Jen Dwyer: Representing Sexual Subjugation Through Sculpture
“Our current political and social climate is arguably the most divisive, chaotic, and turbulent period that anyone of my generation or younger has ever experienced in this country. With the recent election, it's impossible to turn on the news, open a social media app or even listen to podcast without hearing strong discourse” Artist Jen Dwyer shares with us, “Having always been interested in women’s bodies- this election, once again, made it apparent how women’s stories of sexual subjugation are socially minimized and repressed as taboo. I also do think there are interesting parallels that can be drawn between this time and other art movements in the past– one example is comparing now to the middle of last century during the Fluxus movement in the 60s, those artists responded to modernized culture that was becoming increasingly more restrictive.” She continues. “These Artists sought to challenge what was considered ‘normal’ in a time when specifically suburban culture of the developed world was tightening up. Perhaps a similar movement will or has already started in response to recent events of our election and political hemisphere.”
Artist: Jen Dwyer
Born in: San Francisco, CA
Based in: Brooklyn, NY – but living in Indiana while working on my MFA at University of Notre Dame
Inspirations: Intersectional feminism, alchemy, California, Norse mythology, popular culture & all freaks
Themes in your work: I’m inspired by what’s currently happening around us. After reading an article, listening to the news or a podcast that will usually spark an idea, which I then respond. Much of my work deals with the subjugation of women’s bodies. I’m currently working on a new body of work, Not Your Baby, in response to our current administration’s goals to defund Planned Parenthood. The last body of work I made, Current Mood, was started when Trump was nominated in response to the Access Hollywood tape that was released. At the time, it still felt like a bad dream he was even elected.
“I’ve found that the delicacy of the material combined with my subject matter creates an unusual juxtaposition”
About your pieces:
I’ve found it’s important to give myself parameters in my making. I’ve chosen porcelain as one of my constants to create hand-built and slip-casted sculptures and installations. I’ve found that the delicacy of the material combined with my subject matter creates an unusual juxtaposition. I love clay both because of its alchemy and history. Its always uncertain what your work will look like when you unload a kiln and porcelain is unique because of its historical content rooted in European history. At one point it was more valuable than gold, then the European courts raced to create porcelain that could rival Asia, however all the recipes were kept secret. The secrecy of ceramics both, historically and currently is another fascinating layer to the medium. I’m also intrigued in mediums that do take a level of skill to realize a piece of installation.
Can you remember a specific experience from your life that has shaped who you are and what you do as an artist today?
My high school art teacher was a really important voice in my childhood. She let me do whatever I wanted without boundaries, dissimilar to every other class and part of my life at the time. That freedom to have my own voice, through my making, at a young age was very transformative. I’m also a super sensitive and introverted person and I find art enables me to express things I probably wouldn’t otherwise say.
Do you think your ethnicity, gender, and/or personal preferences drove you to- wards becoming an artist?
Definitely my gender and personality have led me to becoming an artist. I have been in many situations, I didn’t feel comfortable being my introverted, sensitive self. That’s probably why my work has become so important– because art is limitless. The combination of creating something all on my own and saying what I think without censorship is a pretty great. Especially when we are living in a time that is becoming increasingly restrictive and everything’s seems to be under surveillance– I’ve found the freedom to say what I think a very crucial part of my practice. And because we live in a capitalist patriarchal society that loves to subjugate women and minorities– I create work in response to current events based on these subjects.
Artists are some of the most politically/socially engaged people. Do you find yourself actively supporting a particular movement or cause?
Oh there are so many not sure which one to state first. I think the defunding of Planned Parenthood, the safety of trans kids and girls of color seem to be on my mind often. But the list could go on and on. Starting to educate kids at an early age is crucial. Organizations like www.transstudent.org/donate start that literacy process of acceptance at an early age. They teach kids to not only accept others but also feel empowered to be themselves.
What are the main obstacles you have had to overcome as an artist? Finding the confidence to create something for hours a day that doesn’t necessarily have an economic gain is what I’ve found to be really challenging. Especially outside of art school, when it’s not a totally normal thing to spend endless hours making art every day. Trying to explain to other people that aren't artist why I spend most of my days and nights in my studio has been a bit of struggle– even to other artists that don’t work in a process-based medium can be difficult to explain.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Speak out, protest and donate.
“Having always been interested in women’s bodies- this election, once again, made it apparent how women’s stories of sexual subjugation are socially minimized and repressed. My work deals with those stories”