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Jesse Morsberger: “A lot of my paintings deal with heavier themes within the gaming subject”

During an engaging interview, we had the opportunity to speak with Jesse Morsberger about his solo show Crossplay, which explores the intersection of gaming and art. As an artist, Morsberger has developed a unique approach that combines digital adventures on canvas with real-life experiences, resulting in paintings that resonate both personally and universally. From his recent move from Los Angeles to New York to the role of humour and the significance of “Crossplay” within his artistic oeuvre, Jesse provides us with a fascinating glimpse into his creative world. “I kind of trick the viewer. Pull them in with a colorful and funny painting, while letting the true content of the work seep in.”

Hi Jesse, first of all: how are you doing? And what keeps you occupied these days?

“I’m doing well!  I just moved with my wife from Los Angeles back to New York, where I’m from.  We’ve been settling in and unpacking the apartment.  I’ve got a new studio set up and it’s been feeling great getting back to painting after taking a little break with the move.”


Your work explores the intersection of gaming and art. What drew you to this concept, and how do you see these two worlds interacting within your work?

“I think in painting, something that is really important, is finding a way to get the paint onto the canvas in a way that feels natural.  I spent a long time bouncing around subject matters, trying to land on something that felt serious.  When I started painting video games I noticed that I was having an easier time just getting into the act of painting, so I stuck with it.  I think there are a lot of parallels between some of the stories you see in video games and many of the classic tales and tropes you see depicted throughout the history of painting and folklore.  At the moment, I’m really interested in exploring that connection.”

Your paintings feature fight scenes and video game characters interacting with personal struggles. How do you approach the process of merging real-life experiences with digital adventures on canvas?

“I’ve found that those real life experiences have a way of getting into the work whether I want them to or not.  I believe that this kind of thing is totally out of the artist’s hands.  That’s why these video game paintings work.  If they were just about gaming and didn’t have any kind of personal and human content, they wouldn’t be very interesting or stand up against the work I really admire.  Even if I wasn’t painting myself into them- which I have in a few of the works in this show- I think that the way the paint is applied tells a story and shares a unique perspective.”


Many of your paintings are described as autobiographical, offering glimpses into your own journey. How do you find balance between sharing personal stories and creating universal narratives that resonate with viewers?

“The more personal you get with the work, the more likely it is that you’ll find a group of people who really resonate with you and understand what you’re trying to accomplish.  I don’t really set out trying to create a universal narrative- I’m always trying to stay as vulnerable and specific as I can with the subject I choose to depict.  That kind of vulnerability can be accessed in a number of ways, but right now I’m having a good time painting it in the form of something really nerdy, like a video game.”

Can you discuss the role of humor in your artwork, particularly in the context of addressing themes such as loss, love, and change?

“All my favorite songs have uplifting musical tracks with really somber lyrics.  These are the types of songs that really pull you in and resonate with you on a subconscious level.  I think that this can be a very effective tool in visual art as well.  To kind of trick the viewer.  Pull them in with a colorful and funny painting, while letting the true content of the work seep in.  A lot of my paintings deal with heavier themes within the immediate gaming subject.”


The centrepiece of your exhibition features a video game brawl where you find yourself surrounded by characters from diverse gaming worlds. Could you share the inspiration behind this specific piece and its significance within the broader narrative of “Crossplay”?

“In video game terminology, “crossplay” references the ability of people on different platforms to engage in gameplay together- a person using a Playstation can interact with a person using an Xbox.  In the case of this painting, when I use the term I am not just referring to the practical definition- communication between devices and gaming worlds.  I am also referring to a type of crossplay that occurs between the physical player and the digital platform.  That’s what’s happening in this painting.  Myself and these characters from different universes are shown inhabiting the same space and participating in an endless brawl.”

Crossplay is on show from May 17, until June 30 at COVA Art Gallery. Open every Friday until Sunday between 12-5PM. 


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