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GoLocalProv | Artist to Know: Jenny Brown

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

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Jenny Brown

All art is fundamentally about looking, but Jenny Brown’s art is about observing closely, intently, and repeatedly. Brown, who has lived in Rhode Island for close to a decade and a half, creates works on paper that employ elements of drawing, painting, and collage. Her artworks are the product of her own observations of, and meditations on, the world around her. In turn, they invitingly offer viewers thrilling opportunities to look, and look, and look again.

When asked what inspires her most, Brown says, “On a very broad scale, I find myself constantly inspired by natural sciences, nostalgia, and the modern concepts of time and space. Digging a bit deeper into those interests, I’m very inspired by the idea of ​​bringing new life to old stories, which is where my love of paper ephemera and antiques comes in. Very often it is the energy radiating from the paper or object that informs me as to how it should be used in a new work.”

Brown imbeds her wide-ranging encyclopedia of inspirations into everything she creates. In her “Flowering Portal”, for instance, a ring of flora and fauna is set off against a stark black backdrop. The treatment pushes Brown’s constructed object forward into an otherworldly space which it seems to inhabit and activate. This botanical mandorla’s destination and purpose invite speculation and rumination. An image with plenty of visual information, it also leaves space for Brown’s audience to probe and explore.


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Brown’s studio PHOTO: Jenny Brown

The artist’s Providence studio is packed full of visual stimuli. Vintage photos counterpoint clippings taken from books and magazines, making for a richly varied library of material to draw upon. Generous glass containers brim with a brightly-hued assortment of pens and markers. A worktable is covered with material that she will utilize to conjure her next artwork. The context in which she creates underscores the labor-intensive nature of Brown’s artistic practice. The result is a body of work that is as aesthetically rich as the artist’s atelier.

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PHOTO: Jenny Brown

While Brown’s work is deeply layered and wonderfully textured, even she has to pick and choose how to assemble her collage-based images. When asked how she edits and pins down exactly what to include in her work, Brown says, “I have so much wonderful ephemera in my studio that it is very, very easy (and very fun) to go overboard on the embellishments. I typically have more than one collage as well as a “maybe” pile all happening on my desk at any given moment, and that allows me to delegate where things can, should, and shouldn’t go a bit more easily.”

The editorial eye behind Brown’s production comes across in places where she withholds a fragment or detail that someone with less control would tack on happily. She carefully chooses base tones that set off her drawing, painting, and collage work. Broad planes of peach or green paper bring to life exacting cornucopias of flowery detail. While abstracted branches, limbs, and vines creep across the page with fluid ease, it is clear that behind Brown’s arrangements there is precise craft at play, too.

A graduate of Bennington College in Vermont, where she studied painting and printmaking, Brown went on to complete her MFA at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Her resume is lengthy and wide-ranging. She has shown her work all over the United States and abroad, including in an array of solo exhibitions across the Northeast. In 2020 her work was used as part of an interior design concept at Newport’s Wayfinder Hotel. And in 2021 she collaborated with Hudson-Chatham Winery in Ghent, New York, to lend her style to their labels. Through her career she has developed a large following, sharing a daily creative journey that takes place right here in Providence.

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PHOTO: Jenny Brown

Brown has made her home and studio in Rhode Island for some time. When asked to name a favorite element of living in the state, she replies, “Being surrounded by such immense natural beauty would have to be my absolute favorite part of being based in Rhode Island. Every walk by the water, even if it’s for just a moment or in bad weather, opens my eyes up to new interactions of line, space, color, and light.”

Looking at Brown’s work, that love of nature and of observation is clear. But there is also a magic to her artful assemblages that is all her own. Brown’s works are exercises for the eyes. They make viewers marvel at their delicacy, creativity, and specificity, while teaching them how to see. Jenny Brown’s artworks are an unabashed pleasure to look at, to return to, and to explore in all their vivid and delightful detail.

Learn more about Jenny Brown at her website

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