Friday, August 7, 2015

First Friday: Art Mapping, Jennifer Brickey

A little over a year ago I introduced you to Jennifer Brickey in a Mother's Day piece. If you haven't read it I encourage you to. Especially if you are a mother. It is an encouraging spread full of love and artistry.

Anyway, I am really excited to share more of Jennifer's work with you all. I have mostly seen her work online yet even still I am drawn in for minutes on end. Sitting on my couch staring at my computer screen, probably causing early blindness, trying to soak in all of the intricacies of Jennifer's work. Tonight will be the first night of about a month-long exhibit in the Emporium. So stoked to see more of her work in person.

In addition to creating her own body of work, Jennifer also trains young artists on a day-to-day basis working at Pellissippi State and with the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies. She is just returning from Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin where she taught Drawing I and II. Next year she plans to direct the Italy program. Sign me up!! There aren't many days that I find myself saying I want to be a student again but I would love for Jennifer to be my professor especially if it means I can travel with her wherever.


Here is a recent Q & A with the traveling professor. If you are in the area you can tell her how much you like her work this evening at the Emporium!

PP: Does the majority of your body of work have a map base or underlying theme?   
JB: It is better to start from the beginning to answer this question. I have always worked relatively non-objective. It was during graduate school (thesis) that I discovered a need for structure. Maps naturally evolved from that need. To be honest... Maps are some of the most interesting and beautiful things for me.  I love the natural forms combined with the seemingly congestion of the suburban landscape. In the beginning, I experimented with projecting the maps. It was not until about two years ago that the actual physical map became more apparent. 
PP: Has your work changed over the years gravitating to a map theme or have you always been drawn to maps?
JB: The map has always been a consistent or underlying theme, even if I was unaware of it.  I am fascinated by systems of organization, puzzles, games, as well as the formal elements of line, shape, form, color and space. The environments on which these elements are placed are ultimately my goal.  
I am also both fascinated and repulsed by the living in the suburbs. I grew up in the suburbs outside of Pontiac, Michigan. My parents are both hard working factory workers. So then, a combination of both the isolation and comfort of suburban life are evident in "my" maps. 
PP: Does your love of travel play into your work directly? How?
JB: Absolutely!   I am extremely lucky that I get to teach abroad each year. After my first trip to Italy, I found myself dabbling in walnut ink stains. I find beauty in the process, the richness of age, history of marks and elements of time.  
PP: Does exploring a new city inspire a new piece? In what way?

JB: I think it does. Although, it is not that obvious at first. I am defiantly fascinated by the old vs. the  new during my most recent trip this summer I visited Berlin. The East Side Gallery in Berlin is a surviving section of the Berlin Wall covered with phenomenal work by graffiti artists. It was stunning. The combination of elements, language... layered by time, age, marks, color, images.. I saw many similarities with some of my recent "MAP!" series. I guess the full impact remains to be seen.
PP: Does each piece you produce incorporate a certain map for a certain theme?

JB: You know, I have been asked that a lot, the places, the specific cities. In the beginning it was identify with, that I had lived in or was most familiar with. ... Detroit, Cincinnati. But then, I realized that the city itself, which city I was using had nothing to do with the content of the work.. I am drawn to all kinds of maps, regardless of specific location. The maps that I use are specific for specific pieces. Sometimes I need a map that is "tighter" more congested, gridded, or more spread out, it really just depends on the situation.
The only thing I would say is that I have not really had a chance to use any map outside of the U.S. I am not really sure why. It may have to do with the way the U.S cities are laid out. ... too perfect, too gridded...

PP: How do you begin a new piece? Do you find a map you like and go with the lines and space of the map?

JB: The map is added in the middle of the piece. First I stain the paper, through a series of pours (using walnut and acrylic ink).  Then, the painting, drawing, mapping happens.  Recently, I started to add images found in vintage homemaker magazines to spice up the composition.

PP: What makes you choose one map over another?
JB: There is not really a map that I don't like. Although, I would rather have city maps. And the color... the color is super important too.
PP: Generally it seems that you use certain colors in every piece but from time to time incorporate a watercolor look...Is that true? What denotes the colors/technique used?

JB: I used to have a basic system of Red, Blue, and Green, warm vs. cool, compliments and so on. Harmonization was the key. Now, it really depends on each individual piece. However, the stains are usually neutral.. browns, earthy, gritty, dirty tones. Then, the rich vibrant, often "candy" colors get piled on top. I like the reaction of two seemingly different things. It's magic.
PP: Do you typically follow the lines of the map/the base of your pieces? Do they provide the structure you enjoy while color provides fluidity? It seems as though some of the lines you choose create fluid patterns as well.

JB: I do like to follow the lines of the map.. then off the map to the unknown (the world of the stains). For me, the line represents freedom, connection, purpose. It directs, provides structure as well as fluidity. The color also does the same, but in a different way. In terms of patterns... There is pattern by color. I link colors by surrounding colors, either by similarities in value or saturation. The pattern of line happens by the element of time. Mark after mark, after mark, after mark.  Recently I started making these choppy marks... I call them hatch marks or tics, that mark time, repetition, the sameness.
PP: What materials do you normally use?

JB: It depends. The most recent work is pen, ink, gouache, map and magazine fragments. I also do oil and acrylic paintings on canvas.
PP: What motivates you to create work?

JB: Everything. I am a victim of my environment.  I am impacted by everything around me.  There is a quote from Georgia O'Keefe that I like, "I found I could say things with colors and shapes that I could not say any other way-things I had no words for." That pretty much sums me up.
PP: "I am for art that is real, one that represents loss and presence." -J. Brickey What represents loss and presence in your work? Or how is it represented may be a better way to ask that question...?

JB: Loss is absence. It is everything that is not there. It once was, but is no longer there. Where presence is being. I always think that a single mark is the most present I can be. Just that single mark. Breathe, make a mark, breath again, make another mark. It is being present. The work then is present. But, there is a sadness for what is not there. What once was, either wiped away through process of making the work, or simply what is implied.
PP: I think I could stare at one of your paintings for an hour a day for a number of days and walk away seeing something different every time. Is this something you expect to hear from someone who looks at your work? If so how does that impact your creating? 

JB: Oh, I plan it that way. It does the same for me too. I tell my students that good art will always question, not just make a statement. The work is should be a  journey. It takes you up, down, around, through, in, out, etc... The good work always keep you looking, guessing, wondering, wishing, watching, its better than TV.

If a work is understood immediately it leaves me empty. Then, I can help but say.. so, what?

PP: Have you found being a professor of art affects your own work? If so, how?      

JB: It goes hand and hand. My work affects my teaching. My teaching effects my work. I learn to go back to the basics. They make me check my ego.

Jennifer during her recent stay in Berlin
I am a painter and a professor of art, among many other things. I am both compelled by my busy life and repulsed by it. I am empowered by elements of feminism, history, and the suburban landscape. I resist conforming and respond mostly to honesty. I respect formalist conventions and technical integrity. I find freedom in travel, space and multifaceted worlds of beauty, romance, structure, congestion and complexity. I like lines, because they are honest, shapes because they are organic, space for its emptiness, and color for its vitality. I seek perspective from history and deny certain superiority in art making. I acknowledge the alienation my work creates in being autobiographical. I am not an intellectual and will not overwhelm my viewers with knowledge of art theory or concept. I am for art that is real, one that represents loss and presence. I am for art that is persistent, moving, timeless, and thought provoking.
 Find Jennifer:

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