Jennifer Pettus is a mixed-media artist from Denver, Colorado.
“I call myself, among other things, a mother, suburbanite, maker, imposter, thinker, collector, introvert, hillbilly, nerd, and jokester. My sources are as diverse as the works of Luce Irigaray, Dr. Seuss, and Amy Sedaris; the art of Frida Kahlo, Annette Messager, and Karen Finley; the humor of Monty Python, The Far Side, and Looney Tunes; the art practices of still-life drawing, digital photography, and costume design; and the miscellany of children’s toys, thrift stores, roadside trash, magical thinking, theme park rides, handmade crafts, and my own evolving family. For me, life’s entanglement, past, present, and future, from the labels we give ourselves to the big and small things we pursue, is creatively valuable.
“The complication of life inspires me to likewise use complicated combinations of materials and methods in art. I create three dimensional shadow boxes, free form assemblages, and installations that defy categorization with calculated hodgepodge. I spend a lot of time repetitively “making the stuff to make the stuff,” creating when and where I can, in multiple locations and in various phases that intertwine and overlap. I embroider washcloths in my living room, scour sidewalks for discarded gems, knit ropes at the playground, stain fabric in my studio, scan garage sales and thrift stores for unusual castoffs, draw bubbles at the baseball field, and save used or stained household items.
“After a period of making and collecting I begin to connect and transform these patchwork materials with more knitting, knotting, stitching, wrapping, poking, gluing, and smashing. My excessive texturing and assembling is tempered with the use of ritualized, singular objects. The finished work is a kind of bait-and-switch that tricks sense and sensibility. Using familiar objects such as a token from childhood, a drawing, or simply a bright color, I create a visual pull, drawing the viewer in, asking them to inspect and/or confirm what they see (or, further, what they believe). The visual mishmash keeps the viewer engaged long enough to reveal the illusion of familiarity. The token is a balloon that has been embroidered, the drawing is on fabric rather than paper, and the bright color is a piece of chewed gum.
“Like life, I believe art should be complex and questioning. With each work acting as a peculiar stand-in, I want to bring the aesthetics of high and low art together in a way that is more universally relatable, and even entertaining, but also intellectually exciting. Each piece is a whodunit waiting to be fingered or a prop destined for decay. And with each oddball reconstruction, I craft questions rather than render answers. What signifies an appropriate space for creation and exhibition? What determines the boundary between ordinary and extraordinary? How do we establish value? I continue to search for ways to transgress the purpose of home and gallery but ultimately I consider and question the separation between art and life.”
The more I look at Jennifer’s work, the more I like them. She’s a mad scientist, finding objects, stitching them, coercing them, making new creations. There’s a beauty in this apparent craziness.
The pieces have a lot of stitching going on, something that might not be apparent at first glance, and as Jennifer says, herein lies the magic. The exploration of these pieces unlocks the narrative and creates order out of chaos. It’s planned alchemy, with random objects being brought together with no apparent reason, but through her own private process, Jennifer makes sense of them all.
Visit Jennifer’s website to enjoy even more of her effervescent creativity.