“I have the Experimental Blues:” an Interview with Artist Jennifer Love
Life is full of all sorts of wonders that fill our hearts with beauty. Like sunsets, sunrises, and a young cardinal swinging from a hosta shoot, the list goes on and on. As a poet I love the way these wonders feel against my soul.
I feel the same way about art, and I have written many poems inspired by a piece of art. I normally do not allow myself the luxury of buying art but recently I have granted myself the indulgence. The artist just happens to be my cousin, Jennifer Love and the piece is titled “I have the Experimental BLUES.” The first time I saw the piece on Jennifer’s blog a feeling of calm wrapped me in it arms. I found that I would go to her site just so I could see the picture and feel its peace. The painting already belonged to my heart so I purchased it from Jennifer.
I so love the painting that I wanted to share it on my blog and I am so impressed with Jennifer’s talent and dedication to her art that I want to share them both with you. I asked Jennifer if she would be willing to do a short interview with me. She said yes so here is the interview with Jennifer Love:
Let’s start with the painting first.
I fell in love with your painting “I have the Experimental BLUES” the moment my eyes hit jpeg, so to speak. Will you tell us a little bit about the painting: what it looked like originally, what prompted you to deconstruct and reconstruct it the way you did?
“Experimental BLUES” (see…it already has a nick name…LOL), was actually a planned abstract woven painting. It is the second woven painting I have done utilizing this particular creation technique.
The first painting, “Kokopelli Song Woven Through My Dreams” was created
for entry into the Utah Watercolor Society (UWS) Two Star and Signature Members show, which is limited to participation by members who have achieved one of these two membership status. The theme of that show was “Breaking Through – Something New” and entrants were challenged to create a painting using new materials or techniques that were outside their norm. I am not typically an abstract painter, and I usually use traditional watercolor rather than acrylic or other water media. But, I have long been wanting to try several new techniques including pouring and weaving, so I took this opportunity to create a painting using ALL the techniques I had been wanting to try. I had such fun creating that first painting that I immediately wanted to do it again…and thus “Experimental BLUES” was born the following weekend.
I created the painting by cutting a full-size piece of watercolor paper in half and attaching it to support board. Then, randomly taped and splattered masking fluid in various areas to create some white space. I decided to use varying hues of blue paint and some iridescent silver for this painting. The two papers were attached to the same support board, so they would receive the same colors of paint, in the same directions, at the same time. I used pouring and splatter techniques to apply the paint, then also used a palette knife to create some scratch lines of visual interest.
After the pouring, the paint needed to dry and set. Then the painting was carefully turned over and I marked the back side for cutting. This is where the bravery comes in, because you always find parts of the painting you really like, and never know how it will look in the final weave, or if it will be covered. But, I measured, labeled, and cut the strips, and then wove the painting together. Then, flipped the painting back to the front side to see the result. Next, I decided which way I most liked the composition (vertical vs. horizontal, and what sides on top vs. bottom), and then I signed the painting – very obscurely so it would blend and not detract from the composition.
The entire creation process takes about two days, but it is so much fun for me to watch it come together! I especially love the texture and splatter patterns in the lower right corner of “Experimental BLUES.” And, as you might have already guessed, I decided on the name of the painting as a result of all the experimental techniques I was using in the creation process.
But, what I love even more was that this painting was accepted to the Utah Watercolor Society Spring Show, which is a highly competitive exhibition to be accepted to – and it was the only painting I entered this year!
This painting was hung in at least two showings/events that I know of; which galleries were they and what were the dates?
This painting was actually only in one show. I was going to enter it into a second show, but was out of town on the date the paintings were due for entry. Since I already had a buyer lined up for it, I prepared it for the sale instead.
The show it was accepted to was the Utah Watercolor Society Spring Show (mentioned above). The UWS Spring Show is juried by a guest artist who has been booked (usually from out of state and 2-3 years ahead of time) to come in for a week-long workshop in the Spring each year. These artists are typically world-renowned, full-time, award-winning artists and instructors. This year’s show was juried by Stephen Quillor. http://www.quillergallery.com
Acceptance to this show was also important to achieving one of my membership goals in the UWS – to become a Signature member. In order to achieve Signature member status, you have to be accepted to eight shows, plus win a major award in one of the shows. There are only three opportunities each year to enter your paintings for acceptance (UWS Spring and Fall shows, and the Western Federation of Watercolor Societies annual show). I have entered for several years since joining UWS in 2003 and, so far, only three paintings have been accepted to the Spring show, so I was delighted for this one to be chosen.
What sparked your passion for painting and how did that spark turn into the raging fire that drives your professional career?
I have always loved expressing myself in creative ways. When I was a child, from age 4 to age 14, I studied ballet and tap dancing. I stopped studying ballet when I realized I don’t really have a dancer’s ideal body type and started finding it rather embarrassing to be the “chubby ballerina” in dance recitals – which is cute when you are little, but not so much when you are a teenager! At the same time, in Junior High, I had a brand new art teacher in my 8th grade year named Lester Lee. https://sites.google.com/site/sgvarts/instructors/lesterlee
At the time, he had just finished his MFA and was just starting his teaching career. “Mr. Lee” (then) was pivotal in my choice to pursue art. He gave me (and all the students) so much practical instruction in drawing skills and composition skills, and also gave us the freedom to pursue experimentation and fun. He was the one who convinced me that I had a gift and a talent as an artist and encouraged me to continue. I later connected with Mr. Lee as an adult, around 2003, when I signed up for a workshop he was teaching at the Bountiful/Davis Art Center in Bountiful, UT. He has since become “Lester” to me – progressing from teacher to mentor to becoming a very special personal friend. He is one of the most talented artists and most humble and generous persons I know, always finding a way to praise the work of others. We also share another connection in that his mother suffered from Parkinson’s Disease before she passed away a few years ago, and my husband was diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson’s Disease in 2006.
Ultimately, it is thanks to Lester as well as added encouragement from my parents, that I was happy to stop pursuing dance and start pursuing fine art. I realized I was a visual artist and never looked back!
What motivates and inspires you?
I love to paint “pretty” or “fun” things. I like bright colors. I love butterflies and flowers, and I am also inspired by Kokopelli and the arches in Arches National Park in Moab, UT. I have also done a series of ballerina sketches and paintings (still a love for the beauty of the dance and the dancer, even if I’m not creating the movement anymore).
I like to make art that makes me happy and has movement and fun elements. Hopefully, these things make my collectors happy as well. When you look at my paintings, I want them to bring a smile to your face, whether from nostalgia or because you like the subject matter.
Your husband lives with Parkinson’s and you have two sons how do these elements factor into your art?
Well, actually, we all live with Parkinson’s. My husband was diagnosed in 2006 (two years after we were married) at the age of 44. Parkinson’s is a progressive debilitating disease for which there is no cure. It is not fatal, but will cause increasing problems which, eventually, lead to atrophy and loss of mobility and balance. There is also the possibility of dementia, though (thankfully) that is less common in those diagnosed with Young Onset (or Early Onset) PD vs. those diagnosed in their 60’s and older.
In the beginning, other than tremor in his left arm and stiffness on the left side, he had very few noticeable symptoms. Since then, the disease has progressed and he takes a lot of medication in order to get through the day in a “normal” functioning way. But, we have proceeded with life as planned, making a few adjustments along the way.
Our first son was born in 2008, and our second in 2010. They are the joy of my life, but also pose challenges to pursuing my art career at this season of life. Painting, while I love it, does not pay the bills. So, I try to pursue painting in my “free time” which, let’s face it, there is not a lot of when you are working 40-50 hours per week, trying to keep up with running a household, be a decent wife to your husband, and be mommy to a 5- year-old and 3-year-old.
So…how does all this factor into my art? (Yes, I still remember the question!)
First of all, like I mentioned earlier, I like to make art that makes me happy. I think some of my family circumstances (my husband’s PD diagnosis, etc…) probably influence my choice of color and subject matter as I try to bring some brightness and beauty into the world.
Secondly, they factor into my art as a time challenge. But, I try to remind myself that it is okay. There is a time and season for all things. Right now is my time to raise my children. I am trying to find nooks and crannies of time to still make paintings while I am in this season, in hopes that I am laying a foundation for a second career as an artist, when my “retirement” season arrives. As my husband’s disease progresses, he depends on me more and more. Eventually, I will need to be a full-time caregiver to him. So, at that point, I am hoping that I will have established a foundation that will allow me to paint for a source of decent income as well as enjoyment.
Third, I donate a percentage of all my annual art sales to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research which is dedicated to aggressive research in all areas to find a cure for Parkinson’s Disease. I feel that Michael J. Fox has done so much to bring this disease to the forefront and increase awareness of PD, which was previously thought of only as an “old person” disease. He was diagnosed at age 29 and is currently the same age as my husband and still refusing to give up hope despite daily struggles. He has been living with PD for a long time, and I really admire his optimism and I also admire the dedication of his wife. I believe they had been married 4 years when he was diagnosed, but they proceeded to have a family, careers, and live a “normal” life. It gives me hope and an example that life throws you curves you weren’t expecting. But, “normal” is whatever you get. You make adjustments and proceed with your plans.
I am sure there are a lot of things I should be asking but what would you like to share with our readers?
Your readers are probably tired of reading my verbose answers! Thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed and to talk about my art!
Perhaps some of my favorite quotes would be a good way to end.
“If nothing changed, there’d be no butterflies” ~ Walt Disney
“A work of art that did not begin in emotion is not art.” ~ Paul Cezanne
“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” ~ Winston Churchill
“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” ~ William Arthur Ward
These are fantastic quotes and great way to end this interview. Thank you so much Jennifer for your time and for sharing your talent. It takes audacity to live an authentic life and it takes love in our sails to navigate life’s stormy winds. I think you are maneuvering your ship with greatness.
The poem I wrote for this piece of art can now be found in The Unique & Sundry, which happens to be available on Amazon.