Jennifer Chenoweth is an artist inspired by evolution...by becoming and being. Her artwork progresses as she changes and grows, and she marks her experiences along the way, in both her internal and external worlds. She is inspired by a myriad of things - forms, patterns and colours, especially - and collaborates with professionals in other fields when she needs their expertise to follow through with her initial intentions for pieces.
Jennifer works with a variety of mediums; mainly paper, metal, and fabric, and she has a diverse body of work. Her work can start as a quick sketch and evolve into large sculpture, and you can see some of her current work here. I love how Jennifer describes her work. "My work includes gestural marks as a unique movement of my hand and ideas that are ignited by my experiences. My art process is evidence of my inner life-- the transcendent, the sensual, the hard to pin down. My artworks are devotionals, like portraits, to ideas I have considered before, was always considering, am now considering more deeply. I am ripening into something in my deeper truer nature, what I am becoming more of."
I am ever inspired by artists who start creative nonprofits, and Jennifer Chenoweth is one of those artists. She started Generous Art in 2011, and when you purchase fine art from the nonprofit, the sale is split between a donation to a charity of your choice, the artist, and Generous Art. What a great way to make the process of purchasing art even more meaningful!
What does Creativity mean to you?
Creativity is open ended play and investigation. It is following my imagination and curiosity and seeing where it goes.
How do you expand yourself creatively?
I allow for my own ideas to unfurl - I hope to surprise myself in the process. I really think the key word is “allow” - its a kind of active, unknowing meditation.
Were you creative as a child? If so, how have you evolved through the years? Did anyone encourage you, especially?
I was creative. My grandmother pushed for me to study music, and though the theory and hours practicing made me love music, my hands preferred making things and building. I still love dancing to music. My primary form of expression was aerial - I had a 25 ft rope swing in my back yard and was sure I would join the circus as an acrobat. I still need to do some artwork around that set of memories.
What inspires you most?
I am inspired by my experiences in the world and by what I read about, from fiction to architecture to psychology. I think change inspires me, things that challenge what I thought I knew, or learning and growing.
What turns you on creatively?
Surprise. Joy. Things that someone made or did that do not look like or sound like anything else - things that have voice and are not imitative.
Do you have any gratefulness practices?
Studio time in itself is a gratefulness practice. Creativity is using the gifts you are given - creating is giving back to the world. I am very appreciative of the people in my life who help me and love me. I try to say often how much I enjoy my friends, family and loves.
Do you daydream often? If so, does it inform your work?
My daydreams are often rather practical, like visioning the next right action. When I catch myself having fantasy conversations it reveals wishes of things that I want or things that are unresolved.
How does a relationship and/or children affect your creativity?
Having children has made my time so short and efficient that it changed my studio practice. It is no longer a slow chess match, but a lot more action in the short time I have. However, having children confirmed my commitment to being an artist - I wanted to show them my best self and model that dedication for them.
All relationships need time. Studio practice needs time. Those are opposing needs. I am envious of musicians who get to play together.
Is there a Creative, past or present, that you would give just about anything to work with? Who, and why?
There is, Robert Irwin. He is still living but is 86. I have kicked myself for the last 20 years for not hunting him down and volunteering for him. He is brilliant, and exudes energy and love. Once I was seated in a full auditorium in Marfa, and I felt him walk in the back door.
How do you care for yourself to ensure you’re available when ideas present themselves?
Self care happens every day - it's eating well, exercising, and having balance. It's listening to your inner voice. Understanding how/when to say yes and how/when to say no.
How do you balance life and art effectively? Or, do you?
Balance is about constant adjustment. More here, now more over there. I am spending too much time on this which is now satisfied so I can move to the next thing. There will never be enough time while I live to make all the art that is in my imagination.
How do you deal with creative dry spells? Do you make space for them, or push through?
I’ve never had a creative dry spell. I have been too depressed or sad to make art, knowing that whatever I made would mirror back to me my state of mind, which was already too present. Read. Research. See the kind of art in world class museums. That lets me know I am not working nearly hard enough.
How do you deal with change, especially when it comes to creative mediums and passion?
I change between mediums all the time. It's like playing with different toys that I miss and enjoy. I have to maintain a lot of tools and art supplies to work in all the different materials that I do. And sometimes I spend way too much time searching for that bottle of powdered graphite that I know is in the studio somewhere…
How does criticism affect you?
Well, there is meanness. There is scrabbling small-minded competition for the low stakes of the art world, and then there is criticism. Criticism is something someone can say looking you in the eye, or in writing with their name by it. If someone feels that need to challenge me, then what an interesting opportunity for me to grow. Growing doesn’t always happen quickly. Why waste precious time on meanness?
Has your work ever been copied? If so, how did you deal with it?
Oh I’m sure I’ve copied everyone and at best make rude imitations of nature. I think we have human ideas, but not original ideas, that hopefully progress as our capacities evolve. But we are primates, we copy without even being conscious of it.
How important is self compassion to your creative process?
I work at being accepting and allowing. And then I also throw half my work in the trash, or work over it. That is allowing failure and messes, which is also self compassion.
Do you have any other mediums you use to express yourself creatively?
Dancing. I love partner dancing. The intimacy and immediacy are amazing. And you don’t have to have supplies or clean up afterward.
Do you enjoy collaborating, or prefer to work alone?
I do like collaborating - but solo time in the studio is my spiritual practice - it is church and quiet, and my thoughts can emerge when I can hear them.
Do you work in a studio/space designed specifically for your creativity, or on the spur of the moment/anywhere inspiration strikes?
I much prefer studio space. When I am in the world, that is just living.
Is it important for you to have a creative, inspiring environment?
Yes. My home and studio are my nest, and I like being here.
Do you plan thoroughly for projects, or go with the flow?
Both! Plan then flow. Repeat endlessly.
Do you have a preferred way of cataloguing ideas?
I write about ideas for projects. These days I write about ideas for projects in RFQs and grant applications. I make models for bigger pieces.
Do you utilize social media? If so, how?
I share my events, projects and experiences on FB. I like to pop on there to see what interesting things people in my community are up to. Its hard to keep up with everyone I find interesting. Email is my preferred medium.
What is your typical day like?
Luxurious breakfast of eggs, pancakes and coffee, bacon on the weekends. Kids most days. Communication all the time. Focusing on the next most urgent project - studio, Generous Art, earning to pay bills, outdoor adventure time with my family.
Do you have any rituals that help to set your creative time and/or space?
Quick ink drawings on paper connect my hand and my imagination.
Does spirituality and/or culture play a role in your creativity?
My art is my spiritual practice. My artistic talent is my calling. My role as an artist in the world is how I contribute to culture.
Do you believe art can change the world? If so, how?
Creativity changes individuals. An individual’s unique voice is made by practicing a creative talent. How can there be original ideas without agency, voice and authorship? Those original voices are what change the world. People recognize their genius and heed them. People are inspired by others’ strengths.
Do you believe that connecting with your creativity, or helping others to do so, can positively affect the world? If so, how?
Are you active in your local art community? If so, how do you help and support each other?
I am very active, but not often out at openings because of my family priorities. I am currently working on a series of workshops through Generous Art to help artists thrive.
Do you surround yourself on a daily basis with creative, inspiring people?
My friends are all inspiring and interesting. My family members are inspiring. My neighbors are inspiring. Most people I meet are busy doing really interesting things. That is why I love living in Austin. I lean a lot by the people who surround me.
What effect do you want your art to have on the world?
I want others to open their minds about what art is. I enjoy inspiring others by my own sense of freedom.
What music, if any, plays while you work? What are you listening to at this very moment?
I listen to music all the time. I make monthly playlists on Spotify about what I’m onto at the moment. I love the speed with which some music gets distributed, even though I’m sure it is unfair to the unpaid musicians. But I wish my art would have even the chance to be seen by so many eyes.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
“The most inspiring people have an urgency about what they are doing.” “Artists are classless, they can move between the rich and poor equally well. Don’t let your politics interfere with that.” “No one cares about your art. You have to care about your art.”
Do you have any advice for aspiring creatives?
Practice, path, way, hours, persistence, determination, integrity, humility, gratefulness, generosity.
Any questions I did not ask, that you would like to answer?
I am always surprised at how many people think I succeed all the time, when I know how often I fail. Though my shins are not quite as bloody, making art is a lot like skateboarding. It is a lot of falling down. I just get so excited when I get something right once in a while.
Do you have any upcoming projects/collections to share?
I’m working on the next phase of the Hedonic Map of Austin. I’m working on models for two big sculptures. I’m working on some small paintings about historic sacred space architecture.
Do you have any favorite books?
I think Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and The Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin are my favorites. Each made into poor movies lately.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.”
Where can we find your art?
Austin City Hall, the Department of Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin, on GenerousArt.org, on FisterraStudio.com, during the East Austin Studio Tour, and anywhere else I am invited to show.