Jenn Houle’s love of nature stems from her childhood, spending summers camping and hiking and winters skiing in NH. In 2007, she received her BFA from Massachusetts College of Art and recently graduated from Cornell University’s MFA program. She has recently shown her work at Site/109, Chazan Gallery, Gallery 263, Montserrat College of Art, and Boston University’s 808 Gallery Space.
”Searching for Life”: is a collection of my recent paintings that are inspired by motion-activated tree-stand photographs. Many of the original images are taken at night by cameras that people plant in their local woods then share online. I’ve also included some of my installation work that has influenced color decisions that I make in the new paintings.
Facebook: Jenn Houle, Tumblr: jennhoule, Instagram: therealjennhoule
An Interview with Jenn Houle:
What inspired you to become an artist?
I’ve always loved to draw, paint and make things ever since I was a young child. I believe it comes from a true need to create – it’s something that helps establish an equilibrium in my life even today!
What is your advice to younger artists?
Make the time and space for your work. You are the only person who can do this! Also keep in touch with other artists and talk to them about their work and your own. A community is an invaluable source for any artist!
What are you interested in investigating through your work?
My work focuses on humanity’s strange relationship to and perception of nature. It is located on the spectrum between cultivated and untamed, controlled vs. uncontrolled and natural and man-made. This language emerges in the marks and colors I use in paint, the juxtaposition of colored light and shadow in different environments and repurposed man-made materials that depict natural forms. I am interested in appearance and disappearance, emergence and dispersal and having elements that slowly unfold in the work with closer and longer looking.
Are you working on anything right now that feels like new ground in your body of work?
I’ve recently returned to painting on canvas after mostly focusing in sculpture and installation for a couple of years. It’s been really interesting to see how the colored light installations have influenced the new light in the paintings. I’m really excited to keep pushing forward in this medium and see where I end up!
What do you seek to express, capture, or reveal in your work?
In the paintings and sculptures I play with the perception of the physical spaces that the subjects occupy. The animals blend in and out of environments that also move unsteadily around them through colored lights in the actual space or paint relationships on canvas. I’m influenced by the supernatural qualities found in sci-fi and the B-movie aesthetic of beautifying the grotesque or awkward.
I’m creating new environments and worlds for both viewer and animal to occupy: in the installations the viewer’s shadow merges with the animals, in the paintings the animal’s form is emerged in a radiating environment, both create a back and forth between the subject and its surroundings. I want the viewer to be experiencing their surroundings in an optical way that connects them to the animal. Both approach using the background as a bridge that connects them to the subject, filling the white space in a felt or perceived way.
This speaks to the theme of interconnectedness and fragility of life – our shared existences. It’s also a searching for meaning in the world around me, using the things I connect to to build a new reality and making meaning through marks, forms and colors. It’s a way to channel all my celebration, anxiety and awe into a vehicle to make a new world to be a part of.
Image 1: Featherlight (Foul Falls), 2014, One night installation at Ithaca Falls, Construction lights, Bald Eagle sculptures – plastic grain bags, clay, steel, wood, Dimensions variable.
Image 2: Jaws, Paws and Claws, 2015, Installation shot – Hartell Gallery, Acrylic paintings and faux fur trim wall that measures 28’x8’
Image 3:Fear Bear, 2014, Plastic bags, colored lights, steel, Dimensions variable (sculpture 84”x48”x20”)
Image 4: Baby Hump, 2015, Acrylic and airbrush on canvas, 48”x54”. Image derived from motion-activated tree-stand photograph.