Jessica Carpenter Rocha photography exhibition at the Governor’s residence

Two alphabet blocks rest on the seat of a swing, in front of an abandoned one-room country school.  The blocks spell out the word “ME.”  The first photo in this one-month exhibition at the Governor’s Residence reveals much about the artist, Jessica Carpenter Rocha.
Jessica grew up on the other end of the state from the Governor’s Residence in Lincoln, north of Rushville and just south of the unincorporated town of Whiteclay.  She attended that little one-room school in her photo, “Kindergarten Memories,” until the end of her seventh-grade year, when the school was closed.  Jessica graduated from Rushville High School and began her college education at Chadron State, where she found her passion for photography, then transferred to the Art Institute of Colorado in Denver.  She graduated in September 2010, and in 2011 moved to Gering, where she worked as a copy editor for the Scottsbluff Star Herald.  That year, her work was exhibited at Prairie Arts Studio in Gering.
In early 2012, Jessica joined the rest of her family in Bushnell, where her photos are displayed at her sister’s bookstore/coffee shop/gallery “The Sisters Grimm.”  Jessica helps in the store when she can, but works full-time in the Kimball County Clerk’s Office.
Jessica’s agricultural roots find their way into many of her photos.  Two examples in the display are “Heilbrun’s Barn” and “Catching the Light.”  “Heilbrun’s Barn” is a coupling of an outside shot of a Banner County barn and an interior shot of the loft that focuses on a wooden pail lit by the sun seeping through from the outside.  “Catching the Light” was taken on a senior photo shoot.  Jessica’s farm-boy cousin (cross-country and track star Cole Wellnitz) timed the shoot so that when he climbed to the top of one of his grandparents’ grain bins and lifted his arms, he would appear to be reaching for the sun.
Jessica not only enjoys taking pictures of rural Midwest scenes, she also loves to travel.  She has photographed areas on both coasts of the United States as well as areas of Canada and Italy.  Her next “dream shoot” would be a trip to Mexico or Ireland.  “I love searching for the little things that make this world beautiful,” Jessica says about her art.
That is evident in several of her photos.  “The Couple” portrays a pair of trees leaning into each other.  “Ocean Foam” captures a close view of water bubbling on the sand after a wave has retreated.  
Jessica also has a gift for discovering what lies beyond the sight of the average person.  She shot “Smoke on the Water” at Oliver Reservoir (near Bushnell) this summer, during the devastating fires in Colorado, when the smoke turned the sun red.  Jessica caught the reflection of that fire ball in the ripples of the water.
Jessica is becoming increasingly aware of how we affect nature and nature affects us.  When the Keystone Pipeline was slated to cross the Sandhills of Nebraska, she photographed a series of pictures of oil dropping into a vase of water.  She started with a globe-like vase and filled it with water tinted with red food coloring.  Next, she dropped blue-colored oil into the water.  The effects of the oil spreading through the water were stunning. She used three aluminum seed signs, turned them on end to show how crazy or “upside down” our world can be, then added water spigots at the tops of each picture to symbolize the direct connection to our water source, the Ogallala Aquifer.  
Jessica’s photos allow us to see how her mind works and they encourage us to think about the world around us.  You can visit Jessica’s exhibition until August 17 in the lower level of the Governor’s Residence, which is open for guided public tours on Thursdays from 1-4 p.m. Contact the Residence Manager at 402-471-3466 to arrange for more information. Jessica’s exhibition is part of a Nebraska artists series partnered through The Nebraska Arts Council and the Nebraska Governor’s Residence.
To view more samples of Jessica’s work, visit her website at

Last modified onTuesday, 24 July 2012 13:15

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