Briefly describe the work you do.
My work explores states of change between order and chaos that relate to an experience or environmental shift. Painting and Installation Art are modes of communicating the sensitivity to environmental factors; these practices provide me with a cadence and context through which to communicate utopian elegance, or dystopian plight. Installation allows me to explore the constant challenge of shifting my ideas into a new physical space. The work invokes the history of abstraction, architecture, landscape, natural disaster, and a tactile response image making in some way between each type of creative approach.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I have always traveled and been influenced by location & experiences. Before I went to art school I was a computer technician and laser light operator for corporate events and underground parties. The experience of coming to a vacant space, enhancing the atmosphere with lights and other visuals, jolting the audience with color and sound felt akin to painting…in some ways. When I was in graduate school I was living between two houses, in two different locations. This displacement affected the way I made work, and still does. Movement is an elixir to the way I create.
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 work aligns with two opposing ways of creating: producing every element from scratch and making every component by hand and working with the found and rearranging in a new context.
Painting, or at least the way I paint, occurs in a very traditional space. I am usually situated in a studio, white walls, good light, drawers filled with paint work from layers, fat over lean, usually without a plan or drawing. My sketchbooks are important when I am away from the studio, they allow me access to the main space of creation. And then there is Installation. The gallery/space/site becomes my studio for the duration of the build my studio is on location. I rummage though garbage; collect from odd sources, contact various sources for specific components for the installation and in some cases get to pick items from other artists studios. When I create installations/assemblages my studio is mobile. This collecting process contributes to the content of the work. I usually have to go though a ritualistic type of process which includes isolation to keep focused through the build. Installation art is very, very, physical work; climbing ladders, sometimes hanging from ceilings, pinned underneath sharp objects…fun stuff!
My paintings have a very finished state; my installations are temporary. These two ways of thinking about when a work of art is “done” and what happens afterwards keep me engaged.
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 never thought I would be making installations or teaching. I thought I would just be a quiet painter writing poetry and making images. I remember seeing the work of Sarah Sze when I was in undergrad at the Carnegie International, thinking, she is totally free with how she is interpreting space, playing with material, guiding the viewer, playing with the limitations and inventing new ways of interacting…why can’t I do that? It took me another 6 years before I would give myself the permission needed to answer that question.
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?
At night! I have never been a morning person. Although If I am able to work between 9-12 am this time slot seems to have a good cadence with my day. When I paint I have to have a schedule. Painting is a fluid process for me. When I am on location making a work…I just have to have all my materials and copious amounts of coffee, no distractions and no commitments other than making the work. Sculpture/installation is immersive and allows me to focus in a different, more dynamic way. However, finding time is always a challenge.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
Starting to find comfort in working outside the studio. Since all my installations are created on site in a gallery or gallery like setting I have to be flexible. That was never taught in school. This idea of being flexible and willing to change and idea or placement of an item in the work creates discovery. This is now one of the most exciting components of the work.
My process within painting has changed, but the only constant is having a studio space to create some work.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
Artist influences: Gerhard Richter, Lebbeus Woods, Kurt Schwitters, Zaha Hadid, Sarah Sze, and Julie Mehretu. My close artist friends are really the biggest source if inspiration, my artistic community means everything to me.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
An Architect. Architecture has the capacity to influence the way we behave, live, and create in a profound way.
Jennifer Omaitz received her BFA in Painting from the Cleveland Institute of Art and her MFA in Painting from Kent State University. Omaitz has been exhibiting her work in Cleveland and Denver since 2002. Omaitz continues to blend practices of painting, drawing and sculpture in her installations. Her work confronts ideas of interior and exterior, construction and destruction, physical and psychological landscapes. Her most recent exhibition roster includes a site-specific installation commissioned for the 2010 Biennial of the Americas in Denver, Colorado, a solo show with the Sculpture Center, 2011, in Cleveland, OH and was recently was invited in 2013 to make a site specific installation for the exhibition “Everything All At Once,” at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.