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Meet Jenny Hager

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jenny Hager.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
Certainly. The facts are that I grew up in the Midwest (first Michigan, and then Missouri), attended Knox College in Galesburg, IL, completed two years of post-bac work at the New York Studio School of Painting, Drawing, and Sculpture. I completed my long run of education with an MFA from Pennsylvania School of Design at the age of twenty-nine. I returned to Knox College as a visiting professor, and then relocated to Los Angeles in 2000, mainly because I was up for the next adventure and wanted to experience the West Coast. I taught at Santa Monica College for around 10 years, as well as West Los Angeles College.

Life experience has taught me that while intensity bears certain fruits, this is not a sprint. When I landed in Los Angeles, I was overwhelmed with dealing with an unfortunate experience and taking the necessary steps to be healthy. In regards to my art, I chose to focus on building a body of work, rather than seek exhibition opportunities (I also married and had a child). I took advantage of this uninterrupted studio time and lack of pressure to define what I wanted to represent with my art. It finally occurred to me that I needed to attend to developing my career as an artist outside of the studio, and started participating in the LA art’s community.

Please tell us about your art.
I am a painter that sits between abstraction and non-representation, often utilizing a high key palette in order to create a sense of urgency. I juxtapose structure and patterning against more organic, expressionistic, and ephemeral forms and passages. I’ve summed my painting up in casual conversation as “mountains, monsters, and cosmos”, but that’s overly simplistic.

I cannot help but paint from a position of personal experience, folding elements of landscape and the natural world, monsters, real or imagined, alongside the unknown. I employ a high degree of ambiguity in order to create a space where one can drift on the double edge sword of wonder.

As an artist, how do you define success and what quality or characteristic do you feel is essential to success as an artist?
That is a difficult question to answer. I can think of several different ways I would personally define success. In regards to my studio practice, I define success by taking a painting to a place that is unexpected and opens a different path to investigate. The reception of my work outside the studio and exhibition opportunities is another indicator that I am minding the career aspect of being an artist. Along the way, I have asked myself, in all seriousness, if I would be satisfied with the challenge of studio work, without participating in the gallery system.

After much reflection, the answer was no. While creating is a necessity for my mental health (I suspect most artists feel this way), it is difficult to take the ego out of the equation and seek the validation of exhibiting and sales. I have had years where I have sold a large number of paintings, and years where sales have been slow. If I were to take this as the only measure of success, a painting would feel defeatist. Engagement is a large factor regarding my feelings of success.

I feel that it is essential for artists to believe in their work, have a rigorous studio practice, and be able to represent their work outside of the studio, and this takes determination.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
I exhibit and am a member of the gallery Durden and Ray, located in the Bendix Building. I keep my website, fairly current, and exhibit locally, nationally, and internationally. People can support my work, and artists’ work in general, by making an effort to be involved in the broader art community at large.

Art is an enriching investment and can be costly, but there are many tiers of affordability. If you encounter an artist’s work you like, ask if a studio visit is possible. Sometimes an artist’s work is only available through their gallery, but this is not always the case.

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Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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