Interview

Abstract Visions and Rhythmic Feels: Interview with Painter Jenna Ransom

Marga Patterson 21 February 2022 min Read

Jenna Ransom is a contemporary painter whose work is guided by intuition and imagination. Abstract visions of lively, ambiguous shapes and familiar forms float within luminous spaces. Shadows bend and morph between translucent veils of color. Ransom creates soft paintings that reveal an ethereal language leaving more to discover. She also makes spontaneous graphite drawings filled with obscured symbols and recognizable motifs. Her routine is ‘’paintings in the daytime, drawings after sundown.’’ Each artwork is deeply hypnotic and charged with rhythmic feels. In this interview, Ransom talks about her practice, process, and how she loves getting lost in the work.

Summary

  • Ransom shares about intuitive art practice and processes
  • Both soft paintings and textured drawings resonate an otherworldliness
  • Ransom reveals her influences and inspirations
  • Hard work and determination are keys to exposing your artwork

Practice and Process

MP: Can you talk about your paintings?

JR: They more or less are started on a color, then I’ll create a bunch of layers. I like to make glowing, iridescent backgrounds with layers, then start to wipe away the paint. I’ll go in and start looking for forms that I can already see within the piece, then add darker tones to help the forms pop out and see what happens with the piece. I’m not consciously making them, but I’m in control.

The paintings are about feelings, fleeting memories. I’m hoping to make forms that I haven’t quite seen before or that don’t feel as familiar, but you can somehow connect with them. Forms of astrology, petroglyphs, or written languages that I don’t know. Familiar forms also appear like floral motifs, musical notes, or plant life figures. The forms kind of morph into their own beings. It’s about a mood and I don’t quite know when the paintings are done. I do know that I’m never going to make the same painting twice.

Jenna Ransom

Jenna Ransom in her studio, 2021. Courtesy of the artist.

Jenna Ransom

Jenna Ransom, Season of the Witch, 2021. Courtesy of the artist.

MP: What’s cooking in your color palette?

JR: I have shifted from my blues and purples. I’m trying to bring in some brighter colors. I always use white adding it to every pigment to create this glowing feel. Lately, I’ve been putting more color into the work. It’s helped to bring in this otherworldly experience that I’m trying to create. I’m starting to like reds in my work. The weather and seasons also bring different colors.

Jenna Ransom

Jenna Ransom, Cornucopia, 2021. Courtesy of the artist.

MP: What about your drawings?

JR: The drawings are definitely a meditative process that I hope appear that way for the viewer. Up close, you can tell they are really handmade, which I love to see in art. The artist’s touch is really important to me. I only work with graphite pencils and leave the color for the paintings. I really appreciate the shine of the graphite, the simplicity of the material. I don’t use erasers. I’m attracted to imperfections. I like it when there is something under the paper and the marks show through as I’m making the drawing. It’s like this accidental effect.

JR: I find the image as I’m making it. The drawings are all about the marks and the forms that happen. I normally make them on a table. I’ll start in the upper left-hand corner and go across. They’re almost like a weaving on a loom with the forms slowly coming into view. The drawings evolve without planning the shapes and movements. I like to work spontaneously on them.

MP: Is there a connection between your paintings and drawings?

JR: Yes, definitely. They speak to one another. Finding the forms and the spontaneous evolution of the pieces are similar. There is a lot of shifting of where I thought the piece was going to go and then it becomes something else entirely. I’m drawn to that in my work and in other people’s work. Getting lost in the work is a wonderful place to be in your practice. I try to do that in my work. Hopefully, it comes across as that, a loss of the self, this unconscious mindset. It’s nice to see them together in the studio or in person because there’s definitely a nice surprise. I usually show my paintings and drawings separately in an exhibition.

Jenna Ransom

Jenna Ransom, Strange Fruit, 2021. Courtesy of the artist.

Motivations and Influences

MP: What motivates you to make work and keep working?

JR: My daughter is a constant presence in my mind, so it’s a now or never kind of thing. This motivates me to keep making work. It’s really important to me to be an active, daily artist. Having a home studio works for me because I have my daughter so I can get little bits done here and there. We’re a good team. I try to maintain a balance of studio and life. This is a good space to make my work.

I’m not a person that needs the perfect studio or space to make work, I can make it on the go. Although, I have found that without a studio, I have always felt a bit lost. It’s important to have your space to go to and the flexibility to create. Otherwise, my brain would be overflowing with thought. I have to get it out on paper at least. I think about this now as a mother. Your time and place to make art is valued so much more as a parent because your day revolves around the care of another person.

Jenna Ransom

Jenna Ransom, Floral Notes, 2021. Courtesy of the artist.

MP: Do you feel you are part of a creative community?

JR: Yeah, I feel like I am. I have a well-versed, supportive peer group in the art-making world, the social media world, and people from my past. Sometimes, I feel a bit removed having a home studio, but I think that everyone is just trying to make work right now. It’s not about going to a studio and socializing.

MP: Can you share your inspirations and influences?

JR: Music is part of my practice. I listen to a lot of music. The city. It’s always thriving and there’s always energy. I love going to see what my peers are making. Visiting museums. Going on walks and looking at things is another inspiration of mine. Really just zoning out, so when I come back to the studio, I can feel as connected as I can.

Artists who influence me are Lois Dodd, Marsden Hartley, Hilma Af Klimt, Milton Avery. I’ve been connecting to Monet lately. I can really get lost in a (Pierre) Bonnard painting. I love Charles Burchfield’s paintings. Living artists who inspire me are Stanley Whitney and Alicia Adamerovich. One of my friends, Lumin Wakoa’s work. Loren Erdich. Her imagery, the softness, and the colors. It’s always the colors that do it for me.

Jenna Ransom

Jenna Ransom, Butterfly on my Tongue, 2021. Courtesy of the artist.

Working Artist

MP: How do you seek out exhibition opportunities?

JR: It’s usually just crossing paths with someone and they’ll want to come to the studio. Or, it’s being at the right place at the right time. Knowing a certain someone is going to be at an opening and actively go and talk with them. Other times, it’s through an Instagram post or I’ll take a gamble and apply to open call shows. You definitely need to put yourself out there.

MP: Aside from art-making, what else interests you?

JR: I enjoy writing. Like just nonsense writing. Words forming into other words. Traveling. I want to be traveling more. I’m always traveling in my mind. Being healthy. I recently taught myself macramé. I collect records and love to find rare records. I’m interested in antiques and love treasure hunting. It’s fun to see what you can make from things that are broken too.

Jenna Ransom

Jenna Ransom, Eating A Peach Sky, 2021. Courtesy of the artist.

MP: What are you currently working on?

JR: I’m currently making large drawings on found, thin, blue print paper. I’m exploring how I’m finishing the piece at the end. I want to make a series of 7 large drawings and we’ll see what happens.

Jenna Ransom

Jenna Ransom, work in progress, 2022. Courtesy of the artist.

MP: Near Future Goals?

JR: To get more work out. I want to be producing as much as possible and stay as humanely connected as I can. I just can’t turn into a machine. I have more studio visits coming up and I want to get into more group shows. Something else will definitely come up. I would love to show in LA and I think my work would really fit on the West Coast.


Jenna Ransom studied Fine Arts at Roanoke College in Virginia and completed a Masters in Fine Art Painting at Pratt. She lives and works in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York. Her DIY ethics and hard work have paid off with multiple exhibitions around the NYC area. Ransom’s impulsive mark-making reminds us to slow down, connect with our unconscious mind and take a break from the virtual world. Her insatiable drive and steadfast discipline to make art inspire working artists to keep the dream alive.

Jenna Ransom

Jenna Ransom, Go Lightly. Courtesy of the artist.

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