Jenny Brown’s work caught my eye one day and I was drawn into her web of exquisitely imagined, starry, otherworldly universes of flowers, organisms and animal like creatures she creates through her art. Reminding me of biology and astronomy both, her work fancifully weaves together the atoms of our existence into something beautiful and thought provoking. Jenny was able to answer some questions about her work for Era Contemporary in this exclusive interview, and I hope you are uplifted and intrigued as I was the more you learn!
EC: When did you become interested in art?
JB: I gravitated to the arts at a very young age. My grandmother was an art teacher and painter, so I fortunately had her encouragement and guidance from the moment I began to take an interest in it. She also drove around a car that was always full of art supplies, so I was able to experiment with all kinds of materials right from the beginning!
EC: Tell us about the themes in your work recently.
Over the past few years, I have been focussed on making art which questions our long held understandings of time, space, energy, and matter. And from that very broad theme, I have been drilling down to illustrate my vision of an alternative or parallel universe. Years ago, I was very focussed on creating works about an actual alternative “space,” such as the ocean, underground, or cave. But now, I’m more interested in creating the inhabitants of those spaces, such as their unique flora and fauna.
EC: What is your process like for creating a painting?
JB: My process can actually sometimes can take years! I spend a lot of time sourcing materials in thrift shops, estate sales, and online. Once procured, the ephemera comes back to my studio to be cut and cataloged. Collage cuts might be on my desk for an hour, a week, or a year until I gravitate towards using them. I typically have more than one collage or drawing in the works at once, and often they end up being combined into one finished piece.
EC: How have your personal experiences impacted the work you make?
JB: I grew up in a military family that was constantly moving, so I needed to be able to adapt to new spaces and situations quickly. It taught me to make the most of the time and space I have rather than dwelling on the time and space I may not have. I’ve made some of my best pieces back in the days when I was drawing in the office before work, or and making art in my kitchen. Some years my work had to be smaller, other years (like now), it has the time and space to be big and rambling. I don’t look as time or space as a constraint, but rather part of the process and the story of each work.
EC: What do you hope people take away from your artwork?
JB: I would love for people to feel like they were transported to another dimension when they look at my work. And I would love for it to be a space that allows them to dream for a moment, remember a moment from their past, or imagine the future.
EC: Who are some of your biggest inspirations in terms of other artists, past and contemporary?
JB: Oh, there are so many! But some of the big favorites have been Philip Guston, Mary Delaney, Terry Winters, Louise Bourgeois, Ruth Asawa, Amy Sillman (who was my first painting teacher in college), and Georgia O’Keeffe. I was blown away by the Hilma of Klint show at the Guggenheim last year, as well as Vija Celmins and Mrinalini Mukherjee at the Met Breuer. Right now I am completely obsessed with the paintings of Leonora Carrington and Agnes Pelton and reading up on their work.
EC: What other medias influence your work (books, film, music)?
JB: I grew up antiquing and thrifting with my grandmother, and was also obsessed with old movies in my teen years, so my ties to nostalgia have always been strong (costume history was a favorite class in college). I also absolutely love the deep, magical space created by my musical hero Alice Coltrane and love being immersed in it.
EC: What is your vision for the next few years in your art career?
JB: It’s only been just about a year since I left my day job to pursue art full time, so I really want to keep enjoying this time of transition as I build up my practice and my business. I would love to teach again at some point, especially at the college level.
EC: What brings you the most joy about your art practice?
JB: The fact that I never get tired of doing it! The fact that I am never NOT excited to collect collage materials, and that wonderful feeling of getting immersed in creating a big mess that at one point seems like a disaster but then presents a clear path to resolution.
EC: What is art, and what’s it for?
I can only think of art in terms of being a beginning and an end to something. A past, present, & future state of mind…the things we have lost and found…and the darkness and the light that surrounds us, all wrapped into one experience. It’s a space that allows us to question what is before us, and a sounding board for all ideas we wish to explore.
Jenny Brown’s work will be featured in our upcoming virtual exhibition, The New Pre-Raphaelites. Register to attend this event here.
See more of Jenny’s work at www.jennybrownart.net .
Interview by Jessica Libor.