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Jennifer Chenoweth | Painter


Artmuse is proud to showcase artist Jennifer Chenoweth with Sphere of Influence and Circle of Influence as our newest collectible affordable art editions. Recently, our artmuse.com contributor, Reese Darby, had an in-depth discussion with Chenoweth about architecture, painting, philosophy, and parenthood. Revealing the beautiful moiré effect with her work and life, Chenoweth speaks effortlessly, gracefully and with humor about these complex topics.

AM: Firstly, tell me a little bit more about Sphere of Influence and Circle of Influence.

JC: They are scans of existing paintings for the background, plus scans of some transparency images that are layered together. There are about six to nine different floor plans and elevations that are atop each other on transparencies. These were scanned into one digital image which sits on top of the painterly drips. Sphere of Influence is the elevation view of different buildings, and, Circle of Influence is the plan view of different buildings.

This was the result of a particular inquiry of study. I was working on an independent study on the meaning of proportion and space with John Clarke at the University of Texas at Austin. We looked at how the human body experiences architectural space and what they meant in terms of scale. I looked at earlier Roman buildings and examined the different spherical realms. When those spheres are transferred down onto the floor as a circle on plan, then those circular areas would relate from building to building in terms of scale.

AM: So, what are you saying about scale relationships in these works?

JC: Most of the ways we experience architecture is by the size of your body within a space. In Roman architecture, the sphere (which gets transcribed as a circle on the floor plan) represented the different states of power. It is the central loci of what’s happening in the building.

The Romans were incredibly sophisticated when they dealt with the way that their architecture related to the proportions of the human body. Some of their spaces with spheres and domes were very intimate, and the sphere was small and you were included in it. Additionally, the Romans were all about power, like the Pantheon where you were in it, but in a miniscule way. It’s a interesting way to think about how you relate to a space and whether you perceive that set of aesthetics on an intuitive or visceral level.

AM: You have a very intentional, well-thought out process with a game plan. What exactly is involved in your process?

JC: I compose my works in Photoshop first. I go back through older works and look for “A-ha” images and ask “What about that particular painting interests me?” It might just be a mark, and I extract that mark and then change its scale and use it other pieces.

AM: With so much forethought and preparation, it seems that you are almost creating your own language or iconology with your work as a whole.

JC: It is a visceral/emotive symbol to me in a way. Like the calligraphy, a marker, or something that I’ve seen at a particular time. It stands as a reminder to me of something I’ve learned, something I’ve felt, or something I was working on. I have no idea, nor do I terribly worry, if somebody else gets that same feeling out of it because they are going to have their own set of experiences and visceral reactions to the work. It’s a little like music – a lot of us will respond similarly to a particular song, but we might describe it a little differently. I’m not trying to guide the viewer; rather I provide an opportunity of an experience for the viewer.

AM: You’ve said that your work is about persistence, perception, and discovery, could you elaborate on that?

JC: Yeah, I think that as a person and as an artist my number one thing I’ve got going for me is that I get up and I do it again. I am just incredibly persistent, in the face of all kinds of evidence that I shouldn’t be sometimes (laughing). This is what I’m here to do. So, I’m just going to keep doing it. It becomes kind of a funny thing that almost everyone who knows me either rolls their eyes at me or is amazed by me.

I’m persistent in that I get in my studio and I get hasty about something and I go after it. Then I realize “oh, that’s what that should have been” and then you back up and start over again. So, there’s just a matter of keeping at it that I think is incredibly important. I’m always looking back at older work and thinking “I was close, but that was so far off the mark from what I was trying to do at the time, and if I could review that somehow now…”

The work I am doing now, I think that I’ve really turned a corner, and then in a couple of years I’ll look back and just say the same thing (laughing). But, if I didn’t just keep at it, I wouldn’t grow. My art for me has been a measure of growing and not all of it has been terribly successful or sophisticated. Sometimes it’s quirky and silly, and you have to accept that with the whole deal.

AM: So what did you discover with Sphere of Influence and Circle of Influence?

JC: With these, the truth is that I discovered that I am not really done with this set of ideas (laughing). Sometimes you’ll work on something, and you feel like you’re done so you put it in a pile, and just go on. But these are still on my mind, which basically means that these two prints, Sphere of Influence and Circle of Influence, are setting an intention that I need to start working on the sphere and circle of our personal space some more.

The discovery is that you have this unfinished business with an idea that you haven’t flushed out enough or spent enough time with. So, that’s what I discovered with these. The two prints, Sphere of Influence and Circle of Influence, are really just a beginning.

AM: You’re a mother; tell me a little bit about being a mother and an artist.

JC: Being a parent changed my studio practice from something that had the luxury of time, to something I had to be very efficient with. I became a lot more serious about my art making after I had kids, since I was determined not to be the person who “used to be a person who…” before I became a mom. They need to know me as my best self. They also have provided me with more love and hope than anything I have ever experienced in my whole life by every degree and that makes me make art.

AM: How did you team up with Artmuse.com, and what are your thoughts on offering affordable and collectible art?

JC: Bonnie, Artmuse.com founder and curator, came to visit me at the Art City Austin show in 2009 and we hit it off. I appreciate her perspective and diligence. She is also helping me on a new project, GenerousArt.org, which will launch this year. She is someone who really cares about what she does. I’ve considered doing affordable prints before, but held out until I had an opportunity I could really endorse, which is Artmuse.com.

Jennifer Chenoweth is an Austin-based artist whose work is as diverse as her background. She holds an MA from the Great Books program at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and her MFA in painting from the University of Texas at Austin. Philosophy influences her artistic processes and inquiries, yet her work is as natural and relatable as Chenoweth is herself. She will be participating in E.A.S.T. 2010, so be sure to visit her studio!

Buy your limited edition prints of Sphere of Influence and Circle of Influence now.

written by Reese Darby, artmuse.com contributor

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