Jennifer Hines, Balancing Act
Jennifer Hines, featured in no. 12 Pattern is a Chicago based artist, designer, curator, event coordinator, etc etc. In short, she has her hand in a lot of pots. Naturally, her work is centered on understand how she, and the rest of the world for that matter, balance the tasks, experiences, and emotions we all go through on a daily basis. Recently, I exchanged emails with her (as busy people do) to discuss how she balances it all and what is coming up on her plate.
Composite: What are you listening to/reading/watching that you are really in to right now?
Jennifer Hines: I usually have a couple books going at once, so I’m reading the graphic novel La Perdida, the novel The World Without You, and the audio book Drood…. so I love the narratives and how all the books I tend to be reading somehow seem to connect or something is mentioned that is similar or makes another connection to another, no matter how disparate. I don’t watch much TV, but I just started New Girl for fun… I also just downloaded some songs by Slowdive, an older shoegazy band that was popular in the mid 90s that I rediscovered–iTunes has them too! Very ethereal and nice to study or work to since it’s just great background music…
C: You have a pretty impressive amount of education, BFA in writing, BFA and MFA in art, MFA in art management… How do all of these come together to form where you are as a creative sit today?
JH: I am always learning and exploring, and I think my degrees reflect that… my undergrad I couldn’t choose between writing and art, so I chose both. Now I notice that the written word is very important to me and communicating ideas or concepts is key in both my writing and my artwork. I have a lot of past artwork that uses freewrites, lists, or story narratives that enforce the visual ideas, and so I think that combination in my artwork, whether there is text or not, manifests itself in my need to form a narrative that someone can unravel. The arts management side of it is like the business of art, so it helps me interact with galleries or other organizations, as well as put an anal retentive aspect to my creative process. I’ve always been very organized, but knowing the inner workings of the businesses I am trying to work with is great to help me work more effectively with them. However, it also makes me realize where deficiencies exist. ;o) I also am more motivated to form creative projects that are about community building or play rather than about commercial art sales or the arts market, like artist trading cards by mail (I facilitate an exchange a few times a year, see my website for info) or the apartment gallery I ran a few years ago, which was about giving opportunities and making my own art community in a place so disparate and inaccessible as Chicago (at least to an outsider who didn’t get their art degree here).
C: Your work, including that most recently shown in Composite, is informed by a desire to understand and visualize and narrate how we take in and and process the events of our lives. Your choice to illustrate this comes thru orange and red blocks and rings. What drew you to these ideas, and how did you decide on these visual elements as the ideal was to present them?
JH: These visuals were originally formed when I was on an artist residency in France, and as I was taking walks down the Seine in the countryside, I walked by some type of manufacturing business or building supply business. There were all these piles of shingles, blocks, and terracotta tubes all stacked haphazardly along the fenceline, seemingly forgotten. For some reason, this image resonated with me and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I started drawing them, and realized that blocks can be symbols for our daily encounters, thoughts, emotions, observations… our days are a stack of all these things, so why not use these block symbols, these building pieces, with the idea of “balance”, of how we stack, order, and balance all the things we encounter in a day. Somehow it just all made sense to me, showing how our days, our personal narratives, and our lives/identities are built up using architectural elements as symbols. I haven’t got away from the reds, oranges, or browns because they are more rooted to the building block, the terracotta clay, idea. To me they don’t seem like real symbols without the color, and would seem arbitrary if they were blue or green since it’s not necessarily about the shapes but about the building up, the stacking…
C: One of the things I really like about your work is that your portfolio creates a narrative all in its own. Your earliest work at first seems to have very little to do with your newest work but, viewed in succession it shows that, much like your work topically, you have literally learned and processed and strategically structured your work. In earlier work, you were formally quite representative, and than began to work with nude self portraits within your themes, and then the self portraits became the backgrounds for your new aesthetic, until your work moved completely to where it is now. Can you talk about this trajectory and where your work has been and how you found yourself at this point of, from what I can see, to be the most abstract you have been to date?
JH: I was originally working on images of nature and how the body and our identities can be expressed through plant growth and animal instincts, so these ideas led me to using the human body in combination with nature to show the juxtaposition and linking of the two. So when I moved to this new body of work (“balance”), I was interested in showing how our own personal identities can be seen as blocks stacked up inside of us, so the blocks have to fit and be ordered within us in order for us to process everything we encounter in our lives–as if we are literally ingesting everything we encounter and it becomes part of us. But the blocks being symbols were more interesting to me, so eventually I felt like I had used the body imagery enough and I wanted to work smaller and more narratively. I started thinking about stories of these blocks, how perhaps one drawing would be a specific day that was represented, or how one drawing might be a specific event. So the blocks became like words, speaking my narrative in a way that they couldn’t with just trying to fit them into a body. They have become their own characters with their own voices or places, and they take up space. As I moved more toward storytelling, the blocks needed to live on their own and be more abstracted.
C: you are involved with a group called the feedback series that puts an interesting twist on the drawing rallies/live art model. Can you explain what goes on with these, how your involved, maybe how others get involved?
JH: Currently we have only done one event for the feedback series, but it was such a great experience. My friend Rine Boyer, another artist, is the organizer, along with some of her contacts who are both artists and performers. The idea was to create an event that basically was formed by the interaction of artists and performers. We held the event in the spring–it was a one night event where three artists (me being one of them) and three improv actors participated. The artists hung their work up on the walls, and the event was formed around audience reactions/comments to the works, as well as the improv artists reactions to the works. There were even cocktails named after featured artworks! Audience participate was encouraged, of course, so each skit was entirely formed through the artwork or the audience. The next event, to be held this fall, will include artworks that the same three artists create artworks that are directly informed from the first event, so we will make new art that will only come into being because the first event happened. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Each event is informed by the artists, audience, and improvisations, and they keep building. Hence the name–everything feeds into the next thing… See the Facebook page for more info!
C: You have a busy “back to school” time schedule ahead of you, with the Emerging Artist show at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, and an upcoming show/performance with the Feedback Series. How do you prepare for events near each other that are so different in nature?
JH: Geez, I usually fly by the seat of my pants! Luckily they will not be going on at the same time, but I have had times where I had to ship out work to multiple shows at once! Spreadsheets help… calendar reminders… time management, etc. Currently I am busy decorating and renovating our house, as well as developing some web design skills, so I have been spending a lot of creative energy all over the place! The only thing I can say is that I don’t spend a lot of time wasting time and am a dork when it comes to planning.
C: Cubs or sox?
JH: Well…. I’ve determined after all these years that I just don’t care much about sports–growing up in Seattle, sports just really aren’t emphasized as much as in the Midwest. But my husband will kill me if I don’t at least give a shout out to the Sox…
C: Anything else you going on you’d like to let us know about?
JH: Artist trading cards! A fun, no pressure way to get your creative juices flowing! www.jenniferhines.net/Artist-Trading-Cards.html