Artist Jesse Wolfe returns to Schooner Wharf with Bunkhouse Boutique, Art Space

Art, Clothes, Then Some: Wolfe’s art evolved from watercolor notes into highly realistic oil paintings of childhood joys, all brought up…with a certain feature. (Victoria Ford photos)

Artist Jesse Wolff has ants in her pants and sparkles in her soul.

“You never know what’s going to happen next,” she said of her career and life path.

Currently, her focus is on the opening of the all-new Bunkhouse, a small handcrafted/antique shop, art studio, workshop and gallery located in Schooner’s Wharf in Beach Haven. In one of the windows hangs an illuminated emblem: a hand holding a brush dipped in paint radiates a beam of light, like the Statue of Liberty with its lamp. It is a symbol of Wolfe’s personal and professional mission.

“She wanted to save the world with her paintbrush — but she gets distracted,” she played, laughing.

Wolf, short for Wolfrom, is a multimedia illustrator, digital artist, and entrepreneur whose work has a local flavor, cheeky perspective, and international appeal. Its subject matter, sometimes sugary, salty or spicy, is broad and always sophisticated—in her words, “illustrative and gentle, but also beautiful.” Wolf’s recent oil paintings are scenes saturated with the words neon, mylar balloons, pool games, flowers, fish.

At Bird and Betty’s in Beach Haven, she recently painted a mural inside the women’s restroom with an eyeball theme and added “Velvet Lounge” lettering to the upstairs VIP area. She has a mural job lined up at Farias Surf and Sport on Center Street in Beach Haven and another at the historic Wanamaker Building in Penn Square in Center City Philadelphia. Both are 100 to 200 square feet in size.

At Bunkhouse it plans to offer a class calendar (weekends for now) and no-show projects to cater to the creative impulses of passersby seeking a cultural experience.

“I have a lot of tricks up my sleeve,” she said, rattling off projects like bookbinding, cyanotype, and polystyrene printing for kids.

She returned home to LBI last summer from Puerto Rico, where she opened and ran a retail store for about four years. (She keeps her hand from afar.) Its ultra-realistic intensity and intense detail.

She is currently working on a beer can bouquet series. Her thing is to combine soft and hard, bright and dark, natural and man-made, playing with light and texture. Woolf’s work debunks assumptions about the feminine and the masculine while celebrating both.

When she returned to the island and saw the space available for rent at Schooner Wharf, she said to herself, “I can’t have that spot”—so she did. The opening of the Bunkhouse is a complete moment for Wolf, who has begun selling her artwork on T-shirts on the quayside, from a kiosk she lovingly called The Gypsy Wagon.

Her partner in the project is Tim Connor, a musician named Forth Son, who has set up a recording studio in a corner of his upstairs workshop studios. The two are old friends who are now dating and are collaborating on creative projects.

They said they think similarly and are “evenly scattered.” As artists, they both “understand” it, “he” is the itch of inspiration to be scratched and the motivation to dedicate a lot of time and energy to achieving an artistic vision.

Bunkhouse held an inaugural Memorial Day weekend, with friendly fanfare. The finishing touches are still being made on the gallery wall of original paintings and canvas prints. “We should hang something cool here,” announces a lighted banner on the wall, mounted near the ceiling.

Indeed, many great things have already been hung (thanks to the “long and handy” Connor), covering Wolfe’s work, from ancient watercolors such as nine avocado halves and a peekaboo cat, to new work such as “Adult Lunch” depicting a cafeteria tray and a variety of materials Consumables: a hot dog, Little Debbie, gummy bears, a Budweiser can, a pack of Marlboro lights.

“They’re walking into this girl’s brain,” Connor said when the guests arrive at the Bunkhouse.

The design welcomes visitors on a landing up to the art area or descends into the shop. Squid, the little pit bull and shop mascot, greets everyone with a loud but harmless bark before finding a toy and settling on a piece of furniture.

In the shop, Wolf and Connor made a cast-resin countertop mixed with a “big load of gloss,” which sparkles in the pink glow of a custom Bunkhouse sign, made by Philly Russo’s “electric lighting expert” Antwonn Del, or ElectroRomantic. He also created the art mark saves the world.

Elvis the axolotl lives in a tank inside a hollow mid-century television set.

Wolf loves the process of finding antique treasures on Facebook Marketplace and arranging interiors to look “cosy and whimsical” — like time travel back to the good old days of velvet, rattan, macrame, and needlepoint rugs — so much that she wonders if her true calling is interior design.

“Hire me to make your house look like a carnival,” she joked. There’s something “very special,” she said, about a warm, earthy palette of orange, yellow, brown, and pink.

Wolf recently made the leap from exclusive fine art mediums to digital illustration using Procreate software to design T-shirts and other “attention-grabbing items” for the store, she explains. She said her intention is twofold with her product lines to have short sets of items to keep the selection fresh and interesting, and to offer easy gift-giving solutions. Currently in stock, for example, there are unique baby clothes and bibs made by Julia Krettes, Wolf’s sister … while stocks last.

In the second-floor education space, Wolf said she can fit about eight people around the table for a class or a quick art project on the go. She’s re-wearing her “teacher” hat, which she hasn’t done since she taught at the Loveladies Arts and Sciences Foundation years ago, so she’s condensing her creative process down into easy-to-follow steps.

Along the same lines, she said, exploring digital art requires her to artistically reduce and rethink a four-colour image, further improving her abilities to adapt, simplify, and simplify, all while growing up as an artist and as a human being.

“She put her life into this,” Connor said.

See more at @thebunkhouselbi and @bunkerfish on Instagram.

– Victoria Ford

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