Jennifer Kang’s paintings have so much energy, drawing on a vibrancy of imagination that is influenced by childhood memories and the bright colors of children’s storybooks. Currently in her final year at SAIC, her work playfully taps into how simple ideas and memories from childhood have profound impacts on our adult lives. More at the links below!
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
Hello!! I grew up in Southern California and am currently in my last year at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, receiving my BFA this May 2019. In the last four years, my works have shifted from full abstraction to abstract figurative work that reflect on the idea of memories and what home means to me. As I’ve been getting busier and busier, I started to miss home and how slow everything is back home. I remembered walking my dogs around the lake, my sister giving me airplane rides with her knees, us running at a junk food truck to buy $.75 hot-Cheetos, and rollerblading during elementary school. My fading childhood memories and nostalgia began to be the central theme of my work and although I can’t go back, I love love love recreating the simplicity of these moments.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
My mom had a dream in high school that I became an artist who helped others and this is how it all started! I was never vocal with my feelings and opinions so I LOVE being able to fully express myself by creating art. My mom’s encouragement and support led me here so I’m really grateful for her. She helped me find my passion.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I have been intrigued by Kenneth Patchen’s picture poems, filled with playfulness but with dark content, which inspired me to make my own narrative work. I enjoy storytelling through my art. My stick figures are self portraits and my loved ones and through the use of simple figures, I am able to feel safe sharing my childhood stories and others’ profound life experiences. I have been finding primitive cave drawings to be very intriguing and so I have lately been utilizing stick figures in my work a lot to simplify reality.
What is your process like?
I start off sketching whenever I think of a moment or memory. Then, I’d finish up the painting when I have time. I have been using Oil sticks, oil pastel, acrylic, and colored pencils on paper as my mediums because I remember drawing with Crayola bars, markers, and pastels when I was a little girl. I really enjoy using messy pastels because it never really settles or dries. Oil Pastel resembles my idea of home and childhood. Strong and vivid, but never permanent. You never know when it’ll fade, smear, and erase.
Is there any subject or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?
I’m extremely interested in children books, such as The Giving Tree. When I read it as a little girl, I never really understood what the whole book meant. Reading it again after years later, I felt very sad. Containing a few sentences that hold so much meaning, children books have been really influencing my work and helped me gravitate to creating childlike art that are actually for adults. While my works are casual and playful, I want to depict the yearning for my past and want my viewers to feel somewhat sad, nostalgic, and homesick.
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
I am a full-time student, dog walker through Rover, and am interning at a gallery. While I wish I had the time to fully dedicate myself to painting, I do think it’s definitely important and helpful to go out of my art practice and gain new experiences that will lead to fresher thoughts. I also love dogs 🙂 They’re the best!!
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
I would say.. absolutely!! It’s been really significant, moving to Chicago. My peers and my professors all challenge me to grow both as an individual and as an artist. Other than my art community, my mom who prays for me everyday, my sister who reminds me that impulsivity can be good sometimes, my boyfriend who reminds me to always know my self-worth, and my very close friend Ev, who helped me find home outside my home, all influence me and my work.
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
I’m currently painting and drawing a series of letters that I want to say and hear and it’s been so healing. I would say that if you are not vocal about your feelings, it is relieving to express yourself through writing yourself a piece of note/letter.
What is your studio like?
My studio is a tiny office room next to my living room. I tend to curl up like a little bug to get started, which is bad for my neck (I recently got a bad neck strain and couldn’t move my neck) and should really learn to work on a table instead of the floor. I love working on floors too much.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
What frightens me the most is small talk in public spaces. Because I’m so introverted and shy, I sweat a lot when I talk with people. Having to put myself out there and talk to people is the most challenging when it comes to pursuing art.
Are you involved in any collaborative or self-organized projects?
I am currently collaborating with a close friend, Ev. We decided to create an artist book together about our daily fears. Both
personal yet relatable, the book of our fears is used as a tool to help us stay distracted from everyday stress as we engage, read, and flip each page.
What are you working on right now?
I am currently working on big drawings of letters, and it’s exciting!
Anything else you would like to add?
Thank you Kate so much for doing what you do because through you, I am able to discover artists that I really admire. I enjoy looking at so many different artists’ artworks and they motivate me to create more! Thank you!!!