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Photo by Timothy Schenck

Jessie Homer French

Noah's Ark in the Coachella Valley, 2016
Blowout, 2020

September – December 2023

High Line – Moynihan Connector Billboard, on Dyer Avenue between 30th and 31st Streets

Jessie Homer French creates paintings that document the diverse ecosystems native to her home in Southern California—deserts, forests, and oceans—as these sites are confronted with, and play host to, death, destruction, and ecological disaster. Recognized late in life by the art establishment, the 83-year-old self-taught artist has nonetheless maintained a consistent recurring visual language over her 50-year career. French compresses three-dimensional space into crisp fields of color, delineated with line work that suggests the ripple of a wave or the separation between sea and sky. Her paintings consist of a single plane in which foreground and background become one, undermining our understanding of scale and perspective, and eschewing any sense of traditional hierarchy. Piercing what might otherwise read as flattened, folk-art versions of the American sublime, the artist depicts forest fires, oil rig explosions, and fish die-offs, among other recognizable symbols of environmental disaster.

For the High Line – Moynihan Connector Billboard, French presents two works, Noah’s Ark in the Coachella Valley (2016) and Blowout (2020). Both works serve as urgent calls for climate justice, demonstrating the impact of human negligence, not only on the environment, but also on the powerless animals that suffer by our hand. Noah’s Ark in the Coachella Valley reimagines the flood narrative in the Old Testament, in which God chooses to eliminate all life—other than Noah, his family, and two of every animal—as punishment for corruption and violence on earth. In French’s version, Noah and his family are notably absent, and the flora and fauna on the ark are specific to the artist’s beloved California desert: a roadrunner races across the roof, a desert bighorn sheep peeks out onto the deck, and a fringe-toed lizard balances precariously on the hull. The artist adopts this narrative as an allegory for what is to come, highlighting the uncertainty of humanity’s place on earth. In Blowout, she depicts a blazing oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The scene is reminiscent of the tragic 2010 blowout on BP’s Deepwater Horizon, which claimed 12 lives and later caused the largest marine oil spill in history. French, a devout fly-fisher, painstakingly paints the various species of fish surrounding the rig’s steel framework. She captures a sense of naive calm amongst the playfully large sea life, all seemingly unaware that their ecosystem may soon be thoroughly destroyed. Both Noah’s Ark in the Coachella Valley and Blowout are devoid of humans, and yet humankind’s presence is overtly implied through the devastating results of their attempts to control and interfere with nature. Reproduced here on both sides of a billboard in one of the highest trafficked areas of New York City, Jessie Homer French’s warnings loom large.

Jessie Homer French artworks courtesy of the artist, MASSIMODECARLO, and Various Small Fires

Artist bio

Jessie Homer French (b. 1940, New York) lives and works in Mountain Center, California. She has held solo exhibitions at Massimo De Carlo, London, UK; Various Small Fires, Los Angeles, Dallas, Texas, and Seoul, South Korea; Mother’s Tankstation, Dublin and London; the Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, California; Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica, California; Winchester Gallery, Victoria, British Columbia; and Ankrum Gallery, Los Angeles. Her work has also been included in group exhibitions at Francois Ghebaly, Los Angeles; CLEARING, New York; the Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, California; Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, California; and Samuel Freeman Gallery, Santa Monica, California. French’s work is included in the permanent collection of the Dallas Museum of Art, Palm Springs Art Museum, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. She was included in the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022.


Lead support for High Line Art comes from Amanda and Don Mullen. Major support is provided by Shelley Fox Aarons and Philip E. Aarons, The Brown Foundation, Inc., and Charina Endowment Fund.

Project support is provided by Suzanne Deal Booth.

High Line Art is supported, in part, with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, and from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council, under the leadership of Speaker Adrienne Adams.