Jessica Ellis’ work is social commentary, parody and satire, concerning the female body, gender politics and art history. It addresses how these subjects are perceived both in the pubic and social venue while simultaneously relying on introspective personal narrative. Ellis applies the lens of a modern feminist and a classically trained figure painter to grievances in and outside of the art world. Many of those observations concern the female in the context of western art history as well as the current American political and social landscape. Ellis often uses herself as a primary figure in a form of protest to reclaim the ownership and reallocate the purpose of her own body. Ellis considers these themes to be an essential, however, partial element to her work. As her work progresses, she sees that it is more frequent that her work relies heavily on first her own narrative, then how her personal narrative influences her perspective on subjects of art, political and social issues. The method in which her mostly figurative work is executed is to reference and lend a point of comparison to classically representational figure painters and the historically underrepresented female perspective with in this genre.
The series “Everyone I Have Ever Slept With’’ at first glance alludes to the work of Tracey Emin. Paying homage to Emin is one goal of the work, however Ellis redirects emphasis to the significance of the title and implements a different purpose nearly twenty years after the completion of the original work. The broader motivation of this piece was about personal disclosure of information that is not only a taboo, but a vital contribution to the power structure in present western culture. Female identifying individuals have a social value placed upon them in relation to their number of sexual partners. To control and shame an individual's sexuality is to take away an individual's power over their body. As the work was made in my studio, Ellis began to recognize a shift in the subject. The series asked for each individual to ever participate in Ellis' sex life to be rendered. While rendering these figures, Ellis was thinking about them, but also her relationship to them and her relationship to herself during the time period in which she participated in the act. While the paintings became a meditation of the ten years she has been sexually active, her current sex life began to revolve around the work as well. She began choosing (or not choosing) partners based on their willingness to participate in the work, making her personal choices and actions part of the process itself. In addition to the paintings, she began to collect, receive, and scavenge (when participation was weak) mundane objects from each of the participants in her sexual history. She wanted to obtain objects that were mass produced, void of major cultural and personal significance so when they were grouped together, through giving them a platform on a golden pedestal,and presenting them as art objects, both their importance and purpose were elevated in her possession. Similar to the rendering of subject matter in the paintings being re-purposed to a higher function through the process.