This Stoughton Artist Paints Saturated Scenes of ’60s Suburbia

Jessica Brilli pulls vibrant midcentury scenes out of Kodachrome boxes, recapturing forgotten moments in paint.

New England Summer, acrylic on wood panel, $2,250. / Courtesy photo

Jessica Brilli loves a good vintage radio, telephone, or typewriter. “I love antique shops and vintage items of all kinds, really,” says the artist, who attended the University of Rhode Island and Massachusetts Art & Design. She began painting old-timey novelties in a 2012 series called “Static” and continues to turn out such still lifes today in her Stoughton studio. More often, however, she paints richly saturated scenes of 1960s suburban America—particularly its cars, swimming pools, and architecture.

Brilli attributes her interest in vestiges of middle-class life to her Long Island upbringing. That said, it was a yard-sale score eight years ago that gave it momentum. “I stumbled on a collection of about 2,000 Kodachrome slides from the 1950s to the 1970s that included a bit of everything,” she says. “Family vacations, backyard barbeques, holiday celebrations.” Instantly enamored with the midcentury snippets, she’s been using old slides as inspiration ever since.

It’s not just the subject matter that captivates Brilli; she’s drawn to the slides’ vibrant palettes. Paved parking lots take on moody purple hues, lawns are olive green, and chlorinated public pools varying shades of aquamarine. Then there are the chocolate-brown and cherry-red Oldsmobiles and Chryslers. “The colors are a time stamp of the era,” she says. “They bring you back to that time, cementing you in the past.”

Her audience delights in the nostalgia, especially the neighborhood pool scenes. As for Brilli, she sticks to what she sees right in front of her. “I don’t make up stories about the people in my paintings, but I love that the viewer does,” she says.
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First published in the print edition of Boston Home’s Spring 2023 issue, with the headline “Electric Slides.”