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Meet Nefertiti Jenkins

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nefertiti Jenkins.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I attended Mason Gross School of the Arts in New Brunswick, NJ for my BFA in Painting and minor in Art History in 2016. Then I moved to LA in August 2018 to pursue my MFA in painting at Otis College of Art and Design. I’ve been drawing and painting for most of my life, taking deep inspiration from animation, illustrated books, and video games I grew up with. I spent many nights catching episodes of Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, and Cowboy Bebop before heading off to bed. I’d watch my older brother play games like Resident Evil 2 or various entries in the Final Fantasy series, in awe of their ability to effectively tell stories and strike me visually, even though they were only polygons or pixels on a screen. Plus, there were so many beautiful children’s books to check out, Miss Spider was definitely a favorite. I’d often doodle and paint for fun and things went on from there. I had a lot of visual splendor at my fingertips. Combine that with a supportive and artistically inclined family, and I was given a great amount of encouragement to keep creating art if it’s what made me happy.

Once I reached high school, I started to doubt my abilities. I knew I’d be heading off to college soon and I began telling myself that trying to be an artist and competing in a pool of talented people would be too much for me to handle. I thought I’d major in literature instead since it was another love I had developed in school and I’d be safe from whatever potential chaos the life of an artist would entail. However, I was shown how to use oil paints in junior year, then came across a painting by Odilon Redon called “The Cyclops” and was reinvigorated with hope. It’s an ethereal, strange, whimsical, and loose painting. It helped me realize that art could be more than being precise and technically achieved. I didn’t have to have the skill set of an old master to create something meaningful. When I actually entered art school, I realized just how diverse and unique artwork and art practices were, which excited me further. After a while, I wanted to experience life and art on the opposite coast while I still had the chance. I had always wanted to attend school in California and I’ve enjoyed the journey so far. The world is a vibrant place and I hope I can add to that as I gain more experience.

Please tell us about your art.
I’m primarily a figurative painter and drawer. The drawing aspect has become a lot more prominent recently as I used to designate it as a secondary or supplementary practice to my painting despite loving it just as much.

I typically work with oil on canvas. Recently, I have been trying my hand at acrylic paint along with acrylic markers mixed with traditional drawing mediums. Scale vacillates quite a bit for me but I lean towards the direction of larger works. I use a lot of bright, saturated colors that wouldn’t be out of place in a graphic novel or cartoon.

Early inspiration would be artists like Degas, Manet, Vermeer, Caravaggio, Courbet, Redon, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Contemporary favorites are Kaye Donachie, Anthony Cudahy, Jordan Kasey… and many, many others. The work I look at and try to create is dreamlike, ephemeral, ethereal, and a bit strange. I think of it as a distortion of memories or reality. It’s easy to misremember or completely change an event when it’s been relegated to memory and those happenings can also become heightened. It is familiar but transformed and I like the area that lies in between the real and fantastical.

My work has consisted of surrealistic collage, amusing anecdotes of youthful partying, fantasies of romance, domestic bliss, sexual splendor, and desires for personal intimacy. There is always some type of loose narrative present on the periphery and a lot of art historical references. A piece may start out coming from a personal place but it ultimately becomes obfuscated through the process of rendering and the fact that these themes are pretty universal. I’d hope, at the very least, that people would enjoy looking at my pieces as something visually interesting and pleasurable. However, I do also desire that they’ll be able to find something of themselves within the work. I’m a person utilizing intimate thoughts and aspects of my life to create and it wouldn’t be far fetched for someone to relate in their own way.

Plus, I try to make work that I’ll enjoy looking at too, which may seem like an obvious answer but it’s true. I may also just be easy to please, who knows!

As an artist, how do you define success and what quality or characteristic do you feel is essential to success as an artist?
Personally, I feel success is an eagerness and joy to continue doing what you do. However, having a supportive community of other like-minded people and having patience are foundations of maintaining and reaching that success. It’s a complex and precarious balance.

I think key qualities and characteristics that are essential for success are patience, resilience, and kindness. Things don’t happen overnight and it’s easy to get discouraged. Whether a piece is taking longer than you’d hope, you received a critique that made you question your entire practice or you’re having an upsetting time and do not know when you’ll breakthrough. As long as you continue to work/create and understand you’re doing something you care about that good things will ultimately come of it.

However, growth isn’t a smooth or linear path, stay focused and know that many folks around you are probably enduring something similar. Look to your peers and companions for help if you’re at a loss and don’t be afraid to seek advice. Extend them the same kindness. And! While being kind can earn you friends, it should also be applied to yourself. Don’t work yourself to the point of burnout or inflict too much harshness on yourself if you haven’t done as well as you hoped. We are usually our own worst critics but don’t let that inner doubtful voice hold you back from doing what you want. You have to at least try and it’s best to make mistakes sooner so you can course correct faster! It doesn’t make you foolish or untalented, but it does make you thorough.

Also, to nab a saying often used by software developers and lots of other folks… “Strong opinions, weakly held.”

This means having the willingness and courage to continue moving forward based on your knowledge and wisdom while still having the openness and humility to question yourself and understand that you may be wrong, lacking information, or need to reconsider different perspectives. Being stubborn and incurious is a surefire way to become stagnant and miserable. Be confident and self-assured but know that there is still so much more to learn and that there is ultimately not one solidified way to go about things.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
In March 20-26, I’ll have my solo thesis exhibition for my graduate program at the Bolsky Gallery at Otis College of Art and Design, 9045 Lincoln Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045. Please feel free to come through!

I have a website dedicated to my artwork as well as an Instagram people can check out:

https://nefertitijenkins.squarespace.com/

@nefjenkies

Say hi!

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Image Credit:
Chris Stoltz, Nefertiti Jenkins

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