Jenny Nelson, Accidental Storyteller

Carrie Haddad Gallery
Aug 21, 2017 3:58PM

Jenny Nelson, Good Magic, 2017, 48" X 48", oil on canvas

Although the 60-by-60-inch painting currently commanding Carrie Haddad Gallery’s front room is Jenny Nelson’s largest work to date, it’s not the scale of her paintings that has devoted fans and collectors flocking to Hudson this month.

“I’m always looking for the story in her work,” one gallery visitor, a collector of Jenny’s work, professed—and she’s not alone. Ever since the exhibition’s opening on August 12, visitors to the gallery have enthusiastically shared their personal interpretations of the non-representational works. Between perceived landscapes, seascapes, flora, and faces, it seems like Jenny Nelson’s organic blocks of color and sweeping brushstrokes convey a different meaning to each viewer.

“See that?” another gallery visitor admired that same afternoon, leaning in to examine a few strokes spanning the length of her palm. “That looks like a boulevard.”

"Abstractions" Installation at Carrie Haddad Gallery, on view through Sept. 24, 2017. Pictured here: Jenny Nelson, Sunshine By Noon, 2017, 60" X 60", oil on canvas

Perhaps the irony in all of this is Jenny’s deliberate aversion to representational images. “I think many people have a natural need to identify and name things in abstract work,” she remarked in a conversation with art writer John Seed. “A reference to something familiar is comforting. I hear people mention that they see this or that in my paintings all the time. That’s fine, but I am perfectly comfortable not seeing anything recognizable.”

With this ideology, she’s come a long way from her training as a representational painter, which occurred at The Maine College of Art, Bard College, and the Lacoste School of the Arts. Since then, she’s made a career as an abstract artist, creating works characterized by subdued colors, softly applied layers of paint, and compositions planned to work from every angle.

Jenny Nelson, Fill the Sails, 2017, 48" X 48", oil on canvas

Jenny Nelson at work in the studio

Let’s take a glimpse into her studio. In Jenny’s paintings, the composition is approached radially rather than vertically or horizontally. To achieve this, Jenny “spins” the canvas as she works. Rotating the painting as it develops allows Jenny to identify a composition that's satisfying no matter the orientation. Moreover, her meticulous attention to balancing the piece from all directions presents any one “object” from appearing, and so by definition the piece remains faithfully non-objective. Relieved of a focal point, visual interest is spread across the canvas, from small and intricate crevices to broad expanses of color.

There’s a story below the surface of the work, too. Jenny’s style is soft in texture, achieved through the gradual application of layers throughout the painting process. The translucent outer layers provide a window to what lies beneath, lending the painting a very tangible history—and serving to remind us of the very human endeavor that is art.

Jenny Nelson in her studio beside Tide In, 2017, 48" X 48", oil on canvas

Carrie Haddad Gallery