Jenn Houle: Meteors are Space Eggs
September 16 - October 11, 2018
Opening Reception: Sunday, September 16, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Using the language of paint and installation I fold beauty and darkness into visually complex and contemplative spaces where things may not be quite as they seem. The spectrum between natural and man-made is explored throughout my work. In my most recent installation, “You and Me”, I turn inward to explore my personal ties to the natural world, how it has impacted and defined me, and to discover why I am drawn to certain subjects. In this installation I include paintings, drawings from recent residencies in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, painted sculptures, cut metal, and found objects. I offer a playful, earnest and personal reflection of our interconnectedness.
Jenn Houle Bio:
Jenn Houle lives in Massachusetts and teaches at Fitchburg State University. She received a BFA from Massachusetts College of Art and an MFA from Cornell University. Houle has held artist residencies in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Vermont Studio Center, and the Plumbing Museum and exhibits her work widely. Houle has been awarded grants from the Puffin Foundation, Massachusetts Cultural Council, Cornell Council for the Arts, Einaudi Foundation, and John Hartell Graduate Award for Art and Architecture.
Jenn Houle: Meteors are Space Eggs
Is the earth a seeded planet? Did a meteor or some other interplanetary body hit one inhabited world and travel across the cosmos carrying its bacteria, then impact the earth leaving microscopic ‘life forms’ to seed our planet? A theory that Jenn Houle contemplates from time to time when looking at nature as it plays out against the ever-expanding known universe.
With Houle’s Searching for Life series of paintings, the night sky sometimes falls to earth enveloping critters captured by motion-activated cameras. Other times, we see a more abstract thought distilled in the Looking Up, Looking Down paintings where the presence of a spiritual or otherworldly energy comes to the fore. And not unlike the more visionary paintings of Charles Burchfield, Houle finds a deeper reality in our existence that manifests itself in a multi-verse of images, transitions and impermanence.
There is rawness in all the work of Houle, a nakedness of the truth that occurs in a unique time and space continuum that is both vaguely familiar and completely natural. The world never stops. Each and every moment is filled with life. That reality, that relationship to a never-ending daily, weekly, monthly or yearly cycle is a fragile one, one built upon a balance that can be irreparably tipped to the point of no return.
Thankfully, Houle’s art reminds us that we share the world with all living things on our tiny blue dot in the sky. The energy she paints with, the expressiveness of her techniques and the boldness of her subjects brings us closer to nature, while her ability to abstract reality, her presentation of alternating ‘facts’ can pull us back into a time and place where the sense of a universal state, a cosmic state of being in an incomprehensibly vast universe can overwhelm us.
When looking at Houle’s Warm Nothingness (2016), an intimately sized acrylic painting, we sense a haunting presence of life lost as each soul returns to the endless heavens. You can almost hear the sound such a transition from ‘life’ to ‘everlasting’ might make in the cold blackness between the stars. The Looking Up, Looking Down paintings all have that sense of transition, even transcendence. It is all about a passing from one plane to another – an endless field beyond, uncontrolled or unfettered by time.
In the Searching for Life paintings Fox and hole, waxing gibbous (1/28/18 9:39:13AM) (2018) and Forty-five seconds of coyote time (12/26/17) (2018) Houle, and the viewer by extension, becomes the voyeur experiencing the critical days and the creepy night of indigenous life that is wholly instinctual and habitually persistent. She reminds us with her blue night scenes and earthy day-time depictions that our mental state is shaped by our awareness of our surroundings – knowing or not knowing what is out there as we wonder what makes our environment complete – and understanding how much we lose when we force our way into untouched lands. And as we move away from survival of the fittest to the conquering of the unfairly forceful we lose something very dear and very basic. We lose our chance to experience that natural balance between peace and peril that is quickly lost under our need for uncompromising comfort.
D. Dominick Lombardi
WORKSHOP WITH ARTIST JENN HOULE
Saturday, August 25, 12 pm - 4 pm
Explore the spectrum between representation and abstraction in nature and investigate the relationship between painting and photography. This one day workshop will bridge the two media and act as a catalyst for a deeper conceptual understanding of painting. Participants will use their favorite photos as reference to investigate the language of paint. Jenn Houle will demonstrate painting approaches including mark-making, color relationships and glazing, and methods of abstraction.
Funding has been made possible by The Puffin Foundation, Ltd.
Hampden Gallery Hours:
Hampden Pop-up Gallery hours:
Monday: 1:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Tuesday:1:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Wednesday: 4:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Thursday: 12:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Friday: 12:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
*Follows the University's holiday schedule
Main Number: (413) 545-0680
Gallery Director, Anne LaPrade Seuthe
Gallery Manager, Sally Curcio