Allyn Stafford is a self-taught artist who has been living and working in Sacramento for the past 19 years. Growing up, Jill moved frequently, calling small towns in Kansas, Oregon, and Washington State home. Living with her mother and Native American stepfather, she also spent time on the Prairie Band Potawatomi and the Kickapoo Reservations in Northeastern Kansas. This constant change of scenery greatly affected Jill’s creative spirit.
When she was 15, Jill was struck with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, leaving her on full life support, completely paralyzed and unable to communicate except through shoulder shrugs. By the time she began to bounce back, she says, “Everything we take for granted was a struggle for me.” She had to relearn all basic functions–sitting up, feeding herself, walking–but once she had improved enough, she promptly returned to high school. This temporary setback had a major impact on her life–changing the way she thought about everything–and especially emphasizing the importance of communicating and connecting with others. Through her artwork, Jill seeks to make these connections and express her feelings, thoughts, and ideas to the world around her.
Getting started with art
In 6th grade, Jill gave up on art because she “realized that [her] drawings of princesses and their kingdoms were never going to look realistic.” Luckily, years later, she fell back into art through online message boards. She became friends with creatives in the comic book industry, bound together by their non-fiction storytelling. Jill says, “…through that exercise in creative writing…and the encouragement of my online friends, I tried to take my storytelling to a different level.”
That “different level” was storytelling through the use of collage and mixed media art, which she opted for because, as she says, she “knew [her] drawing skills were still at a 6th grade level.” Jill began cutting out images from magazines and placing them in different environments (see “The Ghost in You”, at right). She began posting her work online, which received great feedback from her professional artist friends. Encouraged and inspired, Jill continued to pursue the art of collage and eventually got up her courage to exhibit her work in person.
Jill’s first show was a one-day 2nd Saturday event in 2007 at Vox Sacramento. She loved it so much that, not only has she persisted in showing her work, but she also began volunteering her time organizing shows for Vox. She used her knowledge from her day job as a legal assistant to help Vox gain nonprofit status and became one of its founding officers. (See more about her work with Vox in the “Philanthropy & community” section below.)
Since her first show, Jill has continued to work on her art, meet with other collage and mixed media artists, and develop and expand her style.
Influence & technique
As to what drives her art, Jill says, “I’m inspired by so many things that it probably explains why my work is all over the place.” Influences range from friends and spirituality to just the challenge of coming up with new ideas for the group shows she participates in.
Her work “Inspired,” pictured at left, is based on the memory of a good friend Jill lost to breast cancer. Jill says, “…her life and her grace inspired me to create symbols of both. My interactions and friendship with her took my style to a completely different level than it had before. I merged my love of lines and nature, and started using old sewing patterns and colored tissue paper in lieu of paint.”
Recently, Jill has been renewing her interest in spirituality. Her Native American stepfather was a spiritual leader, and she was raised learning those traditional ways. Remembering a cross-country trip she took with him in her early 20s led her to create a series of abstract landscapes (see “Boy, Could He Laugh [Halfway Through the Badlands],” pictured at right). Her stepfather was intricately tied to her spiritual beliefs, and, after his death, she was inspired to make the landscape series as a process of mourning and remembering.
Philanthropy & community
Jill uses her work to donate to a number of charitable events and causes, including fundraisers for Komen Sacramento, Dream.Develop.Do, the Crocker Art Museum, and Hearts for the Arts (an event for For Arts’ Sake).
Furthermore, Jill volunteers her time, serving for several years as artistic director for Vox Sacramento, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to promoting arts and artists in the Sacramento region. Holding this position from 2009-July 2012, Jill organized over 20 art shows for Vox, many of which have benefited other local groups such as Safeground Sacramento, Wind Youth Services, City of Sacramento’s 4th R Program, To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), and others.
See Jill’s work in person
Her solo show retrospective, Jill Allyn Stafford: The Art of Collage, 2009-2012 is up through Oct 31 at ThinkHouse Collective. You can also catch her the last Sunday of every month, 11am-2:30pm at Open ART Market at Vox Sacramento (see info on September’s Market here).
Jill takes off to San Francisco Oct 13-Oct 14 to exhibit her work at the Alternative Press Exposition (APE) at the Concourse Exposition Center.
On Oct 20, her work will be on view at Artists for the Cure at Creative Vera Studio, which will help raise funds for Komen Sacramento – Susan G. Komen for the Cure through an evening of art, fashion, and music.
Image credits: Image 1: Headshot of Jill Allyn Stafford. Photo by Andy Brooks; Image 2: “The Ghost in You” by Jill Allyn Stafford; Image 3: “Inspired” by Jill Allyn Stafford; Image 4: “Boy, Could He Laugh (Halfway Through the Badlands)” by Jill Allyn Stafford; Image 5: Jill with Jim Shepherd, Jr. at Vox’s “To Write Love” show benefiting TWLOHA in 2010. Photo by John Muheim; Image 6: Work from the Art of Collage show at ThinkHouse Collective by Jill Allyn Stafford.