Briefly describe the work you do.
I often work in lithography, photogravure, papermaking and book arts; and as a printmaker really enjoy thinking about how to construct an image through technique and materials. I am specifically interested in art and social commentary, narrative, and history. My art is motivated by an investigation of how historical ideas have shaped how we understand our surroundings and our bodies.
Over the past few years I have been very focused on creating work about a medieval theory “The Doctrine of Signatures” an idea that the world is connected through visual imagery and our senses. I am fascinated how this idea can be interpreted to suggest different ways in which we see our relationship within the world; as a divine ruling, a matter of chance, or superstitious associations. In the end, it is the question and conversation that these ideas generate that I find interesting rather than personal ideology. I am curious how past scientific ideas that have been proven wrong continue to hold values or impact our thoughts, world view, and medicine.
I am also very interested in the history of women’s bodies and health, and the body in the context of Catholicism, religion, visionaries, and lesser known historical figures.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
History, museums, religious objects and art have always been exciting to me; and I am amazed how one artifact or object can offer an entire story. Early on I had a strong vision that I would have a career in social or community service to serve and advocate ideas. As my interest in art grew, I realized that I was more excited about how I could work with others in the arts in contrast to a solitary studio practice, so the values and experience of printmaking, collaboration, and sharing of knowledge are attractive to these sensibilities.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My studio practice is not a solitary experience as I make art in a collaborative and shared space, and this environment and all the technical aspects to print media are what keep me interested in making. How I think as an artist is very research driven, so I am really fortunate to have a job as a studio technician as I get to spend time working with students and see how they approach visualizing information. In the print classes at Cornell students are encouraged to research techniques and specific themes and I really enjoy working with students to bring these technical practices to use in the studio.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I enjoy the roles that being an artist affords me, to not only make artwork, but to participate in technical research, study history, build community, collaborate, share information, and contribute to and learn from the arts community.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
My process tends to be condensed creative bursts when generating new ideas. I have highly concentrated days of research, where I read texts, talk with historians/experts, and collect visual information; and a week or two later I sketch 10-20 ideas.
Generating matrixes after the initial sketches are completed, proofing and editioning are what I love; I find these actions very meditative. I am usually working on many projects and prints simultaneously – I like to work in very different mediums and projects at the same time such as complex transparent color layering in lithography paired with making photo intaglio plates. I enjoy this because it requires very different forms of thinking and visualization from one medium to the next to create the images, it’s like solving puzzles.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
I think my values and concerns have remained the same over the years, but my ability to research and communicate my ideas and different perspectives has become more sophisticated. Throughout undergraduate I hadn’t worked much digitally, so bringing the use of computers, software, text, printers into my artistic practices has changed how I approach realizing my ideas.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
I have to admit that I really love nuns, so some really important influences for me have been the research, literature, and artwork of 12th century Hildegard von Bingen. I also find the Sister Corita Kent very engaging for her ability to communicate love within political ideas.
The writings, prints, and paintings of William Blake are also dear to my heart, as I really like his interpretations of the world. History has also deeply impacted my artistic practice. I am endlessly fascinated with the blended history of printmaking as art and industry; and its role of distribution of knowledge, ideas, and social changes. I also find the artifacts of the ancient near east and the Roman Empire very interesting, as well as religious ritual.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
To support my education and artistic practice I had been a cake decorator for many years, and really enjoy this process of construction – it takes skill and muscle memory but also is a very clear step-by-step form of art to complete.
Now, if I had to choose any career outside of being an artist; it would be to serve as a teacher, technical researcher, archivist or historian. I am interested in occupations that communicate and advocate the value of art, history, and dissemination of information.
Jennifer Scheuer is the Printmaking Technician at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. She creates art discussing history, gender, healing and the body through the processes of photogravure, lithography, and book arts. Scheuer graduated with her MFA in Studio Art (Printmaking) from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2014. Scheuer attended the Tamarind Institute’s Printer Training Program in 2010, and is a recipient of the 2013 SGC International Graduate Fellowship. Jennifer Scheuer interned at the Hannaher Print Studio at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, ND during her senior year of undergraduate study at Minnesota State University Moorhead.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.