AN INTERVIEW WITH JENNY NELSON
Jenny Nelson is an abstract painter and a painting instructor. She begins each of her canvases with layers of color that are improvised, abstract and even chaotic. Through a process of addition and subtraction she brings each painting into balance with sensitivity and an attention to detail. Committed to abstraction -- yet very sensitive to her environment, she creates paintings that are energetic, responsive and finely tuned.
Jenny attended Maine College of Art in Portland Maine, and is a graduate of Bard College, where she received a scholarship to the Lacoste School of the Arts in France. She has been living in Woodstock, New York for nearly two decades, including a Residency at the Byrdcliffe Art Colony from November 2004-08. Jenny has exhibited for many years nationally and regionally including; Hidell Brooks Gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina, Carrie Haddad Gallery, Hudson, NY, and the Thomas Henry Gallery, Nantucket, MA.
Although abstract, my work has always been anchored in drawing. The years I spent studying drawing and painting from life instilled a strong sense of space and structure in my painting. At some point during my studies, I became more interested in the negative space surrounding the objects I was observing and then I began modifying the objects themselves. Very organically an abstract language developed, but the structure and organization of rendering lines from life remained constant in the painting. This foundation has always dictated my mark making, my need to maintain a sense of things taking up space, real or imagined.
Pieces often begin with loose gestures and a variety of spontaneous marks. Layers of line and color are built up. Many times traces of previous layers remain visible, allowing colors to interact in ways I could not have anticipated. This process leaves me feeling quite lost a lot of the time, and I have had to learn to become comfortable with that feeling. This sometimes builds to frustration, and I will scape off much of what was applied, but the result of doing this is often something wonderful that moves the painting forward.
I view the painting process as a collaboration between myself and the materials. A conversation starts that has a beginning and an end, but everything in between is unpredictable. It seems at first some exciting things may show up but it’s important to disregard these first, too beautiful bursts, work over them, and develop something deeper from them. As the painting evolves, shapes and lines solidify, and I begin to see how the parts affect the whole.
The process of layering, adding and subtracting, creates a kind of history on the canvas. Shapes have a story to tell. Lines that have been obliterated and resurrected over and over again have an emotional charge. The paintings that started as a wild party ends up as a contemplative carefully edited composition, involving precise modifications, while hopefully leaving the life force in tact.