We had the good fortune of connecting with Jenny Day and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jenny, why did you pursue a creative career?
It gives me a sense of purpose to create things. I can funnel my feelings and thoughts into an object, which in turn offers an opportunity to connect with others and allow for a larger conversation. Making art harnesses the part of my brain that is constantly making connections with shapes, colors, and spacial relationships. When I was a horticulturist and environmental educator, entering data into spreadsheets or planning out garden beds, I did not feel as much personal growth or that my daily work could connect to others.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Before pursuing a career as an artist, I earned a Bachelors degree in Environmental Studies. I worked as a Landscape Supervisor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and was the Director of Camp Habitat, an environmental education camp. I always made things in my free time, and decided to go back to school for a BFA in painting at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. I wanted critique and the chance to hone my skills. I realized I wanted to paint full-time and would do whatever it took to be in my studio every day.
From there I went to grad school at the University of Arizona for a MFA in painting. None of it has been easy. No one talks about how art making can be a lonely process. It seems there is a myth that being an artist is a wild party all the time. For me it could not be further from the truth. My experience is that it is a hard grind; coming up with ideas, executing them, having them fail, or work out and then to start over. Rejection is constant. I have a drive to improve, to keep working towards the next painting or sculpture. That the next one will be closer to what I want it to be. It can take hours of painting before I feel like I am making good decisions and not getting in my own way, but then some days feel easy and clean, and I know I am doing exactly what I am meant to. It has been crucial to build community, even if only by the phone or social media, to connect with friends and mentors, and to be able to vent frustrations and celebrate successes with others.
In my paintings. I ask how many ways can one approach mourning? I’ve tried to jest at it, deconstruct it, cover loss in trashy glamour and reassemble it so the source material is only hinted at. An assemblage of sad wry and sour jokes and heartbreak. Still, loss cuts through everything. I keep trying to title paintings Failed Utopia.My nostalgia for California is omnipresent, a grounding, overlaid with other landscapes, Utah, Cambodian beaches, Dubai.
Recently, I have added ceramic sculpture to my painting practice. In my sculptural work animals are independent, their entities barely tethered to the underlying structures; a rabbit crushes blistered tulips, flamingos erupt into rainbow-drenched lily pads. My process of glazing involves countless firings, the build-up of surface is as important as the form.
Both the paintings and sculpture explore environmental degradation, social change, and loss. Animals act as witnesses to a landscape overrun with adaptation and mimicry. The work questions how we mourn the environment and recreate our place in it as we simultaneously alter it.
I have two solo shows coming up this year, that will feature my ceramic work alongside my paintings. The work included in this interview will be on view at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery in New Orleans from July 22 – August 28, 2021 and a new body of work with large scale paintings and sculpture will be at the Alabama Contemporary Art Center from September 10 – December 11, 2021.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Since Coronavirus I have mostly been in my studio, so this list might be a little outdated.
Eat Breakfast at the Tune Up Cafe or The Pantry. Get coffee from Sky Coffee in the Railyard. Eat dinner in Taos at the Love Apple. Visit the galleries and museums in the Railyard, Site Santa Fe, Form and Concept and Gallery Fritz. Go to Farmer’s Market and get a treat from Drift and Porter Go to a movie at the Violet Crown. Go for a run up in the mountains above Santa Fe or on the Rail Trail in El Dorado.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would not be where I am at today without the love and support of many people, including the following; my husband and parents, teachers in grad school and undergrad, ceramic mentors in Santa Fe, art dealers and buyers, art collectors that have helped to fund long term projects, art curators that continue to give feedback and write recommendation letters, artist residencies like Ucross and Playa, and of course the galleries I have worked with, including Jonathan Ferrara Gallery in New Orleans and William Havu Gallery in Denver.