Jennifer Dalton along with William Powhida first arrived on my metaphorical radar a few months ago when I noticed a blurb in an ArtNet tweet mentioning a project being launched called #class to be held at Ed Winkleman’s Gallery in New York; the brief being all about artists and the chasm of social, and economic divides which could alienate or excluded large groups of artists outside art-centric cities such as the one Jennifer lives in, New York. The project was a huge success (as mentioned in previous posts!) in its ability to cut through those areas of gender, class, location and gatekeeper style exclusivity, through informed, positive and lively debates.
Jen and William amongst others put a lot of impassioned effort into making that project happen which is why I went straight to her when I initially started thinking of doing these posts about artists and how the reality of their lives impacted on creating their work and vice-versa.
These are Jen’s thoughts;
“I don’t know exactly how it started but ever since I was pretty young I’ve always been on the lookout for famous women achievers and as a kid in the 1970s I was surprised and depressed by how hard they were to find. I remember an argument with my brother’s evil friends on our driveway about if it was better to be a boy or a girl and I was challenged to name any women composers or artists and I couldn’t. It was humiliating. After that I made it my business to learn about women who were famous for discovering or inventing or creating something but was crushed at how few I could find in my family’s Encyclopedia Britannica. When I watched Hanna Barbera cartoons or the Love Boat I scoured the production credits for women’s names and I don’t remember ever seeing one. I think that was my original inspiration to count things.
I’ve always been most interested in chronicling my immediate environment. In the late ’90s I started making paintings of my computer, and then of the computer screen icons and screenviews of AOL or WordPerfect or Microsoft Word, which I figured was basically my contemporary equivalent of the view out my window that painters had been inspired by for centuries. I was first obsessed by the forms that a computer interface could take to make data visually clear and compelling, and I painted hundreds of small charts or graphs that signified no actual data, only referred to its existence. That gradually led to an obsession with the information represented, rather than its container. I began to notice how easy it was for humans (especially me) to delude themselves, and I thought one way to figure out what was real was to count things up and look at them all together and make comparisons and discern patterns. Then I search for the perfect visual way to represent each of those findings. I spend a lot of my time wondering if it’s just me or if the world is really like this or that. If I wonder enough then I try to make a piece about it to figure it out.
Computer paintings :
Point (A) 1998
“Free, but only for a moment” 1999
When I went to art school for both undergrad in LA (graduated in ’90) and grad school in NYC (graduated in ’97), both communities were so anti-commercial that I was never prepared for the possibility that I would find myself represented by a commercial gallery or selling a single work of art. We were told that we would always have a day job (okay, I still have a day job 13 years out of grad school so score one for them so far) and that we were deluded to ever think that anyone but a small group of our friends and family would ever care about our work. What I took away from school, and the early 90’s slacker/grunge attitude in general (it’s too much to call it a movement or a philosophy, isn’t it?) is that if you could communicate with an audience of people you didn’t actually know it was a sign of your failure to be true to yourself. There was no such thing as being successful outside your own little clique without also being a sellout. So there was really no point in working too hard for anything because if you got it you would have lost the respect of everyone you care about. I (mostly) don’t believe this anymore, but it took a long time.
Exhibition Views and Video Stills from
Jennifer Dalton is A Scientist – Not! 2008, Smack Melon Gallery NY
After grad school there were a crucial several years where the most important aspect of my art life was an evolving critique group with former classmates and other artist friends. It gave us a reason to finish artworks even if no one else cared and it made us all work harder to impress one another with our own work and our passionate arguments about other people’s work. I also began writing art criticism, most regularly for Review Magazine, a free bi-weekly that was published from 1996-2000. The critical thinking I had to do in these two arenas was one of the most formative experiences in my development as an artist.
I am now leading a relatively peaceful life with a husband and a mortgage and PTA meetings, and I used to think that meant I couldn’t be an artist also because artists were supposed to be always unstable. But I find that my younger self was quite wrong, and I’m much better able to get more and better work done from a position of semi-stability. I will try to avoid cloying clichés but the dual roles of mother/artist means there is always guilt hovering, since the hours in a day are a zero sum game and if I am to get work done I must sometimes steal time from my child. (My cold comfort is that he may be better off for that reprieve!) I am grateful to be able to say my son is a happy kid. He is now 6 and he has no interest in art and doesn’t even like to draw. I couldn’t help but be touched the other day when he told me that he likes my work, but he still professes to hate most art, which he thinks is boring. I think this may be my fault for trying to take him to too many art shows as a toddler, when all he wanted to do was run around and lick things and my job was to physically restrain him. Along those lines, I am pretty sure the only reason he likes my work is because I one time made a piece where there were chocolate coins inside a gumball machine.
Are Times of Recession Good for Art?
Part of the Jennifer Dalton is A Scientist – Not! exhibition above
I have now achieved more than I ever imagined just by showing my work and hearing from the occasional person who has felt something from seeing it. I’m incredibly lucky to have the support of some pretty awesome people, among them the brilliant and honorable gallerist Ed Winkleman. And I’m not just saying that.”
Images from The Reappraisal Exhibition at Winkleman Gallery, 2009
Reviewed by Jane Harris in Time Out New York :
And to take a quote from Ed Winkleman’s website as he introduced the imminent take over of his gallery for the duration of #class “Winkleman Gallery is slightly nervous pleased to present #class, a month-long series of events organized by Jennifer Dalton and William Powhida.”
Even in, or even in-spite of being in such an art-rich therefore artist-rich-city, to be able to say that you have the support of fellow artists and people connected with and passionate about art; those who mean something to you as an artist and as a person, is probably one of the most valuable environments an artist can be in.
Making Sense : Exhibition and Detail views
Also, with a special reading taking place this Tuesday via Twitter and in person, Jennifer wanted to extend an invitation to :
“Reading Making Sense”
Starting at Noon on Tuesday, September 7th
FLAG Art Foundation, 545 West 25th Street, 9th Floor, NYC
Please join us for “Reading Making Sense,” a reading by Kianga Ellis
followed by a closing reception for my exhibition “Making Sense.”
The idea for this event started on Twitter. In response to a suggestion
that lazy viewers of my show would be well served by a reader to help
them with inconveniently placed or too-small handwritten text, Kianga
Ellis generously and bravely rose to the challenge.
Beginning when FLAG Art Foundation opens at noon, Kianga Ellis will
read aloud every word displayed in my exhibition “Making Sense” and
occasionally share excerpts of the text on Twitter using the hashtag
#makingsense. Join us anytime during the day for as long as you like.
The reading will continue until every word has been read aloud or until
7pm, whichever comes first.
The closing reception will follow (or possibly partially coincide
with!) the reading, from 6:00-8:00pm.
The exhibition “Making Sense” continues through Friday, September 10th.
FLAG is open Tues-Fri 12-5pm
And William Powhida and Jennifer are collaborating on a new #class-related project in Miami taking place during the art fairs (December 2-5), in conjunction with Winkleman Gallery. Details to come!
Lives of Artists will be here again this Thursday 9th Sept with Eco-designer Sarah Turner fresh from her exhibition at Maison et Objet held in Paris this week starting 3rd Sept and running until the 7th….well worth a visit not only for Sarah’s creative and well-lauded designs, but the exhibition is, with the presence of Philippe Starck amongst its organisers, rapidly becoming one of the most innovative design forums for new designers today.