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Meet Trailblazer Jenn Wood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jenn Wood.

Jenn, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My early life involved moving quite a bit between Massachusetts, Ohio, and Illinois. This offered meeting many types of people and experiencing varied cultures, but also had some less desirable aspects. My family lived in rural and suburban towns. My parents were supportive of my academic and artistic interests and encouraged me to pursue the work I was passionate about.

When I moved out of my parents’ home at 17, I returned to Massachusetts where my roots were, and most extended family members resided. Later on, my mother and brother also returned to MA. When I started college at Mass. College of Art, I moved to Boston’s student ghetto, Allston (for 1 year), from rural Central MA. The Boston area has been my home since then, including Fort Point’s artist community, which is a terrific neighborhood. Last year, I moved my art studio to Lowell.

I am an Artist, Educator, and proud Mother of a wonderful, smart, beautiful daughter. My BFA is from MassArt and MFA from UMass Dartmouth. I have produced art for at least the last thirty years, starting after high school and never stopping. My art is based in nature and often relates to the ocean and water. It’s also influenced by nature, humanity, decay, and renewal. Content may allude to dreams, water, urban or rural sites and structures, and human psychology and culture. The process is also of great interest to me. Learning and developing art processes and trying new materials, are important to my art practice. As an undergrad I worked in hot and cold glass, however, most of my recent work is mixed media. I combine painting, drawing, and printmaking. Photography is also a large part of my practice as montage, stills, and sometimes mixed media.

I owned an art related business for about fifteen years until Fall 2007, advising corp. and private art collectors. Currently, I teach art as adjunct faculty and sometimes work with visual artists to assist with professional and career development. Several family members and good friends have been invaluable in providing guidance, friendship, moral support, and much-needed community. My grandparents and parents were creative people. I was fortunate to be exposed to art and culture by them in various forms, venues, and locations.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Easy path probably doesn’t fit with the life of most artists. Perhaps “some” challenge makes our art better, but less challenge would be great. If you are determined to be an artist and evolve with ambition and goals of showing your art – and selling some of it – it requires perseverance and courage. It also helps to build a community of artist friends and mentor(s). Art is a creative and often solitary endeavor, but it’s also a bit of a business. You need to promote your work and network in your desired community.

You need to be open to learning and also mindful of your limits. Try to balance your time and act on the important priorities for building your art practice and career. Sometimes, you can doubt yourself and get discouraged, it will happen. Resist comparing yourself to famous artists. Look at artists’ works that excite and interest you. Learn about their journeys, look at their early and recent work, how they built their careers. Read and learn about art and artists relevant to your practice. I think most artists who hang in there and succeed become stronger and wiser, but no one is perfect. A lot of work is required but you will be doing what you love. Produce as much art as possible and remember to feed your need for inspiration as often as possible. Lastly, accept that most artists have to work to pay some or all of their bills so try to find work you enjoy, whether it’s related to art or not.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about your work as an artist– what should we know?
Mixed media pieces and photography are the main types of work I produce. This work sustains my interest and curiosity in processes, materials, design, and divergent outcomes. My art work is concerned with color, light, texture, marks, layers, and form. It often relates to nature and water. I enjoy experimenting with new approaches to my work. Once I find a preferred working method I often produce works in the series. I have many ideas but not all come to fruition. Sometimes they combine or morph in an intuitive manner. Often, I try to let the art and materials direct themselves with me following as a close partner, tho’ there is always a concept from where I start. Drawing is important to study and practice as a core discipline, whether abstract or objective.

The first work I produced before attending an art school or program was large format hand painted batik hangings, colorful and related to plants and Native American symbols. I also produced knotted weavings of rope and other materials. Many years later, Thesis work for my MFA was 3-D mixed media with elements of cyanotype photograms applied to shaped Plexiglas forms. These forms floated off of the floor to suggest waves of water and ocean organisms. Recently, I had an artist residency on Cape Cod and painted mixed media pieces related to the ocean and dunes. Some of this work is ongoing and will become part of another 3-D art structure. There are elements of my early work with glass that still exist in my art. I often explore layers of translucency and transparency, as well as layers of materials, and the existence of light, luminosity, and atmosphere within my work.

I’m proud of my exhibition record and the depth of work that I’ve produced. Numerous museums curators and gallery owners have chosen my art for exhibitions. My work has been shown in many distinguished galleries as well as museums and several art centers. The exhibitions have been in Boston, Cambridge, Provincetown, Brooklyn NY, and Los Angeles among other locations. I’ve also been awarded artist residencies at a museum and the Provincetown Compact, C-Scape dune shack. Additionally, my teaching provides enrichment, knowledge, and joy to many students as well as me. I teach art classes and related workshops. What may distinguish me from others – I also have a wealth of experience and knowledge in the field of art curation for corporate and private collections, and in the business of art. I share this knowledge with artist friends and students. We learn from each other as well. (My art CV is on my website if of interest).

What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to a young woman just starting her career?
Women can be very intuitive, perseverant, hard-working, and social – as well as positively grounded with common sense and multi-tasking. These attributes will help to identify and win opportunities in the art world. If you are interested in teaching in the art field these are related skills for academic opportunities.

Leadership is needed, and women can do great work as leaders and team members for public art, community programs, education, and more. Don’t give up easily, respect yourself and expect that others will also respect you. Do your research, and work – art and otherwise – thoroughly and to the best of your ability. Be reasonable and respectful to those who deserve your time and attention. Trust yourself.

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Image Credit:
Jenn Wood

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