STUDIO VISIT – JENNY REED

STUDIO VISIT – JENNY REED

BALTIMORE CLAYWORKS, SEPTEMBER, 2020

WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

I’m from Louisville, KY. When I was a kid, my mom worked at community art centers. She was into ceramics and taught kid’s classes. So I would help her with those and play. Right now, especially, I think everything’s come full circle.

When I moved to Indiana, people would say stuff about my accent all the time–but it’s literally like two hours away. I’m from a city and in Indiana we were in a rural area. Now that I moved here, no one’s said anything about it. 

I KNOW YOU JUST MOVED TO BALTIMORE FOR YOUR RESIDENCY AT CLAYWORKS – WHERE ARE YOU COMING FROM, HOW IS THE TRANSITION?

I just graduated in May from Indiana University Bloomington, where I was for three years. I got here in Sept to start the residency. It’s actually been a shockingly good transition. It’s been nice to go from one community to another. I think that’s probably the best situation I could have asked for, especially with the pandemic. It’s also really nice to have a break where I’m not involved in academia.

WHAT TYPE OF WORK OF GOALS DO YOU HAVE DURING YOUR TIME AT CLAYWORKS?

Before I got here, I was working on a body of work for my thesis. It was mostly about mundane moments and having an appreciation for that. Now that the pandemic happened, I think of that so differently. I’m overwhelmed by mundane moments. And there’s so much other stuff going on right now and I’m not sure if that’s what I want to stick with.

I’m starting to make some still life pieces that relate more to this period of time. I’ve been thinking of different symbols or images I could use that are more referencial to right now. 

Looking at work made right after the world wars, there is a lot of body fragmentation stuff and I’ve been thinking about figure now which I never really did before.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORK TO SOMEONE THAT MAY BE UNFAMILIAR?

My work is sculptural and it’s usually an assemblage of different materials, predominantly ceramic because that’s my background and I understand all materials through that lense. I really like working with bright colors and wacky imagery. I like to make things that are representational, but pretty abstracted.

YOU’RE VERY OPEN TO MIXED MEDIA AND WORKING IN AN EXPERIMENTAL WAY, HOW DOES CLAY OR CERAMICS FIT INTO THAT PROCESS?

I think a lot of it is because I like experimenting, so there’s always a drive to play with other materials and figure them out. I think it’s also because of my background–when I started in ceramics it was as a kid in a community art centers. I was around more people who were doing things that wouldn’t necessarily be considered academic ideas. I was exposed to that and into that. I think sometimes, conceptually, I think of different materials having different lineages, so I try to incorporate that too. In that vein, I’m definitely more into craft-based materials. I’ve been thinking more about fiber, and those types of materials that have connections to time and handmade things. It’s weird that it’s a closed-off medium; you need such specific facilities–but in a way that kind of makes it more open and less intimidating than starting an oil painting class.

MOVING IS HARD UNDER THE BEST CIRCUMSTANCES, HOW ARE YOU SETTLING INTO YOUR NEW STUDIO PRACTICE AND HOW DO YOU CALIBRATE THAT WITH THE REST OF YOUR LIFE?

I just started tutoring and I’m going to do that four days per week at five hours each. I’m watching as they do the online learning. I was thinking about my time in between college and grad school and I had like three jobs. The way I am, I need some structure. Just being expected to wake up and have a studio day–every day is completely open, but every day is the same. I need that push of having only so much time so I have to go to the studio. It’s good that I’m now starting to have a schedule. I keep thinking of how thankful I am for coming into a community and being (safely) around more people since the pandemic started. Living with this family and getting to know them–now I’m tutoring a younger child. I think I missed being around people of different ages.

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH CHALLENGES IN THE STUDIO?

If I’m really not feeling like making anything and I don’t have to be making, usually I just spend more time sketching. I keep a journal, which I’ve done for the past six years. I could look back at any point of life then and see what was happening. I always try to maintain that as my bare minimum. I have to keep journaling and find other things to get inspired from like reading and listening to podcasts. I also don’t ever feel like I’m bored. I’m thankful I’m an artist during this pandemic because people that aren’t–what are they doing with their time? I guess everyone else is baking bread!

ARE THERE ANY CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS YOU ARE INTERESTED IN RIGHT NOW?

It’s been sad not seeing work in person and I’ve mostly been digesting things through the internet. I’m always looking on instagram for new artists I find inspiring- I am really excited about Ruby Rose Neri, Gustav Hamilton, and Kevin McNamee-Tweed right now. I love the whacky ceramics! 

DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING COMING UP THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO PROMOTE? BECAUSE OF THE PANDEMIC I HAVE ALSO BEEN USING THIS QUESTION AS A PLACE WHERE ARTISTS CAN SHARE THINGS THEY ARE READING, WATCHING, ETC. FOR INSPIRATION OR SOLACE RIGHT NOW?

I don’t have anything coming up, but hopefully that will change. As far as inspirations go…I’ve been listening to an audio book called Anti-Social: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation. This reporter followed around “deplorables” and people with active right-wing social media presences. He talks about how culture has changed because of social media and how this was already going to be an issue when considering how people digest media with no understanding. All of it is so insane. It seems like it’s going to be that way for a long time. It’s interesting to listen to, and some of the people he interviews–you can’t believe the way they think about it. It’s like they just wanted power and a voice, without really mattering what was said, so that’s who you always hear from. Another thing the reporter talks about is how he wants to fact-check his work, but people think that’s being uptight. If reporters are trained to be unbiased, but then you’re presenting this material that’s reporting on people being racist–”unbiased” would say these people could be racist–but that’s lying, because they are racist.