I first saw Jen Bodine‘s (pronounced bo-dine) work on the 614 FB page, like so many other artists that I have interviewed, and fell in love with it. Of course, the fact that she frequently posts pics of her cat (s) also hit a chord with me…LOL! Then I was lucky enough to meet her kitties, Emerson and Raddimus, (and Jen!) in person!!!
Jen and I first communicated online and then she graciously invited me to her lovely home in my old stomping grounds, Upper Arlington. We sat and chatted for a while on a rainy Sunday afternoon while her kitties checked me out and I got to see where she creates.
When asked how she got into art, she states that her background is pretty complex. She’s been painting and drawing for most of her life and used to enter art contests while in grade school just for fun. Sitting in her room and creating was natural for her but she never considered that art might become a career choice. This kind of creativity comes naturally as her dad was also an artist although he doesn’t create as much now.
I’ve always been drawn to creating, even as a child. I’m not exactly sure what inspired me to create then; I just felt a need to make something out of other things. Colors always fascinated me, igniting something within me to want to manipulate them to express myself. I loved experimenting with items and applying different conditions (heat, light, pressure, etc.) to them to alter their state or appearance. I remember going nuts when I found out that crayons could be melted. I was pretty resourceful, as well. I remember wanting to make a birthday card for my mother when I was 6 or 7 years old. I cut out all the little construction paper pieces to make a collage and discovered that we were out of glue, so I used toothpaste. LOL!!!
Considering all of that, I think it was obvious at a young age that I was interested in both science and art, often blending the two, so I’m not surprised that I’ve developed a sort of dual career.
Around 7th grade, she fell more in love with science and decided that she wanted to become a biochemist. So high school was spent focusing on science and math courses, excluding visual arts as electives although she did play music to satisfy her creative side. After graduation, she attended Capital University and earned that degree in biochemistry, discovering a passion and talent in the field of analytical organic chemistry during the process. She did take an art class with Gary Ross that she terms ‘a wild experience’ with him letting the class tour his home filled with antique and art collections that could rival that of any museum in Jen’s words. She loved the class but that did not deter her from working as an analytical chemist starting in 2005. She still loves it and feels that it compliments her art perfectly because she enjoys the processes she uses for both.
During those years, she continued to produce art, learning and developing her own skills. A friend in college taught her how to screenprint and it became another passion. She also picked up glass blowing about 5 years ago, learning from the very experienced and talented Andy Hudson. Most of her development has been from watching and learning basic techniques from other more experienced artists. From there, she tries to break off from what she has learned, explore on her own and then find her personal style and expression. In addition, her dad is a constant source of inspiration as he loves to send her care boxes filled with supplies he thinks she may like to experiment with or may be newly on the market. These treasure boxes have afforded her the ability to try techniques and materials she might otherwise not have used cause we all know how expensive art materials can be. (I asked her if perhaps her dad would like to adopt me!) Actually, her drafting table used to belong to her dad, and has a bunch of his old paint blobs and stuff on it from when he used it. ‘One of the markings looks like a heart, and when I look at it, I smile. It’s like I have my dad’s heart there at all times as I work.’
When asked to categorize her art, she stated that her instinct is to separate the glass, watercolor and screen printing into their own paths of categorization. BUT, she also states that she really thinks that it all comes down to how she uses color which varies widely and doesn’t always fit one category. She uses this in many different ways to express a hundred different emotions and to show movement, fluidity and gravity. “if I can pull someone in emotionally with these effects, I consider myself successful”. She does not tend to stick to one genre or style in her work but goes wherever inspiration leads.
Most of her inspirations comes from interacting with people. A lot of her work is a direct result of watching people connect or from conversations with friends. One piece, “Everything is Everything”, was inspired 100% by a deep conversation with a friend about the fact that once we’re done with this life, the particles of our bodies don’t just disappear or cease to be. They are integrated into other things forever…we ourselves are pieces of people and things that once were. She says that if she is pressured to create, it just doesn’t happen. There will be something on the paper, but it’s just a collection of paint that tells her that her brain is saying “no”, finding that inspiration and motivation comes when it wants, and forcing it is unproductive.
Recently, she has been experiencing and experimenting with watercolors, so all of those techniques are new to her. I imagine I’ve developed some sort of backwards way of doing things compared to others, but it works for me. As far as techniques to share, I’m often asked about what screen printing equipment is best for people looking to try it out, and I usually tell people that the expensive stuff isn’t necessary for what I do–I expose screens in my bathroom with a cheap light bulb screwed into a creaky metal desk lamp that sits on a stack of circa 2007 GQ magazines while trying to keep cats out of the room. This is like the adult Jen version of the toothpaste glue, but, again: it works for me. Most of the techniques were developed back in undergrad when I had no money and lived in a tiny apartment. I did what I could to make the art I wanted to make.
I suppose the advice here would be that it’s possible to make a lot of things happen if you can be resourceful and use what you have to make it work. There are usually alternatives or ways around methods. There’s usually no single exact way to do something. If there is, do your own thing anyway.
Jen has been operating under her own name for a few years and has a website on Fine Art America, also listed as such. Other than gallery/show sales, she takes commissions via email, and has made sales after posting work on the Art and Artists of 614 Facebook page. Wherever it’s displayed, people are welcome to inquire about sales or commissions or even just to talk about it. She likes to interact with people about art, so she tends to display pieces in those sorts of places where instant connection is possible. In that regard, too, she has started to do some collaborative work with Roger Plymale…he does his ink drawings and then she adds water colors…with the thought of eventually creating a comic book. Cool, huh? She shared some of the pieces she has done with him (check them out below).
Within the last month or so, she has displayed her work at the Vanderelli Room in the Dark Love III show and at Camelot Cellars on February 19th. In addition, she will be the featured artist at House Beer for all of March and received the Roscoe Award during the New Endeavors show at The Roscoe Room, which she felt was an incredible honor stating that ‘the wonderful Suzanne Betz Gallagher runs that gallery, and it’s a beautiful space.’ On April 9th, she and several other artists, including recently featured Justin Frehs, will be part of a pop up show at Wild Goose Creative. Busy girl, huh?
Lastly, she considers herself a Renaissance woman of sorts…getting into a lot of things, trying something new, and improving her skills. It helps that I’m not satisfied unless I’m doing a lot of things at once, so I’m able to dig into multiple interests simultaneously. Because of that, I’m constantly evolving and growing, and every day is interesting. I saw this first hand…she also knits and we talked at length about how we both love to experiment and not pigeonhole ourselves into one style of art. I think this is what I found so interesting about this young scientist/artist. I can’t wait to see where her art takes her….I’ll keep you posted!
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