Saranac Lake artist Jenny Curtis prepares for her first solo exhibition, which takes place at ROTA Gallery in Plattsburgh until Thursday, Jan. 10.
PLATTSBURGH — For local artist Jenny Curtis, it all begins with nature.
She finds inspiration all around her, from the forests that surround her home in Saranac Lake to the spot along the Jackrabbit Ski Trail in the Eastern High Peaks where the red pines stand tall and thin.
“I get a lot of inspiration from nature and organic forms,” Curtis said. “Right now I’m really obsessed with how organic forms repeat in nature, everywhere in everything. I think about it all the time.”
Lately, those repeating patterns have inspired such paintings as “Baby Teeth,” a turbulent array of colors and patterns all transposed according to an unwritten, abstract theme.
A wild range of reds holds the piece together, with yellows, blues and black punctuating them, and in the upper left corner, what appears to be a mouth holds a set of small teeth.
One tooth appears to have escaped, and is connected to the orifice via a thin, wavy line.
But then again, maybe the tooth didn’t become free of the mouth, maybe that’s how the mouth acquires new teeth.
Or maybe that isn’t even a mouth at all.
While some artists strive, and sometimes fail, to instill a direct sense of meaning into their work, Curtis prefers to leave that up to the viewer.
“I like to hear what other people have to say about my work,” Curtis said. “I’ve learned a lot about my paintings by listening to others.”
Her newer pieces, like “Baby Teeth,” and one she simply refers to as “The Big One,” reflect a less-direct, almost stream-of-consciousness approach to painting, while her older work seems to be more pointed.
Painting isn’t the only medium she employs, either.
One of Curtis’ sculptures, “The Horse,” is just that—a paper sculpture of a horse.
But it isn’t just a horse. The animal’s back is bent to give the entire piece a circular look, and there are yarn and polymer-forged intestines dangling from its belly.
“I explore death a lot because that’s part of nature’s cycle,” Curtis said. “The way things decompose and get turned into other things is intriguing to me. Humans have an aversion to death, but death isn’t necessarily bad—it’s just a part of life.”
Curtis likes to incorporate real objects into her art when she can.
The teeth on “The Horse” were made using a cast of Curtis’ own teeth, and there is milkweed fluff imbedded in the polymer discs that hang from the animal’s stomach.
She also used real hair—some of her own, some of her mom’s, and some from her professor’s sister—to create the animal’s mane, tail and nostril hair.
And then there is the chandelier, which is comprised of a lamp shade from which fawn bones hang like a mobile for a baby coyote.
“I found those fawn bones in the forest, and I liked their delicacy,” Curtis said. “I liked how they were still in the form of an animal.”
Curtis admits that some of her themes might seem morbid, but she insists that they really just explore nature as it is, and adds that a lot of her work, like “Boy with the Pearl Earring,” which was inspired by Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with the Pearl Earring,” is done with good humor in mind.
“A lot of my work is humorous,” Curtis said. “I have videos that are just nonsensical and absurd. I think humor is a very important part of the creative process.”
Curtis has been making art her entire life, and utilizes several mediums. She is currently finishing a Bachelor in Fine Arts degree in painting and drawing from SUNY New Paltz.
Her work has been shown at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts and at various shows in New Paltz.
Curtis’ first solo exhibition, which includes all of the above described pieces, as well as photographs, video, sculptures and oil and acrylic paintings, opened at ROTA Gallery in Plattsburgh on Dec. 30 and runs until Thursday, Jan. 10.
The gallery is open daily from noon-5 p.m., and all of Curtis’ work is for sale.
For more information, visit rotagallery.com.