Jenny Etgen = Portraiture, Whimsy, Color and Fun


The Art and Artists of 614 Facebook page has given me so many people to interview and exposed me to so many different types of art. That is how I got to see the fantastic work of Jen Etgen.  Her work is such a fun mixture of portraiture, whimsy, color and fun that it resonated with me and I knew I had to learn more about her and her work!


After the Performance

 Jennifer Poppen Etgen was born in Chicago in 1969. Her father was a social worker from a small town in Minnesota and his work brought him to the South side of Chicago to work in the projects…mainly Cabrini Green. Her mother was an art student at the Chicago Art Institute and a waitress at the local Walgreens where her father enjoyed the good but cheap food and coffee. I am from this sweet and bitter brew of Hope and Failure.  I continue to occupy this complicated space.


She says she’s always been attracted to those uneasy moments where the thin veil of the world is pulled aside to reveal the sacred. She’s always searched for beauty. When growing up in the smoke choked rows of small pastel homes south of US Steel you notice the bloom on an errant weed pushing itself through the fragmented sidewalks. You notice the smear of bright side walk chalk after an oily rain. You see the brown skinned girl across the street in a red sweater and lilac printed skirt. All of these memories flood her  present tense and inform her work.



She received her BFA from the University of Tennessee in 1993 with a concentration in print making under Pam Longobardi and Beauvais Lyons. The awesomely fruitful environment really formed her work ethic and aesthetic. From there, she moved on to receive her MFA in Fine Art Printmaking from the University of New Mexico in 1996. She continued to move West to San Francisco where she lived by the Pacific and painted and showed quite a bit of art. After 5 years in California, she moved back to Chicago where she had her own gallery called Meat Yard and was an adjunct professor at the University of Saint Francis in Joliet, Illinois.


As luck would have it on a trip through West Virginia, she met her mate, a farmer in Ohio who gifted her with a chance to put down some roots. They now have a 15 year old daughter Allie and a seven year old son Wyatt. She now works as a substitute teacher and is making art on the farm!


Playing with mediums is a love of hers…she makes her own form of egg tempera and acrylics. She likes to mix fast moments with slower details and to start out with a lot of wet on wet to find her form. I pretty much try not to censor myself and I try not to be satisfied with an area if it’s not working. I use spray paint and stencils and graphite… whatever it takes!


She’s not a represented artist. Instead, she tends to sell to friends and those that buy her art become her friends because they have connected over a shared visual experience. The depth of that exchange makes the money symbolic. I need to feed my children…I need to buy more paint…I need a little money to continue this journey that they are now a part of.  What an interesting way of looking at making and sharing your art with others!

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