Jen Mussari


This collection of fine art pieces marry the traditions of hand lettering in American racing and custom car and motorcycle culture with the gallery context. The following body of work observes optimism in the face of impending doom by playing with the typical vagueness of platitudes which are ever popular in hand lettering right now. I use methods of communication that are unanimously agreed upon, specifically the language of racing flags, to bring a humor and playfulness that also pokes fun at inspirational adages.  

The full body of work, which included four large handmade flags, two small handmade banners, five altered found leather jackets, four altered found denim jackets, and three altered found helmets, was shown originally at the Mesaros gallery in Morgantown, WV. The artwork was also shown in Joshua Tree, CA at the Desert & Denim trade show, kindly sponsored by Squarespace and at Art in The Age in Philadelphia, PA.

I meticulously hand-embroidered each denim jacket and hand-painted each leather jacket. The jackets were unwanted items purchased from their previous owners. The imagery here plays with the history of jackets used to describe affiliation to motorcycle clubs and the ranking within. These jackets, discarded by their previous owners, almost have their own desire to belong to a group, which comes through in the optimistic yet humorous messaging. Using methods normally seen in folk arts, these jackets have a touch that, while elegant in design, embraces imperfection.


Also using hand-embroidery methods that harken to folk arts and quilting, these handmade flags use a slightly different language of communication. The code of racing flags can be used to describe a progression of time passing, things ending, and even giving up. Sometimes celebratory and sometimes cautionary, I used this code as a base to literally add on top of. In racing, the ubiquitous checkered flag signals the end of a race. The dual checkered flags here ("Donezo!" and "It's All Over Now") play with the bittersweet feelings of endings. The black flag is waved during a race to signal a hazard on the track or for racers to return to the pit for any reason. In that context, a flag that say "Pay Attention To Me" makes sense, but removed from that context, waving a flag that says "Pay Attention To Me" becomes humorous and narcissistic. The white flag, as often seen in visual arts to signal "surrender," in racing actually signals the last lap; or "you are almost there." I wanted to create a white flag that embodies the feeling of being almost finished something yet ready to give up, thus "This Too Shall Pass."

Helmets are used in racing to communicate a rider's number, nickname, or affiliation to sponsors. However when helmets go unused for a certain period of time, they become unsafe and unusable. These helmets mourn a time passed and opportunities missed; races unwon.