Last week I had the opportunity to set foot into an artist live/work space that I’ve been looking forward to all summer! Welcomed immediately by Jennifer Nagle Myers and her two outrageously adorable dogs, it set the scene perfectly for a great afternoon.
A real New Yorker, originally from the City, Jennifer now lives in Lawrenceville and shares a house with fellow artist Daniel Luchman. The space is open, airy and has a great energy - which their shared backyard with tree-high sunflowers definitely adds to. All the components for a successful work/live situation, which I can attest to personally!
It was interesting to interact with Jennifer’s work after talking about it with her a few months prior. She is not rooted to one form or medium but a lot of her work grapples with equality and celebrating women. This concept has been tackled for generations but her work is not repetitive or stale, rather, in her words, “tributes, memories and paying homage a lot.”
Speaking to this point, in Spring Jennifer participated in the wildly clever C. Finley curated 2014 Whitney Houston Biennial. It included 75 international female artists. For those of you who are scrunching your faces at the title - understand this was a reaction to the Whitney Biennial which still draws controversy for it’s lack of including female artists after more than forty years in existence.
Myers exhibited her Never-Ending Book of Women’s Rights. With five chapters thus far, she thinks it will be a lifetime project since it’s purpose is to celebrate women. Don’t take her book in too literal of a sense. It does include jottings of names but also emcompasses the use of slate, in all sizes. The pieces are both painted and stacked (Pages of Potential), piece by piece from the floor slowly up the wall.
“Staying on the edge of not knowing what the hell you are doing, fresh, moving into new fields.” We can all appreciate that attitude! And refreshing in a world of contemporary art that is sometimes over analyzed to the point of disinterest. Jennifer’s First Place Woman series is a great example of the quoted attitude. Her excitement over the work transitioning, not always with a direct result in mind, can be favored over the object itself.
50 lucky CSA PGH members were the recipients of a photographic capture of such work, all at a different transformation point. This was the project’s second rendition that was spawned from her solo exhibition Women in Time at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.
An aspect of Jennifer that I found very cool, not just in her work but also her nature, is the collaboration she forged with Art Creation Foundation for Children in Jacmel, Haiti. This occurred during her residency at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh alongside Daniel Luchman. Both artists sought out the foundation in order to commission papier mache eyeballs that were eventually attached to the inflatable portion of their installation, Queen Simon and the Sommeloth. Artists helping artists is a fantastic trend and one that I’m happy to continually witness here in Pittsburgh. Although, taking it to Haiti brings a whole new perspective to the act!
Her influences can be attributed to different people, many places and a life full of memories. When entering her studio an inspiration collaged wall grants your attention. Many treasures are hanging but the framed, pen-signed note from Roald Dahl, one of her biggest inspirations and a response to the letter she sent him in 3rd grade about her 400 page story “The Fence,” and a curious little painting Friends or Foes by Frederic Remington first struck me.
Jennifer’s family has also served as a great influence. Her parents were both journalists and her illustrations appear in her father’s book of adventuring short stories. Additionally, Jennifer spoke warmly about her Aunt Patti who was a huge force in her life. “A total, true artist….an outside artist driven by a bit of insanity that was managed really well.”
If you’d like to catch the lady in action, save the date for December 12, 2014 as she translates her public performances for one night only as part of New Hazlett Theater’s CSA Performing Artists series.
Jennifer, thank you for inviting us into your treasured space and sharing your stories and inspirations.
Adventure on, Treaders! ~C. Smith
All masterful photographs taken by Tyler Banash.