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Jen Thario

Artist's Interview

How long have you been creating?
I honestly can't remember a time when I was not making things. My mom said I was the only little kid she had known who could sit down with a box of junk, occupy myself for hours and actually assemble it into something. The first thing that my mom ever kept was a sculpture I had made when I was three out of a pair of my brothers underwear, some pink scrap fabric and glue. I called it the "Underwear Monster" and gave it to her for Mother's day. She still has it. My dad used to bring me home stuff from his work. I had miles of accordion folded paper that was used in the old computer printers, and pages of chartpak rub on letters. As any parent of a clever kid knows, that energy will come out, and it can be either destructive or constructive. So if your kid likes to make things, you can either supply the outlet or grimace when they draw on the walls or spray paint the basement green (it was kind of an accident really...) The local newspaper used to sponsor an art contest every Halloween where they would pair a kid with a business that had purchased ad space and we kids would create the ads and the newspaper printed them. I guess that means I've done commercial art since the fourth grade. J I remember having artwork in the local school district shows starting in the second grade. I was able to take classes in high school like photography, jewelry making, pottery, mechanical drafting and commercial art, so I had a good early art education. After I had finished my BFA work, I no longer had access to a metal fabrication shop, welding tanks, a foundry, kilns, or a wood shop. Not to mention work space. All of the things I was so used to creating with were out of reach. I had to find a new way to work, so I started painting again. I've been able to stock my studio with tools more and more, and the most successful of the recent work is starting to combine all of that together.
How would you describe your work?
Figurative, cartoonish, recycled nonsense. Corporeal and narrative elements seem to permeate everything I do. My work is mainly figurative; it is something I can't seem to make myself stray away from. Whether it is a cartoon, or an installation, or a portrait of someone's dog; something with a soul is usually front and center in my work. I have been working on an ongoing series I call ‘The Recycled Urban Projects' in which at least one major element of each work is something that was something else first. I am trying to find alternative sources for my raw materials focusing discarded and disposable objects. There are many raw materials available if you are willing to add the imagination to make them interesting again. I read that the United Nations estimates that 2% of the people in cities in non-industrialized nations earn a living recycling the garbage of the richest 10%. Folk art has a rich history of reuse. Robert Rauchenberg used to say he would not go further than around the block to scrounge for his materials in New York.
What are your motivations for creating?
I'm not sure I know how to answer that. It's just a way of life. It's how I choose to relate to the world around me. I'd rather make something than do the dishes. I don't have to wear pantyhose to work or put my hair in a bun, what more motivation do I need.
Have you seen any art that has moved you recently?
One of my favorite Denver artists is Lauri Lynnxe Murphy. I would describe her work as wall based installations composed of multiple mixed media panels. Her works just sort of sucks me in while I stand there soaking up the minutiae with my interior monologue running on overdrive. She is currently showing at Fresh Art in Denver ( Her work is so layered without apparent instruction to the viewer as to what they are supposed to see. To me that is so much more interesting than work whose intent is glaringly obvious, or abstracted beyond the point that nothing is referential and the viewer has little to connect with. I love the Visual Saturation in the back room at the CHAC gallery (Chicano Humanities & Arts Council) The front room is a gallery space where they stage shows, but the back room is a little store and it is just crammed with art and objects. It is like walking into a visual cocoon. The walls are covered and everything back there is affordable.
What do you find stimulating right now? How does this influence your creative process?
Juxtaposition. I know it is such an over used term in art theory, but to me it is the one thing I find that is consistent through all of the art that really moves me. I think that the best artists have an ability to make connections of disparate themes and/or objects that somehow actually make sense even though we, the viewer, might have never thought of it ourselves. Every choice an artist makes is a layer of meaning embedded in the work, and I like work that makes me stand there and piece together my version of that story.
Read anything good lately?
"Runaway Girl: The Artist Louise Bourgeois" by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan. Published by Harry N. Abrams Inc., 2003. I always felt a connection to her work. There are so many parallels between her life and my own. This book opens with "Louise Bourgeois was born in 1911, on Christmas Day in Paris. She claims her arrival was not an entirely joyous event." I was hooked with that line, since you could start my book out with, "Jen was born on Christmas Eve 1968, her arrival was not an entirely joyous event." (I was adopted) Louise Bourgeois is the mother of installation art. I really admire that she always made just what she felt like making, even while the ‘art world' sort of looked right past her for so long. She was simply compelled to create and did so even when no one was paying attention. She didn't overtly adapt her work to current trends. Her work encompasses that narrative humanity which I personally find so gripping. Even in her work where the figure is absent, a human presence is felt, is implied. Her work is subtle and poetic and originates from a definitely feminine perspective. The mode of working in assemblage is construction as opposed to deconstruction. Construction is very adaptable to the feminine. Throughout time women have gathered and assembled.
Tell us a little about your experience doing design work for Redstone Meadery.
Redstone is my patron. In this day and age, that kind of support is so rare. Grants and arts funds, from both public and private sources, are a shrinking resource. Artists more and more need to find alternate avenues for their work. Redstone is special in that they embrace the humanity that art made by hand can bring to their commercial graphics. They feel that pairs perfectly with a drink that is craft brewed in small batches. I have created more than 70 original works for Redstone since their debut in 2001. I just finished #36 in a series of 48 hand painted tap handles. My paintings are featured on their bottle labels, t-shirts, posters, banners, business cards, boxes, taps handles, ads, and even their van buzzes around the region wrapped in my ‘toons. I have made them a huge photobooth where you can pose and be photographed as one of the Jazz People. My images on their products have appeared in all the local papers, several national magazines, and even on the Food Network's "Food Nation with Bobby Flay" They recently released their first "Redstone Reserve" which is a mead they produce only once a year. They dedicated this first batch to me with the text on the back label that reads, "What's ‘The Love' you ask? ‘The Love' is inspired by the mood and the music that surrounds our Meadery & friends like Jen, our artist, who has captured our liquid Love in visual form." That was quite a compliment.
What would you like your fellow EBSQ artists and collectors to know about you and or your work?
I want to illustrate a children's book based on my Rat Girl characters. She's a long legged scrappy little rat who wears red striped stockings and Converse All-Stars. She drives a Harley and loves the feel of wind in her whiskers. She's a city girl that works at a hole in the wall coffee house in a downtown alley that features a scatting rat and jazz. If anyone connected in the publishing area thinks that would be a fabulous idea, please contact me.

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