Jennifer fell in love with art in the mid nineties and took every course she could find to satisfy and feed that passion. Here she talks in depth about how her work has developed over the last ten years and answers some interview questions for us.
I had my first solo gallery exhibition in 2002. I showed a whole bunch of small (roughly 8×10″) works that were collage based- with a bit of painting to round out the scenes. My favorite subjects were women and animals and the narratives all had a very dreamy quality.
I continued making collages over the next year. My massive collection of found images grew and I became a bit more adept at the cutting and assembly. I still added paint to them sometimes but I enjoyed making entirely new scenes and narratives from found paper. What a dark and kooky set. This was the year I was laid off from my day job. I was happy, really!
I started experimenting more with reductive processes. I used layers of color and then sanded and scraped into the paint. Instead only of adding collage elements by cutting them out and gluing them down I glued some of them down face-first then quickly removed them to leave “ghost images” on the surface. I was enjoying learning new textures.
I was still experimenting with collage textures and paint but I was starting to feel restrained (bored?) with the scale of my found images…mostly torn from magazines. I was still using collage elements
but I think was trying to be more inventive with conjuring up my own imagery as a starting point.
My work suddenly lightened up and opened up- and everything was green. Looking back on my work from that year I think space was the thing. I started using a lot of pastel colors which has stuck for a loooooong time.
Collage gradually disappeared from my work. In reviewing my old paintings it was funny to see that some from 2007 have just one or two tiny collage bits glued on in such a way that you can hardly tell they are not painted.
Everyone was always pestering me to work bigger (I am still bucking that pressure) so I was attempting to do it. I thought these paintings were HUGE at the time- they are under 24″- and working at that size was a whole new animal for me. Changing the scale opened things up even further and I did a lot of these floaty things.
I continued to make larger and larger works. I was feeling a pull between filling up every inch with tiny details (as I was used to with collages) and letting things breathe. I was experimenting.
I wanted to try something different so I started working on two solo shows with works on paper. Painting on paper looks and feels really different than painting on panels. I had a ton of fun with these- experimenting more with pattern and drawing/painting tiny obsessive details. My favorite thing to do.
I was in a show at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 2010 and I felt that the pressure was on to make something fancy. I poured my heart into 11 big freakish portraits. I was proud of the show and it was an all around amazing experience.
I was in the mood to have more fun with color. While before I was using mostly pastels with little pops of bright color, I started flipping that around. I was (and still am) liking bold, bright, flatness.
2012 has just started but these are a couple of my favorites from what I have painted so far. I don’t have the benefit of hindsight and looking at a years worth of paintings in a group so I’m even less sure what is happening here. I am feeling really excited about working in my studio this year.
I rarely take any process photos because I am such a horrible photographer.
Here are a few I have done:
“Hide N Seek” 2010
original painting/ drawing on paper
21.5 x 25.5″
I don’t always sketch things out this much at the beginning but since I was using paper I knew it wouldn’t allow for as much sanding/scraping/revising as I normally do with paintings on panel. I attempted to plan it out upfront.
original acrylic/graphite painting
The first is a photo of the finished painting, the second is a “detail”, and then there is a quicktime/slideshow of about 20 snapshots during the process. It started out as a tiger. ;0)
This is closer to how I normally work. I just started messing around, doodling and kept adding/subtracting/changing things until something I like starts to emerge. After I paint in all of the details I go in and add more detail with a fine mechanical pencil.
Old Soul 2011
I started by laying down a dark black/blue, then added several layers of taupe-ish color. I sanded and scraped the whole thing and then sanded the shadows of the face in with fine sandpaper. I drew the red shapes with colored pencil and painted around them with green. Then I painted the details of the face and hair. Scary Baby!
Nobody in my family is particularly artistic. As a kid I always liked to “color” and draw and it was encouraged, but probably no more so than with any other kid. I took only one art class in high school and never thought of it as anything I’d pursue further. I fell in love with art in college. I had completed all of the requirements for my liberal arts degree but hadn’t found anything I was particularly passionate about. My roommate and I took an elective drawing class and I was instantly hooked. I went on to take all different kinds of art courses: painting, photography, printmaking,
sculpture, ceramics, etc. I switched my major and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of MN in 1998.
Who were the first artists that inspired you and made you want find more of their work? How old were you?
I don’t even remember but it was probably in college. I had almost no interest in Art before then. I also did a “minor” in Art History so I’m sure it was the usual suspects from Art History 101. I remember copying the figure drawings of Egon Schiele.
When did you realise you were “creative” or an artist? How would you define that?
I think I have always been creative but I realized I wanted to be an Artist (with a capital A- ha!) sometime in college. I became obsessed pretty quickly and knew I wanted art to play a major role in my life. It is hard to define an Artist because each one has different ideals. I think one lurks inside each person and manifests in varying degrees.
Where did you grow up? How do you think that environment influenced your work?
I have lived all of my life in Minnesota. I grew up in the Western suburbs of Minneapolis and have lived in the city since 1993. I can only really speak to this in the present tense- I think the insane weather in Minnesota impacts my work in big ways. I basically hunker down and work in my studio all winter and then emerge for outside inspiration in the spring. It is harder for me to stay in and paint in the summer but the intense change of seasons is really inspiring for me. I live near a lake and I walk around it regularly to clear my head and let my imagination wander. This is a beautiful place.
When did you realise it could be more than just a hobby?
Although I was making a lot of art beforehand, I was laid off from my day job in 2003. I used the unemployment insurance as a springboard to start working on art full time. It was an exciting time and I had no expectation that it would last this long. I feel very lucky to be able to do what I
love every day.
How would you describe your artwork?
I am terrible at trying to describe my artwork so I would just try to change the subject. =0)
Now that collage has more or less disappeared from your work, are you still an avid collector of images as source material?
Yes. My hoarding is more under control now but I still collect loads of found images. Pictures torn from magazines, newspapers, bought at thrift sales, etc. Sometimes I still use them for inspiration for paintings and I am sentimental about their value. I have trouble throwing away a beautiful piece of paper that has been cut to shreds.
Where do you see your artwork going in the future? Is there anything specific you want to do that you haven’t had a chance to yet?
Yes! After viewing some old family Super8 movie reels containing carnival footage from the early 1970s I have become interested in vintage carousels. I have some project ideas up my sleeve that I hope to put into action this summer.
Why did you start with small pieces? Was it a fear of the space to fill or was it something that attracted you to the small size?
The scale of my earlier artwork was determined mostly by the way I was using found image collage. The collage elements pretty much fixed the size of my works to the general size of a magazine or book. As I started to feel more and more limited by the scale, I began to incorporate more of my own drawing and eventually phased out the collage elements. I still work relatively small but sometimes do larger works too. Compact sizes suit me as I enjoy drawing very, very tiny details.
Are you an organised worker? Do you give yourself set times that you will work in? Do you have a set place you work in?
Yes. I am like a cat- I love my routines. I have a studio in my house.
I like to make myself a big lunch and take a long walk everyday but I stay in here most of the day- even when I don’t feel like painting. I am happiest when I find time to paint every day and can get pretty fussy if I get distracted for more than a few days.