Jesse Garbe
Showing 114cm x 94cm relative to 200cm x 200cm

The purple square represents the relative size of the portrait to a 2 metre x 2 metre maximum size allowed.

Jesse Garbe

Home: New Westminster, British Columbia
Title: mOther
Media: oil on panel
Dimensions: 114 x 94 cm


“the very possibility of our being present.”- Jean Luc Nancy

During the pandemic, my wife and I had our first child. For us, isolation meant getting used to being parents in an increasingly uncertain world. Sitting at the intersection of our cultural and ethnic backgrounds, my wife is Afro-Indigenous. I have a mixture of European Jewish Heritage; our son was born into a fractured political and social environment that is often unreceptive and hostile to these identities. Somewhat unusual for painted portraits, both sitters are in casual summer clothing, reflective of our daily routine in lockdown. While sitting for the portrait, we would anxiously talk about the complicated dynamics of current politics, our son’s identity and our experiences as parents. On many occasions, my wife’s experiences were markedly different from mine, especially concerning other people’s perceptions and conversations regarding our son. Often  individuals would question who my wife is in relationship to him. “And you are?”, “Are you the Parent?” and “Who’s his mother?”. This became especially apparent when we went into health care environments or places that needed parental consent. Clearly, our household did not fit into the idea of the nuclear family and societal norms of what a family looks like in terms of appearance, similarity/difference, and skin tones. Often my wife felt othered and oddly placed at a distance from her child by these comments. The portrait I have submitted is about these dynamics. It can be seen as an opportunity to question and expand conversations about subjectivity, proximity/distance, likeness/strangeness and representation.


Jesse Garbe is a painter based in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is 2004 alumnus of Emily Carr University and a 2008 Graduate of the MFA program at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University, where he received the Joseph Beuys Memorial Award in 2007. Since that time, he has participated in a variety of artist in residency programs, produced community-based works, maintained a studio practice, and worked as a Mental Health and Addictions Support Worker.