Saturday, April 04, 2009

Art Space Talk: Jennifer Wasson

Jennifer Wasson was born in Manhattan and began painting at an early age under the tutelage of her mother, an artist and art teacher herself. As a young adult, she studied oil painting at The Art Students League of New York for 2 years before moving to the West Coast. For the past 7 years she has been living and painting in San Francisco, CA. Wasson was recently selected for representation at the NYAXE Gallery in Palo Alto, CA.

Mission Dawn by Jennifer Wasson

Brian Sherwin: Jennifer, you were selected for representation at the NYAXE Gallery in Palo Alto, CA. As you know, NYAXE Gallery is operated by the founders of and and serves as a way to bridge the online and physical art world. Why did you decide to submit your work for consideration?

Jennifer Wasson: Shortly after a friend turned me on to Myartspace, I stumbled upon the NYAXE competition. I'll admit that I submitted my portfolio on a whim, but I feel honored to have been chosen for NYAXE representation. I'm finding that Myartspace is a valuable tool to reach out to other artists, potential buyers and and galleries. Already, I've made connections with artists all over the globe, and have seen a lot of inspiring work.
23rd St. 5 by Jennifer Wasson

BS: I understand that you were born and raised in Manhattan and that you began painting at an early age under the tutelage of your mother. an artist and art teacher herself. As a young adult, you studied at Boston College and The Art Students League in New York. Can you discuss your early years and academic years and how they have impacted you as an artist?

JW: My mother is an adamant believer in "learning through experience". So, her teaching was mostly hands-off. Starting at a young age, she'd set me up with an easel and paints, but the rest was up to me. The golden rule was "no coloring books and no copying". Aside from that, I could do whatever I wanted. I went on to spend countless hours of high school and college drawing, but it was at the Art Students League in Manhattan that I really immersed myself in oil painting. I gravitated towards the "uninstructed" classes (known for little talk and long model poses), carrying on my early imprint that art should be primarily "self taught". As much as I've learned from my wonderful teachers had, there's just no substitute for years of quiet, patient, studio time.

101 Sunset by Jennifer Wasson

BS: My understanding is that you are interested in balance. For example, in your art you seek the balance between form and formlessness. The process itself is one of creation and destruction. Can you discuss your art and your process of creating art in regards to the idea of balance?

JW: Finding the equilibrium between form and formlessness is a constant battle for me. But, I see beauty hanging in the balance... somewhere beyond true form, but before total abstraction. In my painting, this means leaving much up to the imagination. Every window, every car, need not be rendered in detail. Just a hint of a shape, or a glimmer of light, is often enough. So, what's left out ends up being just as important as what's left on the canvas. Like in a dream, your mind fills in the rest.

Sometimes, I feel drawn to sharpening my focus, but I don't want to merely replicate a scene. If a piece starts becoming too detailed, then it's time to make sweeping brushstrokes of destruction. Often, an entire painting will get destroyed and re-worked several times. But, what's gratifying about the process is that each session leaves ghosts of colors and shapes behind. These unintentional layers create depth and generally lead to a more interesting painting in the end.

Outer Sunset 4 by Jennifer Wasson

BS: Give us some further insight into the thoughts behind your work…

JW: The vacancy of the urban landscape can be haunting and mysterious. So many closed doors and closed worlds. But, shift the lighting, and the landscape becomes warm and enveloping. I'm fascinated by changes in atmosphere. Given the right atmosphere, even the most pedestrian scene takes on a sense of drama. The ordinary becomes mysterious.
Unfortunately, the bulk of the day (with it's hard forms and full-spectrum colors) holds little interest for me. But dusk, dawn, a gleam light through fog... those fleeting moments are heavy with mood and meaning. The world takes on a surreal quality, and I feel a longing to connect to something greater than myself. I feel inspired to paint.

Caesar Chavez by Jennifer Wasson

BS: What about influences? Can you discuss your influences in detail?

JW: Do I feel more influence looking at a master work of art, or simply gazing at sunlight on the pavement? I really can't say. I find inspiration in most art movements from the early Impressionists to the California Tonalists to contemporary geniuses.
When I'm feeling un-ambitious, I'll grab one of my favorite books like "Facing Eden: 100 Years of Landscape Art in the Bay Area" or "Chasing Napoleon" (a compilation of Tony Scherman's dark encaustic works). I rarely read the words, but I do "read" the paintings, sometimes spending 5 or 10 minutes on each one. But, again, I find just as much inspiration walking the streets of the Mission District at dusk, watching buildings blur into abstraction.
I'm also influenced by the many unique people in my life, namely family, close friends, and teachers. Most of what I've learned about the creative process itself, I owe to my long-time teacher Michael Markowitz. He taught me to feel my way through a painting, rather than just forging ahead with my mind. (Sometimes, the ego needs to step aside to open up a channel for the creative flow.) I learned that a good painting is born, not out of the perfection of academic techniques, but out of the struggle to engage the experience of painting.
Irving Sunset by Jennifer Wasson

BS: So what is the specific message you strive to convey to viewers?

JW: Rather than conveying a "message", I strive to generate a "feeling" through my artwork. If I'm successful, I create a mood that triggers an emotional response. Fleeting moments of the day, blinding in their beauty, remind us of the impermanence of everything we love. Perhaps that conjures up a sense of longing, appreciation, or transcendence. If you feel something, even just the smallest stirring, then I've conveyed what was needed.

BS: What are you working on at this time?

JW: I'm primarily working on my "Crosswalk Divinity" series. It's a continuation of the urban landscapes that I've been working on for years. But, in these paintings, there's a subtle undercurrent of religious symbolism. The telephone pole becomes the cross, the steeple of a church or mosque comes out of the shadows. Yet, the emphasis is always on the light and the atmosphere, rather than the man-made buildings of worship.
This juxtaposition raises questions about our relationship to what's sacred and unknown. For me, it's the mood created by the natural world that inspires awe and serenity. When the late day light casts an ethereal glow on the landscape, I sense my own connection to the divine.

Cole Valley Lights by Jennifer Wasson

BS: What are your thoughts concerning the internet and utilizing the World Wide Web in order to gain exposure for your art? In your opinion, why is it important for artists to embrace the internet?

JW: Although I've had mixed feelings in the past about selling art on the internet, I think that web exposure can only help you an artist. Although a potential buyer is unlikely to purchase an original painting over the internet, looking at web images might prompt someone to buy a print, visit your studio, or attend your next show.
I think that I can speak for a lot of artists when I say that one of our biggest problems is reaching an audience. We spend a lot of time in isolation, working on our art, and don't have the means to promote ourselves. So, we rely on gallery exhibits and "word-of-mouth" to reach people. I think it would be wise for artists to embrace the internet to connect to potential buyers, galleries and other artists. Stay open to new media opportunities when they come your way. The fact that you're reading this now means that I've reached you through the ether, and that's pretty amazing.
after the rain by Jennifer Wasson
BS: Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?

JW: I hope to be involved in further shows through NYAXE as well as with the galleries that I show work at in San Francisco and Atlanta. At the moment, I'm preparing for Spring Open Studios at Hunters Point in San Francisco (May 2nd & 3rd), where I will be showing a new body of work. I'll know more about Spring and Summer exhibits soon and will update my web site with the details (

BS: Do you have any concerns about the art world at this time?

JW: I've read the doomsday art buying reports, and I've watched some good galleries close down. But, I'm not really worried about "artists". Artists are used to living on a shoestring budget. We're survivors, industrious and creative with our options. We'll continue to paint, write, play guitar, and dance our way through this recession.
I'm sure that patrons will be tighter on the purse strings, and money harder to come by. But, the silver lining in this recession could be a diminished emphasis on soulless consumerism. That might even translate (stretch your imagination), into someone buying a painting that he loves, instead of a new TV. A girl can dream after all.

fog shrouds downtown by Jennifer Wasson

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?

JW: For me, making art is not about imposing my ideas or ego on the canvas. It's about turning off my thinking mind and engaging the creative process. At it's best, the experience feels like I'm moving out of the way and allowing something more universal flow through me. It's a patient, quiet, and deeply challenging process that I rarely put into words. So, I feel honored and humbled to have shared my art and my thoughts with you.
You can learn more about Jennifer Wasson by visiting her website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page-- You can learn more about the artists selected for NYAXE Gallery representation by visiting the following page,
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
New York Art Exchange
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