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Art & Life with Jennifer Celio

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Celio.

Jennifer, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I wanted to join the Girl Scouts when I was in elementary school-not for the camaraderie, or the badges of achievement, or for any activity other than the camping. I wanted to go camping because it meant being out in a forest, in the wilderness-a place I was unfamiliar with in my middle class, Southern California suburban life. My family didn’t do outdoorsy excursions like camping or hiking. My parents never enrolled me in the Scouts, so this visceral experience of nature would have to wait until I was an adult.

Early in my life, my connection to nature was more of an abstract concept via environmental issues. As my awareness of my place within the natural world developed, and I actually saw, smelled, and heard the great outdoors, so did my environmental activism expand beyond my own small world. It seemed natural to explore these issues and concepts in the best means I had at my disposal: my art practice. Through my artwork, I have expressed my wonder at the mysteries and vastness of the natural landscape, along with my frustration with human ineptitude and carelessness in being caretakers of ecosystems.

Looking back, I can see this through-line in a life of art making. My current work continues to explore the complicated human relationship with the natural world, albeit branching out beyond wall-based 2D pieces. Recent work has included floor sculptures made from beach trash and other found objects, a large wall based mixed media and sculptural installation, and a site-specific, room size installation comprised primarily of fishing nets and collected objects.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
In my current series of sculptural works and paintings, the human element appears as a stark counterpoint to the wilds of nature. Within the context of organic systems, I present that which is human-made as alternately beneficial and invasive, a function of protecting and celebrating human life that is often at odds with the operations of nature. Incorporating paper, wood, vinyl, paint, and other materials into sculptural paintings and objects, the objective is to observe and question the complicated human relationship with the natural world.

Catalyzed by the polarization of ideological beliefs in the United States, the work more specifically explores American attitudes in regards to the alternating attitudes of reverence of and submission of nature. This parallels my interest in how humans leave their mark on the land via our literal structures as well as the constructs of civilized society. Through the juxtapositions of abstract and representational imagery and material and textural contrasts, the work weaves disparate materials and techniques into compositions that reference the literal and figurative landscape. It is a search for how nature plays into our understanding of self in a universal as well as uniquely American sense.

Within our long history of human involvement in the wilderness and ecosystems, I find a wealth of source material in the musings of conservationists and ordinary people who experience revelations among nature. I am seeking to conceptually depict the simultaneous awe and destruction of the world around us, framed by historical shifts in how we approach concepts of conservation, recreation, food production, and animal welfare, to name a few topics. Ultimately, there are questions for myself and the viewer. What is our place within nature? Do we define ourselves in terms that embrace or repudiate the wilds that exist not only externally but also within us?

Artists rarely, if ever pursue art for the money. Nonetheless, we all have bills and responsibilities, and many aspiring artists are discouraged from pursuing art due to financial reasons. Any advice or thoughts you’d like to share with prospective artists?
Call it tough love if you want, but I have found that the most important factor in consistently pushing your art career forward is discipline. You yourself must make art your priority and make the time to literally create and tend to the business/marketing side of this career on a regular, daily basis.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I have been and continued to exhibit regularly in the Los Angeles area, as well as nationally and internationally. I promote upcoming shows via my social media accounts and my e-mail list. Additionally, I am a member of the artist and curator collective Durden and Ray, based in downtown L.A. Our gallery space is in the Bendix building in the Fashion District. I organize and curate exhibits in our gallery, along with the other 24 members, all of whom share responsibility for the operations of our group. My own artwork is shown there and abroad in exchange exhibits.

2018 has presented me with exhibit opportunities that challenged me to think and create in different formats and materials. Looking back on the work I created, it’s admittedly kind of all over the place. There is still a through-line, my interest in the human relationship with nature. I am welcoming of future exhibit and project opportunities that would allow me continued exploration of site-specific installations and sculptural pieces.

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Image Credit:
Jennifer Celio

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