Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Conversation With Sharmon Davidson Jennings

Sharmon Davidson Jennings , a graduate of the Art Academy of Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky University and Gable Advertising Art School, uses her artwork to explore many themes including, nature and the universe. Her artwork contains colors, textures, and images that convey a mystical dreamlike quality. Jennings', currently residing in Taylor Mill, Kentucky took time out her schedule to talk about her artwork and her artistic methods. 

Can you tell us a little about your artwork and your artistic process?

Prayer- by Sharmon Davidson Jennings
I’ve been doing mixed media work, mainly on paper, starting back when I was working on my BFA. My process normally begins with a multi-layered monotype (usually 4 to 6 passes through the press), to which I add a variety of other media; the only exception is that occasionally I use a watercolor painting as the base layer.  Most of the media I use are transparent, to allow the underlying layers to show through.  As the layers build, this creates a certain degree of abstraction, even though real objects may be depicted.  The resulting blending and unity of images is an objective in conveying the content of my work.  I’ve also been adding more collage and even some stitching to my pieces lately. 

 Recently, I’ve taken a departure from this process, beginning a series of collages using maps as the primary material.  This series has more of a narrative and personal nature than my previous work.  Stylistically, I suppose my work would probably fit best into the symbolist and surrealist genres.

What inspires you as an artist? Why do you create art? 

Transformation 29-  by Sharmon Davidson Jennings
I create art out of a need to express the ideas I feel are most important.  Ultimately, I think art is about some type of communication, even if it’s only with ourselves.  My inspiration, very simply put, is nature; more specifically, I’m fascinated by how the universe works – by the relationships and connections between one thing and another. The other reason is simple: I have to – it’s what keeps me sane.  It’s an integral part of who I am; my earliest memory, from about age two or three, is of drawing. Sometimes, making art can be a way to work through emotions or struggles in my life, but there’s an aspect of the creative process that’s very meditative – when you’re in that “zone”, I believe the brain functions in a whole different way.  As artist Paul Klee said, “I make art so I don’t cry.”
What types of themes, ideas, or concepts do you explore within in your artwork?

Balance- by Sharmon Davidson Jennings
Most of my work centers on the concept of the unity and connectedness of everything in the universe.  A big subject, I know.  I’m kind of a science nerd, and have also, over the years, been a student of many types of nature-based spirituality.  Related to this is my conviction that every part of the earth is sacred.  Now more than ever, we have to treat the earth with respect.  At the most basic level, we are made of the same stuff as the stars, the trees, the air, the ocean.  Having come from the same source, we are all connected in the most intricate ways, both visible and invisible.  My most recent series of work explores the journey of life, on personal as well as universal levels.  Someone commented that they remind them of tarot cards- they are meant to convey that feeling of the archetypal journey.

Are there any artists that inspire you? If so, who would they 
be, and why?

Transformation 4- by Sharmon Davidson Jennings
There are lots, but I’ll try to restrict my answer to a few of the more important ones.  Probably my earliest influences were the surrealists; in particular I like the female surrealists: Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning, and Leonor Fini.  Their work seems more personal and primitive than that of the men.  And of course, Frida Khalo, who laid her emotions out there for everyone to see; that takes courage.  I admire the work of Odilon Redon – that romantic symbolism, but painted in a looser and almost expressionistic style – you can see the artist’s marks.  Another favorite is Francesco Clemente, for some of the same reasons, and for the way he creates ideograms by distorting the figure.

For you, what do you think the role of the artist is?

Ultimately, I think artists are both recorders and creators of human culture.  Think of prehistoric cave art, for example; the recording of the beliefs and visions of that culture also influenced how it evolved.  Artists can also be a powerful force for social change; like the canary in the coal mine, artists call attention to the problems that exist in human societies.
Dimensional Shift- by Sharmon Davidson Jennings

What’s the best and worst part about being an artist? How do you stay motivated?

The best part is getting to do what I love, and hopefully having people find some meaning in it.  It’s very gratifying when they respond in a positive way.  The worst part, I would have to say, is the business end of art; it’s tedious, and just finding time for all of it in addition to having any time to make the art can be difficult.   I stay motivated because it’s what I love to do, and it enriches my life immeasurably.  There are times when I don’t feel motivated, but I’ve learned from experience to just push on through.  It’s important, too, though, to take a break sometimes to re-charge.
And finally, what advice would you give to emerging artists?

Transformation 3- by Sharmon Davidson Jennings
Don’t give up, and don’t be afraid of failure!  There are many, many hours, days, even years involved in finding your authentic voice as an artist, as well as becoming proficient at navigating the complex and often confusing business end of art.   These things take time and experience, so don’t expect instant success, and don’t feel bad if you have to take a day job – most artists do.  It’s a learning process- hopefully one that will continue for your whole lifetime.  Personally, I’ve often wished I had saved all of my rejection letters, so I could wallpaper my studio with them! You have to learn to let rejection roll off your back.  But if you’re passionate about your work and your vision, just keep going, and you will get there.

For more information about  Jennings' and her artwork you can visit her website or visit her blog for more details.

All photos provided by Sharmon Davidson Jennings


Kathleen Krucoff said...

Great interview! I love Sharmon's work and in this post it's wonderful to get a glimpse of her motivation, inspiration and thoughts about art.

~ Kathleen Krucoff

Karin Bartimole said...

thanks for sharing Sharmon's work and interviewing here! I'm a big fan and find her art to be full of spirit, beauty, and depth. I very much enjoyed getting to know her better through your questions!

Seth said...

Wonderful interview. I have been following Sharmon's career for some time now and it is great to learn more about her and her process. Thank you!

Donna Iona Drozda said...

Excellent interview...Thanks so much for this share...

S.D.'s the real deal...deep and true and pretty dang capable of anything she puts her heart and mind to...

green light....all systems GO.

Shawn Daniell said...

Thanks for all your great comments everyone! More interviews coming shortly.

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