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A brief conversation with Jenny Mullins

Mother Anne Lee, 2011. Graphite on Paper

Shortly before the release of No.7 You Are Here, I was able to meet contributor Jenny Mullins at my standard “New Friend Meeting Space” (Rosemunde’s Sausages, in the Mission, SF). The way in which Composite and Jenny came together to be able to work together has been an interesting story for sure, involving mutual friends living in a remote town in Peru, and a future re-location to San Francisco, the half home base of Composite. Shortly after meeting up, Jenny took a few moments from her busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.

Composite: Growing up and getting your BFA in Texas, your MFA in Baltimore, a year in India, mixed with residencies and travel in multiple locals, your life and practice has taken shape all over. How much does your location influence your work?

Jenny Mullins: My work, in a lot of ways, is fueled by travel.  Understanding how different cultures relate fascinates me and I’m addicted to the process of experiencing a place first hand.  It makes it real for me and that, in turn, informs my art.


CO: Bodies of work like “The Dharma Project” are quite obviously and admittedly formed directly out of a locationaly privileged residency. Is this typically how you approach residencies and extended stays in specific places, or did your interest in India/south eastern religion influence the desire to go to India?

JM: My interest in India slowly developed over time through personal relationships.  I started to pay very close attention to what the American ‘idea’ of India really was.  Even then, I saw a distinct disconnect between the American idea of India and what I perceived then as the reality.  It was a natural inevitability that I would actually travel to India and experience it in a more firsthand manner.

In a way, I traveled to India to learn more about my own culture.  By gaining a better insight into what India, as a culture, was actually like, I could understand in a greater way, how the American ‘social imaginary’ of India came about.


CO: Drawing and painting is only a portion of your practice. How does your 3-d and time-based work compare to your 2-d work? Do they come to exist from a similar place, or do you prefer to keep these two practices separate?

JM: The two practices inform each other.  While the two dimensional work is more intuitive and more about upholding and then subverting tradition, the three dimensional work represents the same ideas freed from these limitations.

I create the three-dimension work so that I can create something that’s more participatory.  While I will always have a place for more traditional work, I like creating experiences that are interactive.  In this way, you can experience a three-dimensional work and have a greater insight into a two-dimensional work.


CO: Living and working in cities such as DC and Austin provide for a smaller network to exist within compared to somewhere like New York or LA. How has being in a tighter knit city such as these affected your work and the economy with which you exist in?

JM: I like medium sized cities and I feel that tighter knit communities such as DC, Austin and now San Francisco, allow you to get involved relatively quickly.  There’s room to grow and affect change in these sorts of communities.


CO: Coming up you have a residency at Kimmel Harding Nelson-Nebraska City followed by a permanent relocation to San Francisco. How do you see this cross-country shift affecting your work? Do you have any plans for work based on these events and locations?

JM: I’m excited to drive across the country.  It’s been a while since I’ve the opportunity and the time to do this. It’s a very freeing experience, and allows you the opportunity to experience the countryside in a granular way that plane travel just doesn’t allow.


Check out Jenny’s contribution to No. 7 You Are Here, or see more of her work on her website.