Friday, December 20, 2013

Favorite Friend Friday: Artist, Jenny Vorwaller

It's been too long since we've featured a Favorite Friend--but we're ready to break the silence for such a talented and fascinating friend like artist, Jenny Vorwaller. We met Jenny by chance with her good friend Aran Goyoaga at our another Favorite Friend, Keli Faw's shop, Drygoods Design. We became fast friends and have come to regard her and her artwork as inspirational and stunning. Meet one of our favorite friends, Jenny:

Tell us a little bit about your artistic process--how long does it take you to complete a piece?
Paintings run together from each session I have with them - sometimes one will come together all at once, and others, well, they have had many lives. I tend to work on a few at a time, so that there’s never a lag--while one dries or needs some distance, another is in the forefront, on the easel. I don’t like to rush them, but give them all the attention they need. I paint every day, there's always music playing (as essential as brushes and canvas!) and I need absolute solitude and good light.

What would you say is your biggest inspiration when working?
My inspiration is found through so many things. I feel like a collector in this way--a packrat of ideas. The challenge is keeping it focused--there are so many things to say...painting is one endless, interesting problem that I get to solve.

You have a show up in Anthropologie right now! How long will it be up? Do you have any other exciting events coming up?
The show at Anthropologie went up at the beginning of November and will go down at the end of December! Just a week left! It's more than half sold out, and I feel so lucky! I’m very excited about new shows in the next year, which include Pioneer square Art Walk at 95 Yesler in February, a two woman show at my friend Aran’s studio in March with Laura Burkhart, and a month at Drygoods Design on Ballard Ave in April. We will see what else is in store!

What is your favorite piece that you have created and why?
Ah, this is easy. “Juana de Arco” is my favorite. She has her own history, which will have to remain a bit of a mystery, since narrating paintings is so difficult for me, but I'll try my best to explain. It came to be when I for really serious about painting everyday again. I had a traumatic stay in the hospital, after I gave birth to my now four year-and-a-half year old, and there was a moment where the doctors weren’t sure if I was going to make it...that’s when it all became clear. Everything has shifted since. Life is precious, there's only so much time, why wasn't I doing what I was meant to? I had always painted, kept a sketchbook, but not at the steady pace that I knew I wanted to. "Juana de Arco" is about a lot of things, it’s very feminist. It evokes the feeling of fighting for what you believe in, even when everyone around you is not on board. It's about not compromising your integrity to stay in line for the status quo. Sometimes doing what you are meant to, and being yourself, means that not everyone will accept it, but you will go out blazing. (Juana de Arco is “Joan or Arc” in Spanish).

"Juana de Arco" by Jenny Vorwaller. Photo by Moorea Seal

Which artists do you most admire?
Joan Mitchell, De Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Richard Diebenkorn, Childe Hassam, John Singer Sargent, Cy many! I keep a pinboard of what I’m looking at here for reference. Pinterest has really surprised me in the way that it has become a standard tool in my studio practice. Who would've thought?

How do you balance home & family life and being an artist?
I need my structure of painting for a certain amount of hours a day, always first, then my time with my family and friends at the close of the day, when my mind is all spent and I've done all I can. Of course there are exceptions--planning things around my kids school hours, etc., but for the most part, this is my daily routine. I would say the greatest challenge as a female artist with children is that there is no real model to follow. Art History was written for and by men, mostly. When women chose to paint, they did so at the sacrifice of their choice to have a family, even getting married. But there also is an unexpected gift of freedom that comes from this challenge and that is doing what the artist has always done--and that is to forge my own path. I guess I could never be with someone who didn't understand my need to create, someone who didn't respect it, it's such a big part of me, and my husband saw and knew that part of me right away, so it's never been a question of balance, it's just what it is.

My family is what keeps my work balanced. I've been more focused as a result too--it's quality over quantity for studio time. Then when there are the off hours with family, I'm still thinking about it. Sometimes when I'm away for a few days, or even on a trip, I get a sense of mild panic--and every time, I'm impressed that not only the work is still there when I return to it, but it improves with a break. This is a good metaphor for the everyday experience of work some, be there for the family. I take a vacation from it everyday in a way, in the afternoons, and it's still there when I return the next time.

I would be such an eccentric hermit, overly-dedicated to my work at all hours of the day if it weren't for my family to keep me balanced. I don't mean that in a industriously positive way, I mean that the pull of small children's needs gives me breathing room from the hold that painting holds over me. It keeps me healthy, and in check with what I need to be doing. There's such a stereotype that artists are sloppy, disorganized, aren't good with money, and unreliable. This probably goes for most creatives, but it's absolutely essential to be concerned with the practical when you become a serious artist with a capital A and even more if you are female painter with children. We have all the odds against us, so we need to make for the best supportive environment as possible--and that doesn't just happen on its own.

I remember this breakthrough when I was first pregnant. Suddenly I was aware that I needed to slow down, to take a nap, to eat better, because my baby needed it. I finally gave myself permission because this little person who was completely dependent on me for everything gave me no choice. But would I have done that before for myself? Not really. It took having a family and that massive sense of responsibility towards this new life, to really treasure mine in a whole new way.

If you could have any "dream job" (excluding what you do now) what would it be?
Producing/shooting music videos. So magical! To illustrate the way music makes me feel! I do this with painting now, in a big way, but to take it to a level with a camera, that's almost a scary amount of control that you dictate the experience of sound for other people. I see multimedia art in my future...

If you could have one celebrity buy a piece of your work, who would it be? Diane Keaton.

If you could only eat at one local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be? Too hard! I love s'mores cookies from Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery...but everyday would be death by chocolate!

You're stuck on a desert island--which book do you want to have?
Whatever my new book club has chosen that month--I like to get it read early!

If you could live in any other location, where would that be?
I would fly south back to Buenos Aires for winter, but just for a few months, I love it here in Seattle.

What do you do for fun?
I love going out to eat with friends, reading, biking, cooking, and in the summer, gardening and kayaking. I'm always up for roadtrips and travels... my list of museums I have yet to see is so long - hoping to cross some of them off in the next few years!

Photos via Jenny Vorwaller unless otherwise indicated.

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