CONVERGING: JAYNE HOLSINGER’S WOMEN & LANDSCAPES, a micro-interview with Elaine Sexton
Waiting in line at Cooper Union in New York for a panel discussion of artists and editors, a chance meeting with the Jayne Holsinger resulted in a studio visit a few weeks later. This artist’s new work shifts the narrative from one kind of access, women driving on the road, to another: figures of (mostly women) stepping right into the landscape itself.
ELAINE SEXTON: In “Discovering Oz” and “Kingless Throne,” two of your most recent works, the figures you paint seem to morph with or be supplicant to the natural world they explore. In earlier work there’s more of a balance between the women and where they find themselves or where you place them – driving cars, at the edge of a lake, a vista, a prairie. What drew you to choose this subject matter, and how has it shifted from painting the women in the environment, on the road, and road trips, themselves?
JAYNE HOLSINGER: Your observation is perceptive. This is a curated selection of a larger body of work painted over the last 20 years, and nicely highlights some of my concerns as an artist and painter. The shift is as much in the approach to painting, as it is in the relationship between the figure and the environment. As I’m working in the studio, I’m referencing memory and photographs that I’ve either taken myself, or found.
In the beginning I wanted to be crystal clear, having been inspired by the portraiture of artists such as Hans Memling (Northern Renaissance). I was using glazing techniques and building up surfaces over time on wood panels. In the original Women Drivers series, the work is small and the subjects are composed intimately and close in. I adapted the motif from early car ads in women’s magazines, but the people I paint are my friends and family. I simultaneously portray landscapes out the window of the moving car.
Once I placed the figures within the landscape, the paintings became more narrative and suggested a level of engagement whether the woman is camping, exploring, gathering firewood or simply viewing a vista.
Over time this interest has shifted increasingly to our relationship with the natural environment, becoming more intentional and active. In 2010 I started working more in gouache (an opaque watercolor). The looseness and immediacy of that medium— working on the wall and on the floor— brought a lot of energy into the painting. My color palette also expanded. I felt this appropriate to larger landscapes and the freedom they required. The painting “Patty” is the largest oil from this period, and takes as its location, the Havasupai Canyon off the southern rim of the Grand Canyon. We hiked in around 10 miles and camped by the falls.
These days I’m liking the openness of contemporary European painters such as Peter Doig and Mamma Andersson. The most recent work shown here was created at an Australian artists residency that specializes in the environment, BigCi, where I bush walked daily and experienced an entirely different continent of flora and fauna. If the new work seems less equitable in its balance it’s probably due to the fact I’m responding with a studio on site. You might say that the figures (my fellow residents) have completely merged into the immensity of nature that surrounds them.
JAYNE HOLSINGER (b. Mishawaka, IN) is a figurative painter whose work explores landscape and memory, both spatial and personal. Amongst her thematic series she has painted Women Drivers, Mennonites, National Parks, and American Stills. Holsinger studied painting at the New York Studio School for 3 years (late 70’s-early 80’s) and holds an MFA in New Media from the Transart Institute in Linz, Austria (2007). Her paintings have been exhibited in group exhibitions and solo exhibitions both nationally and internationally including the Shedhalle, Zurich, Topkapi Palace, Instanbul, Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, Margaret Thatcher Projects, New York, and Pensacola Museum of Art, Pensacola. Holsinger has received support and awards from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation (two grants), New York Foundation for the Arts (two grants), the Joan Michell Foundation, the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation, and the Vermont Studio Center. She is an assistant professor at Borough of Manhattan Community College, New York and has been at Montclair State University, New Jersey for 14 years where she teaches color. http://www.jayneholsinger.com/