We had the good fortune of connecting with Jenny Hager and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jenny, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Work life balance…it’s always been an oxymoron for artists, but at this particular time, I would like to be specific. I have had the lifelong benefit of being surrounded by women professionals and mentors who have been outspoken about managing careers while raising children and supporting their families, but all gloves are off in this Pandemic. The news told me today that over 800,000 women have left the work force due to job loss or to oversee their children’s online education, homeschool, or manage their household. Before the Pandemic, I was lucky enough to have robust studio time due to careful time management and organization. My son just turned 16 in September, started the school year online, and it has been a struggle. I think can speak for many artists that have managed crisis and made work throughout, this is something different. There does not seem to be a work life balance at this moment because there is no separation or space between supporting one’s child, protecting one’s family, and negotiating a shifting world. It’s become incredibly intimate, where one’s failures, joys, or bad days happen in a compressed space. There is an intense overlap between my family life and work that had not occurred before. Uninterrupted work time no longer exists, but is metered out in segments of 45 minutes and transition to the next online class, as well as “the wifi is not working”, “what is for lunch?”, a family member is in crisis today, and “my friends are having sleep overs, why can’t I?”. As the Pandemic, and our country’s inability to take the necessary steps to contain it continues, I have optimism that I will find a rythm that will allow me more studio time, as we all adjust. In the meantime, when I do get studio time, I approach it with more of an eye towards risk taking, and appreciate what I have.
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.
I am a painter that sits between abstraction and non-representation, often utilizing a high key palette in order to create a sense of urgency. I juxtapose structure and patterning against more organic, expressionistic, and ephemeral forms and passages. I’ve summed my painting up in casual conversation as “mountains, monsters, and cosmos”, but that’s overly simplistic. I cannot help but paint from a position of personal experience, folding elements of landscape and the natural world, monsters, real or imagined, alongside the unknown. I employ a high degree of ambiguity in order to create a space where one can drift on the double edge sword of wonder. Professional standing as an artist can be very fluid and fickle, the administrating of art quite a separate practice than making art. I could be very happy only dealing with the creative side, hiding in the studio, but I do want my work to be seen and shown. It was not easy for me to to seek out opportunities, but as I grew older I found that I was able to stop taking rejection personally, and allow it to happen more organically. I have learned that as an artist, you must be out in the community, as well as inviting others into your studio and your work process. I hope to be able to resume this in the near future. As for my artwork, while it is a very difficult thing to achieve, I would be thrilled to have it be immediately recognizable as a “Jenny Hager”.
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?
If I had a friend visiting Los Angeles that had never experienced our city, I would seek to showcase our complex diversity. Because Venice Boardwalk was one of the first places I was taken to when touring LA, I would start there. It’s such a quintessential part of LA and it’s surf culture. I’m all about juxtapositions, so after a morning on the Boardwalk, I would then take my visitor via freeways, to Watt’s Tower, one of our greater treasures in an incredible neighborhood. After touring Watt’s Tower, we would drive North on Western to Exposition Park and visit the Natural History Museum and check on the progress of the Lucas Museum. Though this is a fraction of what Los Angeles has to offer, I think it is important for visitors to get a flavor of of the economic and cultural diversity, and a sense of history of development and resources that have shaped Los Angeles. That’s a big day, so I would probably take my visitor to Runyon Canyon the following day for some great people watching and urban hiking at it’s finest. I always bring visitors to the Hammer Museum, as it has been my long standing favorite in regards to the quality of their exhibitions. I am never disappointed. I would also make sure that I take my visitor downtown. I would probably drive them through skid row, as this is an undeniable part of Los Angeles that needs to be seen to understand the economic disparity and problems our city faces. From there, we would park in Little Tokyo, and walk around. If my 16 year old son is with us, we would undoubtedly stop in The Jungle and admire their incredible collection of Godzillas, high end Transformers, Ultra Man, and other Japanese collectable icons. From here we would walk to Hauser and Wirth, peruse the latest exhibition, and finish the evening off with martinis and dinner at Manuela. Desconso Gardens, The Dresden, Undefeated, Alta, galleries in my back yard (West Adams)…all on the agenda.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting, and Sculpture Durden and Ray Family