Celestial imagery, the night sky, and ethereal fields are all subject matter for Jen Ament. Her practice, which includes both printmaking and encaustic painting, draws inspiration from Pacific Northwest subcultures and natural imagery. Ament’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions throughout the West Coast and in New York City. She received a BFA from the San Francisco Academy of Art in 1995, and has since studied at the Gage Academy of Art and the Pratt Fine Arts Center.
We visited Jen in her thoughtfully curated West Seattle home and then travelled to her light-filled studio which is located about a mile away. Jennifer’s warmth and energy radiates directly from the works she creates.
Photography by Rachael Lang
Tell us about your practice. What does a normal day in the studio look like? Do you have any rituals or daily practices that inform your routine?
When I am super excited about a direction it’s easier, but most days it takes a lot of motivation for me to get into the studio. Great snacks are deal maker for me and get me excited to be there. I prep myself to be at the studio all day and my ritual of filling a thermos full of PG Tips Black Tea is crucial.
I never go in for just an hour or two, when I commit myself to the studio I am there all day and sometimes until late. If something disrupts my flow, I have a hard time coming back from it. I usually get in the studio three days a week. I actually need recovery time the other days. I go hard when I am there and my body and mind get really overworked. I do business related things and emails from home the other days of the week.
How does the culture and environment of the Pacific Northwest influence your process and work?
My life experience has influenced much of my work. Musicians, mystics, and artists are the people who have led me to my path. The Northwest had a huge impact on my early work and my experiences in the music scene informed my practice as well.
The practices of woodblock printing and encaustic painting have both had a huge impression in the Northwest. I used to frequent the Davidson Gallery in Pioneer Square, which had a ton of shows of local and world-renowned woodblock printers. These works had a Japanese quality to them and were just stunning. I wanted to use the medium in a more modern, contemporary way and it took me years to figure out an approach that didn’t look “crafty”. I consider my linocuts to be modern version of wood block printing. The PNW also had some amazing encaustic painters in the 90’s that paved the way for artists now and some of these artists are still around, teaching at the local art schools.
Street culture from all over the world has always been a huge influence for me, I have always been drawn to others who have experienced struggle, have worked through it, and not been a victim of it. I can easily spot the artist who understands struggle and I relate to their work more than any others. I find the subtle humor and authenticity in their work to be the most interesting.
Who/what are your major influences? Who are you currently following?
I look to the incredibly small number of women in the arts from decades past. I have so many I could list here: Hilma af Klint, Emma Kunz, Arbus, Mamma Andersson, Dorothy Lannone, Louise Bourgeouis, Judy Seidman’s early apartheid resistance posters from the 1980’s, many of the political posters from the unnamed women fighting against the Vietnam war and race wars of the 1960’s. There are so few women in printmaking in the past (that were probably published unnamed) it's almost shocking how that medium was mostly ruled by men. So much good work. Also, I can’t leave out Raymond Pettibon, Mark Mothersbaugh, and Marcel Dzama.
Any new projects or directions? Tell us about what you are currently working on.
Yes! I am really excited about the new direction I am moving in – I’m bringing literal images into my encaustic work. I carve into the wax layer of each of these paintings as opposed to relief work in which one carves around the image. So, it’s the same but opposite and now on large-scale paintings. I build up the wax so it looks three-dimensional and I fill it with pigment or gold leaf. It becomes very hard and yet still has a beautiful sheen. I have been working so feverishly on these, I just pulled a disc on my back and am finally getting to doing this interview! The Frye is a never-ending source of inspiration, and one of the cultural gems of Seattle, so this is a treat. Thank you for having me here!
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