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Friday, November 06, 2009
TULLMAN COLLECTION ARTIST JENNY MORGAN IN LOTS OF ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS FOR HER NEW SHOW - WOMENS WORK MAGAZINE, ETC
Interview with Marie Gibbons, Womens Work Magazine, 2009
I first met Jenny at Pirate Contemporary Art, an artist's cooperative in Denver, CO. We were both members of the cooperative, and I was in awe of her huge, beautiful paintings from first glance. I love the way she captures the light and life of and on her subjects.
Tell us about your beginnings as an artist, when did you discover that art was your passion?
My beginnings were just like everyone else- drawing as a weird little girl. I read a quote about this that just stuck with me- he was an art teacher answering a question his 7 year old daughter asked, "Dad, what do you do all day?" ,"I teacher people how to draw," he replied. His daughter looked up at him puzzled, "you mean, they forgot?" It's like we all have the instinct to make things, but at some point a switch is hit. The first time I really knew I felt sincere "passion" for art making was as a teenager- I was 14 years old and enrolled in a freshman drawing class that wasn't very engaging. I remember being in my room one night, frustrated that I wasn't working on any projects and this sense of overwhelming anxiety hit- all I could do was grab a piece of white typing paper and ferociously scribble with some colored pencils. The image I made meant nothing, all that mattered at that moment was the act of making something, anything, to release energy. I just felt as though if I didn't get something down on paper, I might explode. And, I still have that same anxiety if I don't get to my studio everyday or have a body of work in progress.
Can you tell us about your 'style' what brought you to it and what do you feel is unique to you about the way you work and the pieces you create?
It's interesting for me to talk about my work right now because I feel as though I am in complete transition- jumping lily-pads from on way of thinking to another. I have always worked with the figure- earlier work involved the body integrating with fabric, often I chose to crop out the head and face, lending ambiguity to the figures personality. But since I've moved to New York and gone through some rigorous grad school studies, I am very much obsessed with the portrait and investigating the individual. I work on canvas with oil paint and still build my own stretchers. I photograph all my models and they are always people I know personally and want to explore. In the past I would take the photo, transfer the image and copy the photo exactly...but recently i have been working towards a degree of abstraction. As I take the initial reference photo with the models I am finding that I don't like to direct them. Most of the time my subject is left standing nude, in front of my camera nervous and shy which generates a certain kind of pose and gesture that is very simple and traditional- the simplicity of the pose allows me to focus purely on the formal elements such as how I apply and then remove the paint. I'm in a state of challenging myself to keep experimenting. I'm calling my what I'm doing right now a form of deconstructing the figure- a simple way of saying that once I get the entire image painted and refined I like to go back in with either sandpaper or turp and rub away parts of the image, and of course I am still playing around with these ideas and techniques, but it is the after image that remains stained on the canvas that I am interested in. The act of spending hours perfecting a painting, adding fine lines of detail and then reducing the portrait to a ghost is both exhilarating and terrifying- there is always a risk of completely destroying the work- which has happened before and at that point I just start the painting over, with lessons learned.
Do you have a favorite piece, and what makes it your favorite?
Yes. It's a painting I did while I was in my senior year of undergrad. The painting is titled "Memories Bound." It's a self-portrait- an image a of my legs laying atop a white sheet, with my hands tying a black shoelace around my calfs. It stands as a graphic description of a childhood memory. It is a monumental painting for me not because of the heavy material involved conceptually but more so because of the way it came out of me. It was the first painting that just appeared in my head as a whole and solid concept. The entire piece flowed seamlessly out-building the frame, taking reference photos and applying the paint to canvas was one simple swoop, magical, with no hiccups or frustration. It was as if it already existed and all I needed to do was kiss the canvas. I haven't felt that kind of power since.
Your use of metaphor -- can you explain a bit about the stories you tell in your art and where you draw your ideas from?
Metaphor is a tricky thing for me right now because I'm trying to abstain from being to literal and illustrative with my paintings. My work has been described as psychological- peeling away the outer layers of skin to look in at the individual, emotionally and physically- but I am moving away from it being so literal. working with an abstract first layer that is covered and then revealed underneath a highly realistic top coat allows me to build multiple layers of meaning- this method lends itself to many metaphors, especially with my use of intense reds. But at this stage I am not actively thinking about what it all means. The movements I make on the canvas feel very instinctive and at time surprising. Feeling out the appropriate response to each person being painted is the base of ever decision and the stories flow from that source.
Was there a particular influence on you as a child, young adult, that exposed you to art, either as a viewer or a participant?
My father. I was raised by a very hard working and creative father who defiantly fostered a desire to draw and be imaginative. My most potent memory of his influence occurred in 4th grade- I had created a summer project that involved painting cardboard. Sheets and sheets of cardboard were stacked in my room and spent hours cutting out abstract shapes, painting the little shapes an array of colors and patterns - I then glued them together in different formations. After a few weeks I lost my enthusiasm for the activity and started throwing my paintings away. My Father found a few in the trash, pulled them out and had then had them framed. "Never throw out good work , Jenny," he told me, "you never know what it will be worth some day." With one small sentence my dad altered how I viewed my work and place importance on things that I did naturally, but didn't value. My Family has continued to be a pillar of support and I am very thankful.
Who are your influences today, and how do they affect your work?
My biggest influence is my boss and mentor Marilyn Minter. I have been working as her painting assistant for a year and a half now. Being in her studio has taught me so much about the art world not only in New York, but everywhere. She is brilliant and endearingly crazy- i have so much respect for her journey and her work. We have much in common stylistically, at least at a base- she works figuratively and highly photo realistic which is against the grain of trend in the art world right now. But even with the resistance she apologetically creates massively beautiful pieces. She had broken so many barriers and inspires so many people. Also friend named David Mramor. We have been collaborating on paintings, both taking turns adding layers and experimenting on top of each others style. David possesses a kind of magic that I envy- in Marilyn's words, "he has the hand of god," meaning he has a brilliant sense of abstract expression, making stokes of paint simply sing. I have always wanted to possessed a looser style and abstract sensibility, but it doesn't come naturally to me. When David and I paint together it's like I adopt his power- allowing him to add straight abstraction to my highly realistic portraits is intense. I learn and steal so much from him.
Where would you live if you could live anywhere you wanted, do you think that location would affect you as an artist?
I would live here, in New York, but if I had one wish it would be to have a bit more money, no surprise of course. I truly feel nourished and rewarded by the community here and can't imaging replanting myself somewhere else, not for awhile anyway. I moved to New York to chase that dream of being in a big art city and so far I am surviving.
What are your biggest challenges as an artist, and how do you work to overcome them?
Time is my biggest challenge. That's it mostly. Like any other artist with a day job, I struggle to get into my studio as much as I want and need. That being said, my day job is amazing and I would choose to work there even if I did have enough to support myself with out it. I just wish I could completely submerge myself in a creative bubble- like when have a day off from work during the week and I am allowed to float in and out of my studio as I please- I think to myself that I could start so many more projects and be apart of so much more if I just had a few more hours each day. But sometimes it that pressure and restraint that makes us push harder for what we want and I like that intensity. To resolve the anxiety I make set times to be in my studio everyday, even if for only a few hours and just use my time wisely- that's all I can do. Also I struggle with the demon of self-doubt like we all do from time to time. In the moments that I feel most crazy and frustrated I try to remember what it feels like to work on a painting that I'm in love with- the high that I get. And, a goodnights sleep always helps to clear the cloudy brain.
What are you working on right now?
Right now i am working on a solo show for Plus gallery in Denver CO and i just started a self-portrait that will be included in the show. I'm excited about this piece because i have a solid concept, but it requires me to be nude and that's always a challenging prospect for me. I have a habit of cropping out parts of myself-concealing what i don't like dealing with about my body... but i am trying to be braver and more honest. I actually started trying to convince myself that it wasn't me staring back, but it never works.
Where are your works represented, what is your next exhibit?
I basically grew up in the Denver art scene and after finishing undergrad at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in 2003 I joined Plus Gallery. The community surrounding the gallery has been very supportive as I moved to New York and matured as an artist. My next solo exhibit will be in Denver at Plus at the end of Oct and it will my first show there in 3 years. The show is centered around the Denver scene and the artists that I am close with. I photographed 8 artists, including myself, and now I am in the process of working on their portraits. In New York I am represented by the Brooklyn based gallery Like the Spice. Shortly after the Denver opening I have a collaborative show in NY with the previously mentioned artist David Mramor. The show will include 5 collaborative pieces along with a few of our personal work. Working on both shows at once is a struggle, but I feel like I'm getting closer to what I want form my work. Still chasing ideas.
Plus Gallery Intern Kelsey Dalton interview with Jenny Morgan last week:
Can I call you Jennifer?
“oh man...only if you are my mother and I'm in trouble...”
This recent body of work is comprised of portraits where as in the past you have painted what could be considered figurative works. Is this an intentional change, and if so do you consider yourself a portrait or figurative painter? Furthermore, do you see a divergence between the two and if so what might that be?
“Right now i consider myself to be primarily a portrait painter. The work i exhibited early on in my emerging career was figurative in the respect that the body was used as subject matter, but not given any identifying characteristics, such as a face or marks of personality. I was using the body as symbolism for undercurrents of emotion- i was pain-stakingly positioning the limbs and angling backs to denote meaning. I then started to incorporate fabric as a way to extend that symbolism through color and movement, but at some point i just realized that i had exhausted that particular thought process and needed to evolve. During grad school i met that fork in the road and diverged to portraiture which meant i was starting to investigate the figure on a more personal level- focusing in on one individual and excluding any other props. Working with people and painting on this psychological level carries much more weight and presents more challenges for me.”
Your work has been for the most part focused around the human figure. What is your interest in the figure? Would you or have you ever painted another subject?
“I think that the answer to what is it exactly that draws me to the figure is something i will spend my career answering. The figure is simply the most compelling subject matter for me, it's feels nature, but with the ebb and flow of my style and maturity, I find new ways to approach it. There was a short stint right in the beginning of grad school that i left skin behind and did small paintings of hardwood flooring and fabric folds- i was a bit lost and wanted to challenge my relationship to the figure, but the experiment didn't last very long. The inanimate objects that i pain-stakingy replicated satisfied my need for detail, but the emotional connection to my subject matter was lost. By straying from my roots i learned a good lesson in finding and focusing on what i truly wanted.”
Do you know your models personally? If so, does your personal relationship manifest itself in the process of painting?
“I do know all of my models personally- i feel that the connection i have with each person is completely manifested in and creates the work. If i do ask someone to pose, but end up regretting it or not excited about them anymore i can literally feel the weight of that negativity as i paint- hat is why i often turned down commissioned portraits. If i don't feel a strong vibe with my subject then it's almost painful to produce a piece. And i have learned this only through trial and error. The most intensely exciting portraits for me to paint as of late have been the people in my life that i know personally, but not intimately- if there is a spark of mystery to our relationship it leaves room for me to explore them on canvas.”
"I paint people not because of what they are like, not exactly in spite of what they are like, but how they happen to be." -Lucien Freud
This quote by the figurative painter, Lucien Freud clarifies my response to the portrait paintings in this show. There is a simple honesty in their pose and a following complexity in their intrinsic facial expression, which seems very forthright and pure. What was your conception behind the composition and posture of the models shown in this exhibition?
“The photo session with my model sets the mood for the rest of the painting and for me is the most rewarding part of the process. Simplicity is a good word. As of right now i still consider myself to be an amateur photographer- i have fancy equipment, but i am still learning all of its capabilities. It is my naivety with the my tools which allows me to get a quality reference, but stay very basic. I think this attitude bleeds into how i direct my models, which is to say, i don't. Usually I don't have any specific pose in mind, i like to approach each person differently and feel it out. My lack of direction leaves the model feeling a bit uncomfortable and vulnerable in front of my camera, especially if i they have agreed to be nude. I am most drawn to that vulnerable state, where they look into the camera as if to feel connected to something, stabilized. In this body of work i shot all 6 people in a two day span. The individuals i chose are all dear friends that i no longer live near and many whom i have contact with only a few times a year. So during the sessions with each person I made an effort to create conversation that relaxed them or coaxed them to bare all- and it was this intimate exchange of words that influenced the moves i made with the paintings that followed. “
The figure in these works are complicated and enhanced by your use of re-working the canvas to reveal different layers of paint. Can you discuss this technique of painting and the intention behind it?
“ I feel it has taken me years to break through some walls that were developed when i was younger- ideals about the tradition of painting and the preciousness of realism. When you have skill it's tempting to just paint what you see, but at some piont it's not enough to simply copy a photo. i have reached the point where i need to play around with the paint and canvas surface just to keep myself interested and engaged in the process. The most recent body of work incorpoartes some new ideas about decontruction- leaving the red under-painted exposed in some way- either through sanding the paint off the canvas or rubbing it down with soft cloths and trup-i am still exploring and "messing up" my realist hand. I never have a completely solid concept going into a painting- i start by doing what comes most naturally and build up layers of paint and bring the piece to what i call a finished state- it's at this point, when the painting feels done that i go back in and move paint around. I want to make movements in the work that scare me, create marks that make me feel like i have distroyed a months worth of work- becasue when i leave the studio feeling anxious and then come back to the piece the next day, i find a new portal to explore. I literally end up freaking out and crying after i tear through the painting with sand paper...the more i can scare myself, the better the painting. Finding a balance between the hyperrealism and the abstaction is vital.”
What questions do you ask yourself before you begin painting, if any at all?
“ Honestly, the first question i ask myself is, "How can I F--k this up?" Meaning that my intent is to change or distort this pristine photographic image by making abstract movements and peeling away the paint. And continually through the process i repeatedly question whether or not i have taken it far enough, fearing that i may hold be holding back. I get my high through pushing past those mental blocks and surprising myself.”
Congratulations on receiving your M.F.A. from the New York School of Visual Arts. How has this continuation of your education affected your painting and art career?
“My MFA has everything to do with where I am now. The program at SVA is very unique and created a strong community and web of networking for me in New York. The friends that I made during school continue to be my main support system here and i admire them greatly. Beyond the social aspect, I view the personal and artistic growth I struggled through for two years as a mandatory transformation. The experience felt a little like artistic boot camp. I was forced to strip down what i thought were stead fast ideals, braking down walls and being vulnerable. New York is as tough as it seems, but also very nurturing- the qualities of a good teacher.”
Goodbye Colorado! Fast-forward 3 years later. How do you feel about your homecoming? What does this exhibition represent to you as an artist and as an individual?
“This homecoming is so rewarding and I am thankful I have the opportunity. It truly feels like I am returning to a community that I grew up in. I have been evolved with Plus Gallery since I was a young 20 year old intern. My favorite part of the internship was working the bar at openings because it gave me the chance to interact with most everyone who attended the openings. Meeting the community of artist and art appreciators in Denver built a foundation for a solid relationship with the city and maintaining that connection has been important to me. I am also very nervous of course, my work has changed quite a bit and I hope that the interest in my work is sustained through my evolution as an artist. This exhibition represents personal growth and a testament to working hard.”
You are currently working as an assistant for the prominent artist Marilyn Minter. What has your experience been as an artist's assistant? What have you garnered professionally from the experience?
“Marilyn Minter is a supreme mentor. My experience with her as a painting assistant in her studio has been very positive and I wish to continue working with her even as my own career grows. I work on her pieces for 6 hours a day, five days a week- the time i spend painting for her only strengthens my own hand and because the techniques are so different it allows me to switch back and forth easily. I have benefitted both personally and professionally while working with her. She is unique in that she wants to keep a small, close knit group of assistants- her studio is actually the SoHo loft she has rented since the early 70's, so the seven of us are literally in her home everyday. She refers to us as "the kids" and maintains a close and caring relationship with all of us. Marilyn is a strong women, to say the least, and often talks about her struggles as a female in the art world. Being exposed to her daily business practice and how she communicates and handles each situation sets a positive example. It's a great privilege to be apart of her rising career.”
What is next for Jenny Morgan? Does it involve Jennifer?
“No jennifer:) Up next is a show I am very excited about- I am working collaboratively on a set of paintings with my fellow SVA alumni and David Mramor. We started making paintings together during grad school and we now have the opportunity to exhibit them in New York at Like the Spice Gallery on Nov 13th. I have been working on both show simultaneously, so it's been an intense year. David and I have found a multitude a ways and techniques to mesh out two very opposing styles- he is a hardcore gestural painter and I am a detailed realist. Our general process is to pass the painting back and forth- I do a layer, then he comes in and paints on top and then back to me, and so on. The act of allowing another artist to intrude on my marks has taught me to let go of the ego and preciousness involved with art making- I have gained a lot of insight to my own work by collaborating with David. The paintings are intensely strange and have a life of their own.”
Denver Arts Week: Day One
By Susan Froyd in Things to DoFri., Nov. 6 2009 @ 3:30PM
This city really knows how to kick off its third annual Denver Arts Week: Tonight's Know Your Arts First Friday, an amped-up First Friday art-walk event, will step up to the plate to showcase local artists and galleries all over town. The fun then continues with a slew of art discussions, demonstrations, receptions and other events scheduled throughout the span of Arts Week (visit the Denver Arts Week website for a complete schedule). But here are a couple of tonight's hot spots, just to get you going.
RiNo galleries, banding together in the area, will be out in force with doors wide open to the art inside. Notable openings include Buy Art. Not Underwear., a grand opening show at the new Ice Cube Gallery cooperative in the Dry Ice Factory, 3320 Walnut Street, and Color Blind, with ceramics by Kevin Snipes at Plinth Gallery, 3520 Brighton Boulevard, featuring a reception made lively by live poetry.
Continuing shows worth hitting if you haven't already include Jenny Morgan's stunning This Too Shall Pass at Plus Gallery, 2501 Larimer Street; Sharon Brown's Creators, with a reception and chocolate-tasting thrown in for good measure, at 3349 Blake Street; the Cake and Eat It Collective's An Experimental Memorial for Federico Garcia Lorca at Hinterland, 3254 Walnut Street; Eric Waldemar's Time & Attention, a mixture of film and drawings at Ironton Studios, 3636 Chestnut Place; and Severity, new paintings by Tracy Weil at weilworks, 3611 Chestnut Street. Also, the high-fashion outlet Goldyn will host a Denver Arts Week fashion show from 7 to 10 p.m. at Taxi, 3455 Ringsby Court.
And on cozy Tennyson Street, you'll want to run, walk or hobble in your favorite pair of shoes to the Sellars Project Space, 4383 Tennyson Street, where solepurposeTWO, the second annual exhibit of ceramic works inspired by footwear and hosted by sculptor Marie EvB Gibbons of the nearby EvB Studio, opens with a reception from 6 to 10 p.m. This whimsical show will totally sock it to ya -- and as if that wasn't enough, you can also head around the corner to the studio (at 4343 West 44th Avenue) and fashion your own tiny pair of clay shoes as part of Gibbons's monthly First Friday make-and-take clay workshops. For only $10, Gibbons will show you the ropes and later fire your finished work for pick-up later in the week. Go to the studio website for details.
Tags: Denver Arts Week, RiNo, Susan Froyd
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