Jennifer Gillia Cutshall
Inside A Generous Kingdom V Retelling & Observation is the ART in the happy accident with NICK ERKER
"I was never great at telling stories in the same way as I heard them growing up so I translated many of them into visual narratives, combined stories, or recreated the nostalgic feeling of family gatherings..." Nick Erker
How does your work interact with the theme of “A Generous Kingdom V: Art that Explores Story, Symbolism, and Beyond”?
My work has developed into a very narrative style over the past few years. I attribute this to several things. One major influence on my style was growing up in a large family in a small Kansas farm town. When we would gather for family events, I would hear these stories told over and over by great storytellers in my family who were able to describe events in vivid detail that I would translate into these visual stories. I was never great at telling stories in the same way as I heard them growing up so I translated many of them into visual narratives, combined stories, or recreated the nostalgic feeling of family gatherings. My work also revolves around how we recall our own memories and our own stories. When I think back to my childhood I visualize everything as though I’m looking through the lens of a camera, composing the image as though I was an old master composing a painting. Some elements are missing, grainy, or out of focus but recalling memories and stories is at the core of my process.
Does the idea of transformation influence your work and process?
In a way, yes. My process of developing compositions has evolved considerably in recent years. In order to get the right feeling and composition, It takes weeks or even months of looking through old family photos, slides, and images to find the right images to work within the story I am trying to tell. I transform those figures, landscapes, and compositional elements over and over until I am happy with the result. I was a photographer for many years before I settled into my profession as an art teacher. I was always fascinated by light leaks, developing errors, and cross processing. There is something both endearing and nostalgic about those errors for me. When my mother died, I went through all of our family photos. There were several photos that I saved that had errors or processing issues. The colors were beautiful and sad. In those photos were missing memories that could not be replaced and were, instead, replaced with voids or an array of bright colors. That, in a way, Is how I feel like I look back on memories of growing up: a series of grainy, brightly colored, and sometimes slightly out of focus images that have missing pieces.
What draws you to the medium you chose? And tell us a little about your process (I don’t believe in giving it all away).
I stumbled across my process by accident (and by watching my art students misuse art materials). I am a high school art teacher during the school year and have witnessed many atrocities over the years. While watching my students work and clean up, I saw how the media was being used improperly, wasted, then dumped down the sink. I liked how the colors looked and wanted to see how I could preserve the result. In testing several painting surfaces, I found something that worked but used too much. I scraped most of it off and liked the way the surface retained its texture. When I combined the the surface texture with the media I had been using, the result was a perfect match.
What are the strengths of the medium? What are the challenges?
I work in watercolor. The biggest strength is that I can work quickly, allow areas to settle and dry, then layer more. I have gone through many trials and errors to figure out my process. The biggest challenge is the porous nature of some of the media and how absorbent some of the colors can be. The white I use is the greatest challenge due to its ability to absorb the colors of the underpainting. It is very hard to get a true white.
Who inspires you? And What do you do to get inspired?
I draw my inspiration from several painters. I think the most inspirational are Odd Nerdrum, Sir Anthony van Dyck, and Eugene Delacroix. I am particularly inspired by van Dyck and Delacriox’s dynamic compositions.
What do you hope your work achieves, in general, and/or specifically with this installation?
Honestly I am just enjoying the opportunity to share my story with others. It brings me joy to know that others find interest in my work. I hope that this installation will give me the opportunity to bring my work to a wider audience than I have previously.
If you could tell your viewers one thing, what would you tell them?
I really hope that my work has brought about a sense of nostalgia. I hope they bring about fond memories of your own and invite you in to the narrative. Enjoy my work and enjoy, the narrative, and the experience.