Author Archives: Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson

About Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson

Pioneer, provider, artist, brewer, peony addict, trail runner, currently helping large organizations transform.

Design Your Own Artist Residency

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Fabrication by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2018

As he laid out his photographs on the table for the group to critique, Jimmy (not his real name) said, “This is the work that I created at the XYZ Residency on the coast.” Normally, I would be jealous. Of the time, the space and the opportunity.

Artist Residency

Artist residency programs give artists the opportunity to live and work outside of their usual environments to reflect, research, experiment with new materials or processes and / or make work. A residency lasts for a set period of time. It’s a formal affair. Artists fill out an application and submit a curriculum vitae, motivation for the residency and often a project proposal for a residency that is typically six months to years out.

But today, I was different.  Residency programs are earned and require advance planning, and I wasn’t in a position at the moment to do that. If I wanted the opportunity to focus more intently on my purpose and craft as an artist, I’d have to be creative. I knew I was going to be in Portland for seven days solo. I’d have focused set of responsibilities but with that I would also have some free time.

The Math

It’s true that some free time carved out isn’t the same as a residency. But I could turn that time into something. I had 7 days or 168 hours. Out of that I needed to subtract:

  • hours for sleep (56)
  • working out (14)
  • eating (21)
  • other responsibilities such as job hunting and house management (28)
  • social engagements (3) and
  • personal maintenance (7)
  • spiritual practice (7)

That left 35 hours. I could carve out a work week within a week! What could I accomplish?

 Goals

In a bright yellow notebook, I penned 3 main goals:

  1. Develop a better understanding of the photography community in Portland
  2. Create a new artist statement that was better than the one automagically generated by artybollocks.com
  3. Produce new work

Activities

How did I go about all this? To develop a better understanding of the deep photography community in Portland, I:

  • Enjoyed looking at photographers’ work at Camera Work, Blue Sky (especially the Pacific Northwest Photographers Drawers), and Vernissage as well as other media at other galleries (Disjecta, Carnation, Augen, Land, Froelick, Elizabeth Jones Art Gallery)
  • Met fellow photogs in a monthly photo group critique
  • Met more fellow photogs at the one-year anniversary of the Portland Darkroom (rising from the ashes of Newspace) including one of the founders
  • Plumbed the depths of the film and camera experts at local gem Blue Moon Camera and Machine
  • listened to an interview of a local photographer and publisher
  • enjoyed thoroughly reading a book by a local photographer whom I had enjoyed meeting

To create a better artist statement for me than artybollocks.com was able to generate, I researched to remind myself what should be included, looked at and reflected on my own work over the past 20 years, read over 100 artist statements, and looked at photographers’ work. I wrote more about the process here.

Lastly to produce new work, I took a multi-step process to revive my now discontinued Contax 645 medium format camera, found Kodak Portra 120 roll film and a place that will develop it (the aforementioned Blue Moon Camera and Machine) and focused us on a new subject, the place where I stayed. The first two rolls were terrible. I have more hope for the 3rd now in development. I’ll share more soon. I experimented also with combining film with zentangles. Those results coming soon too.

Key Takeaways

The opportunity I designed to evaluate my work with methodical and sustained focus was a real gift. Time with friends was a welcome and joyful elixir. My key takeaways were:

  • The photography community in Portland is vibrant and multi-faceted. Each artist I met was working to manifest his or her highest work for a given body and topic.
  • You may not be able to have it all, but you sure can have more.
  • Designing your own residency is completely possible. If you time bound your design, artistic pursuits can be balanced with work and family. For example, there are 24-hour comic contests where comic book artists get together for 24 hours to see if they can make one 24-page comic. That’s doable with work and family.

At the very end, I decided to call this The Tesseract Art and Design Residency because the benefits from the time will feed my work at TAD.

Artist Statement Develoment

.albumtempA few days ago I set out to see if I could write a better artist statement than one randomly generated. I read over 100 artist statements and a few main themes emerged as driving forces:

  1. ritual remembrance of an influential family member
  2. truth and beauty
  3. a significant illness usually of the artist
  4. social change in response to outrage
  5. exploration of interests, for example in flora

The more common theme is “must”. Many artists expressed some feeling that they must create. And that response, while gratifying, was not the driving force. Amen to that.

So here’s my terrible first draft.  Please give me your comments and feedback and help me make it better! Thank you!

My day time super powers are to create ways of doing new things for the first time and to organize people, processes and information to create more peace. (My useless superpower is being able to sing the lyrics of songs from the 70s and 80s with little prompting.) My night time and weekend superpower is creating art.

As an artist, I create to make peace between things that are framed as opposites. I also create to surface and express emotions without words by turning things over with my mind’s hands without looking at it with my mind’s eye.

Media / Process

I loved drawing and painting in grade school and I kept my drawings safe between hay bales in a tin shed that doubled as my entomology lab where I watched caterpillars turn into chrysalis and emerge butterflies.

Later, I loved photography and desiring to hone my craft I earned an MFA in Digital Media. I continue to learn other disciplines because the challenge brings me energy and fun. For example, I have worked in: sculpture, jewelry, painting (acrylic, oils, pastels), drawing (ink, pencil, thread) collage, assemblage, installation (audio, robotics), books (handmade, self-published) and photography (film, digital, mobile, alternative process).

Subjects

There are a few broad themes that I return to over 20 years across different media:

  • I love faces. Which is funny because I am an introvert.
  • I lost much of my eyesight by the time I was 8 years old. Without my contacts in, many of my closeup photos reflect how I see.
  • I love flowers, trails, botanicals.
  • And there’s everything else.

Tradition / Influences

My influences are a jumble across disciplines and time.

  • Photography – Teachers Dan Burkholder, Brian Taylor, and Joel Slayton. Famous artists Josef Sudek, Frederick Evans, Karl Blossfeld
  • Drawing – Lynda Barry, Mike Rhode, Ed Emberely, Eva Lotta Lam, Kris Hargis, and teachers Lisa Congdon and Kate Bingaman-Burt
  • Portraits – Alice Neel, Lucien Freud, Roualt and teacher Jane Davenport

Value Add

How am I different? I am not so sure I am. I can tell you though that:

  • I am in general delighted by the world and attempt to convey some of that.
  • I am intrigued and delighted by the discovery and expression of what makes each person a unique and individual personality.
  • I cross the lines between disciplines in the spirit of exploring what works and what’s fun.

You can find out what I’m currently doing by following me on Instagram @JHartnettHender.

 

 

Learn from Others

When you’re working on your own artist statement, you can learn a lot from how other people answer the main questions to see what resonates for you.

Easy Research – There are lots of ways to find other artists’ statements. Here are just a few:

  • Visit a gallery or a museum and look at the exhibiting artist statements.
  • Listen to a gallery talk by an artist whose work is on exhibit.
  • Peruse viewing drawers. Some galleries have viewing drawers of prints from artists and include the artist’s resume and statement. For example, Blue Sky has the Pacific Northwest Photography Viewing Drawers to promote the work of regional artists.
  • Listen to an artist being interviewed on a podcast like Keep the Channel Open or The Modern Art Notes Podcast to hear what they say about their work and their driving force.
  • Watch artists classes on e-learning platforms like CreativeLive or Lynda.com.
  • Talk to or interview an artist to understand what they think.

Sources are everywhere. Here are some things I’ve learned so far by seeking out other artist statements.

How Matters – Artists who include the backstory of how the current body of work came about are more engaging

  • Photographer Lauren Hare relates that she started in portraiture but began incorporating flora into the portraits until one day the flora became equal in importance.
  • Photographer Deb Stoner shares her progression from composing entirely in camera to composing entirely on the scanner until she found through extensive research that artist Karl Blossfeldt composed many of his amazing images by cutting up different prints and reassembling them into a new whole.

Motivation – What motivates you? Do you like to do the same style or do you like to vary it? What brings you energy about your work? Children’s book illustrator and author Ed Emberley says:

  • “I don’t like to work the same way all the time. I would prefer to experiment with different materials. I find that when I am challenged the challenge brings me energy and fun….If I have fun I can pass the fun on.”
  • “It’s very important that people succeed [viewing and using my work].”

I like what Ed says applied to artist statements as well. Your artist statement should help people succeed in understanding something about your work while viewing it.

Elements of an Artist Statement

What is an artist statement supposed to do? For the artist, it can be a way to connect with the viewer by revealing more. Elements of an artist statement generally include:

Media – Did you use oil? pastel? acrylic? Why? Artist statements tend to be posted with a show so they are often specific to the body of work on display. Bodies of work, unless they are retrospectives, tend to be very cohesive. My favorite retrospective so far is David Hockney’s. His use of a wide variety of technologies and media from pencils to iPad was inspiring.

Process – If there is something accretive to meaning about the artist’s process, include it. Jackson Pollock’s process of flinging paint was important because it showed how he achieved such a wildly different effect.

Subject – If the subject is portraits, the viewer can probably tell, but are who are the people and how did they end up sitting for you? What’s important about your choice of subject? Alice Neel painted wonderful portraits of neighbors, children, people she knew, not famous but everyday.

Why – if you’ve watched Simon Sinek’s TED talk you know that this is the most important part. People don’t care about your what if they don’t understand your why. Last night in the Basil Hallward Gallery at Powells, I read the why of the artist on exhibit, Annamieka Hopps Davidson: “People who give a damn need access to the power and the resilience that joy brings.”

Extra credit – including these in your artist statement shows that you understand more than just your own work.

Tradition – how does your work relate to other work in the same tradition? Another way to get at this is to ask yourself, “Who inspired you?” Austin Kleon suggests that you track that even further back and ask, “Who inspired them?”

Distinction – how is your work different from those who influenced you and from contemporaries? What does it add to the conversation? You are unique. There is no one else like you in the world ever. You bring that uniqueness to the work. Where does it show up?

If you’ve been through an MFA program, these questions are very similar to ones asked on the pre-thesis or oral exams conducted by a panel of teachers.

Do you understand why you are doing what you are doing? Why this material and not that one? Why this amount of embellishment and not that? How do your artistic decisions about media contribute to the overall meaning of the piece(s)? Do you understand your place in the canon? Who is your work influenced by or derivative of? How is your work new and different?

I created a notebook of all the pre-thesis questions asked over a couple of semesters at San Jose State to prepare for my own oral exams. Answering these questions requires a level of inquiry that assumes at it’s foundation that your work as worthy of study. That you’ve brought something to the “page” that’s valuable and that can be improved through examination. IMG_2046

 

Writing an Artist Statement

This week my goal is to write an artist statement that I can be proud of and feel congruent with. The purpose of the artist statement is to give the viewer a handle on the artist’s work, a lens through which to translate. It can cover materials/process (how), subject matter (what), deep matters (what about), tradition (how it relates) and critical view (what you’re doing that’s different from before).

It’s challenging. I’ve been an artist for over 20 years. Some things are consistent over time like dancing with my curiosity. Other things have changed like the subjects and medium.

In times like these, when the going gets tough, I turned to Arty Bollocks for an instant artist statement for a start. Here’s what I got:

My work explores the relationship between gender politics and urban spaces.

With influences as diverse as Rousseau and Buckminster Fuller, new synergies are manufactured from both opaque and transparent narratives.

Ever since I was a student I have been fascinated by the ephemeral nature of the universe. What starts out as contemplation soon becomes corrupted into a manifesto of greed, leaving only a sense of failing and the unlikelihood of a new beginning.

As shifting replicas become frozen through studious and repetitive practice, the viewer is left with an epitaph for the inaccuracies of our condition.

Not exactly or nearly true for me. However, if at the end of this week, I can’t do better than this, then that’s what I’ll use!

Here are quick links to how it unfolded:

5 Things I Learned From Deleting my FB Account

In my recent post, The Process of Personal Archeology, I shared that I deleted my Facebook account. I had 2 weeks to change my mind before it was permanent. On the last day, I reinstated it. Here’s what I learned:

Contact Info – I don’t have contact info for most of my Facebook connections except through FB. To stay in touch I would need to collect each person’s contact information outside of FB. Marketing departments call this “owning the customer data.” Both Amazon and FB have a lot of data about each user. In personal terms, unless I take active steps otherwise, FB “owns” the contact info of my contacts.

I let three people I am connected to on FB and IRL know that I was deleting my FB account. I didn’t post a departure notice on FB [which in retrospect, I should have done].  If anyone noticed, they couldn’t reach out because they likely did not have my contact info.

Conversations – Messenger is also deleted when you delete your FB account. I quite like Messenger. It’s different in feel from mobile phone text. In both cases the content is delivered to your device. The messages are both presumably from someone you already know well enough to give your phone number. But. I write differently for Messenger than I do for text. I translate the message I receive differently too. The tone of content in Messenger is more conversational than text and less transactional.

Communication – When I see my FB friends IRL, we start in a different place because I don’t know what they’ve been up to, what amazing vacations they have been on or what family reunions they’ve been to. I don’t get to enjoy those photos. Likewise, I’m limited in my ability to share as well. Marketing departments would call being able to start communication with a customer in the right place “knowing the customer” or “customer intimacy.”

Cat Videos – I remarked to my husband just yesterday that without FB I lost my reliable source of curated funny cat videos (which send me into spasms of laughter) and adorable dog videos. I’m convinced that once in awhile these videos are the sole benefit of creating the internet:)

Collected Data – You have the option to download all the data that FB collects about you. Picture1I did that. Check out the folders image from the download for details on what is collected. For example, there’s a record of every IP address I have ever logged into FB from. FB uses this information presumably to serve up relevant ads. To FB, I’m a target.

Conclusion – I’m back on FB with the express goal of attracting my friends out of the walled garden into a world where we can communicate directly with each other.

The Process of Personal Archeology

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“How’s your Swedish death cleaning going?” my cousin-in-law asked last week.  In Swedish that’s döstädning — a combination of the word “dö” (which means death) and “standing”.

I hadn’t heard the term before but was both delighted and amused by it. Why wait? Why burden someone else with all that I’ve accumulated. That wasn’t actually why I started. I had time and the rare form of energy required to examine and evaluate. But it definitely played a part in continuing. Here are some of the places that I dug into on my personal archeology review, in no particular order:

Hard Drive – Keeping back up drives up to date and mirrored and the hard drive organized are on-going struggles. I renamed and rearranged folders to reflect how my mind and days are organized now and made sure all the information I wanted to keep was saved in 2 places.

The Cloud – Box, Dropbox, Evernote, all contain dirty footprints from files now mysterious and vacation travel research long past useful. Time to go.

Social – I deleted a blog I no longer maintained, my 15 year old Flickr account because they wanted to bill me $99 to keep it going, and most controversial of all, my Facebook account. The good news is that all 3 had the ability to download an archive copy for my records.

The Garage – The paint we used on our interior 15 years ago can be recycled at paint stores. But the various spray paints needed to go to the city’s hazardous waste disposal site. Appointment needed. Some old photography chemicals have a shelf life of forever. These I gifted to friends. Others I took to the city hazardous waste site also.

Hardware – Much of the hardware that I have used for photography is still useful but nonetheless aging. Seals go bad, apertures stop working, so saving an item to use someday is silly thinking. In the face of entropy, donation to a local junior college is my best bet. Old electronics like mice and keyboards can be taken to the city hazardous waste site.

Yard – we’ve been fortunate to have a tree trimming and exterior painting projects that have forced us to evaluate what’s on the patio. No need to keep a rake and a hoe when we replaced all the dirt with pavers. Even the potted plants may still go.

Passion Projects – I had 6 paintings that were taking up space in the closet. They were experiments at one point in time. I put them on the curb and 4 of them disappeared immediately. I am repainting the other 2 with something cheery to see if they will disappear as well.

Furniture – That IKEA Poang chair and ottoman in storage were not getting used. Thankfully, I found some friends in need of furniture because a roommate had moved out. The furniture is now in use.

Photographs – I threw away a ton of my photo prints all carefully filed away in photo albums when that was a thing, but I kept the negatives and photos of people. It was interesting to look in the rear view mirror at experiences that seemed so dear at the time but in retrospect, I didn’t need the evidence to remember the enjoyment.

Artwork – I have a lot of works on paper that I had stored in various sizes of boxes, in various places. I pulled all of these out and consolidated them into an Alex drawer unit from IKEA which I LOVE! I am much more able to find things and enjoy them more.

In short, I’m learning a lot from a life examined.

Many thanks to my friend Kathryn for the title to this post.