by Joana Fischer and Gabriele Gutwirth
AN INTERVIEW WITH JENIFER KENT
Where were you born?
In New Jersey in 1971. I grew up in a working class family in what had been a very rural community that was quickly turning suburban. It had a very small town feel, and while I couldn’t wait to escape as a kid, I think in retrospect it was a place that nurtured a certain connection with labor, nature, and community that still rings true for me today.
Where do you currently live?
I currently live in Petaluma, CA, on a working sheep ranch outside of town. After living in Oakland for about 20 years, it has been such a pleasure to return to a small town and live in a more rural setting. I love looking out the window at sheep! My studio is a short walk from my house and is in a little old barn.
Please tell us about your education.
I was the first person in my family to attend college, and I studied painting at Rutgers University in NJ (at the Mason Gross School of the Arts) and then drawing & painting in graduate school at Mills College in Oakland, CA. After college, I lived in Seattle for 4 years and then graduate school is what brought me to California in 1997. I fell in love with the Bay Area and I never left.
Do you work with a gallery?
I’m represented in Northern California by the Dolby Chadwick Gallery in San Francisco. They are a fantastic gallery that I’ve been lucky to work with for about 7 years. I’ve shown in other places around the US, but I have yet to find representation beyond the West Coast.
Please tell us about your career highlights.
A major highlight was when Dolby Chadwick started representing my work. I’ve met some incredible collectors and designers through working with them. I’ve also had two residencies (Lucid Arts and Wildlands) which were both close to home, but because of the stunning natural settings, so profound and inspiring.
What inspires you?
I’m very much inspired by nature—not always in a literal way, but being in relationship with plants and animals when I’m hiking or on the land feeds my work and keeps me centered when I’m back in the studio. I also love playing and experimenting with mark making and the way that a mark on a page can create a form or represent a moment in time. I feel like every drawing is a distillation of some moment or experience, whether directly from nature, or more generally from my life. I always think it’s funny to look back on older work and think “oh! I know exactly what that was about, and what was going on for me at the time!” Abstraction is wonderful that way because it can hold so many things at once both for me and for my viewers.
Please tell us about your concept.
I am interested in experiences of time, space, and sound. I want to draw the hum of everyday life…acceleration, speed and movement, and also to stop that movement both visually and experientially. The shapes I draw often mirror microscopic or cosmic landscapes, zooming in to suggest cellular structures and then out again, into a sort of vast hyperspace. Because of the multitude of marks, these drawings are never still, though they seek to capture a moment in time, a suspension of sound or thought, a paused chaos. The white field which holds the marks serves to create silence and space, while the simple black and white lines illustrate a detached motion or sound – textural, like static or soundwaves.
What is your current project and your next goal?
This month I have a show opening at Dolby Chadwick Gallery in SF with some new large pieces, and I will be part of another show in October at Lulo gallery in Healdsburg, CA related to the residency I just finished at Wildlands.
Some of my recent pieces have shifted from a central explosive form to a more woven interaction of lines. Because I live on a sheep farm, I also spin and weave fiber, and I’m always interested in the way that the different pieces of my life interact. Spinning and weaving is similar to drawing sometimes, in the crafting and relationship of line, and I’ve been investigating those forms and relationships.
I also teach and am currently co-curating an small exhibition on the theme of home/land/migration with one of my old students. I find that although my own work is abstract and minimal, in my teaching practice, I am able to focus more on art as a form of activism, and incorporate social justice themes into my classes and curatorial work. My students are inspiring in their energy and willingness to take on tough themes.
What are your thoughts about THE LINE DRAWING PROJECT?
I loved the assignment of responding to a previous artist’s work, and also that the focus remains on line and drawing. Instagram has been such a fun platform to discover other artist’s work, and to be in dialogue with them, and this project takes that a step further. I feel like I connected with new artists, and also pushed myself to think about the way I work and how the marks come about. It was also so fun to see what the next artist did in response to my piece. I felt like we were all having a conversation about line, space, drawing, abstraction... just without words!
It was a pleasure. Thank you very much, Jenifer.