Meet

Nefertiti Jenkins

Where are you from and where do you reside?
I was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado but have lived most of life in southern New Jersey with my family. After attending graduate school in Los Angeles I’ve since returned home to Bordentown.
What necessities do you require when making your art (radio, specific paintbrushes)?
A full stomach, some sort of beverage on standby, and music. In a more material sense I’ve found mop brushes to be a newfound essential tool with the way I paint, I hadn’t used them prior to this year and they make a huge difference.
What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?
Knowing when to walk away and step back when a painting begins falling apart. Sometimes simpler is better with certain aspects of my work and full fledged, accurate renderings don’t always benefit the image.
How do you choose your materials?
If I’m more confident about the image I intend to create, I reach for paper as my surface. Pieces on canvas usually happen when it’s less clear what the finished image will be, and when I want room to play and potentially start over without destroying the integrity of what I’m painting on.

How has your work developed in the past few years, and how do you see it evolving in the future?
I used to start painting with only a vague concept in mind, hoping it would solidify into something tangible. Now I have folders with references, I sketch things out, I sometimes make studies, and I move a lot more deliberately. While I still focus on scenes and defined figures, I’ve shifted my focus to the periphery of these images. A figure may enmesh and assimilate with the space and perhaps a face won’t be present. Maybe a hand or a leg can convey a feeling more accurately than an explicit facial expression. I can picture a further shift into surrealism, but I can’t envision exactly how at this moment.
You recently completed your MFA at Otis College of Art & Design. How did graduation during quarantine affect the work you were making toward the end of your program?
While a lot of my work already addressed themes of privacy, intimacy, and closeness, those themes suddenly took a far more potent and thoughtful turn. I had to live with my paintings inside of my bedroom and was able to see the direct reflection of my living space translated into a painted world. It felt like an echo chamber, since my lived space was now up on the wall in the same room I took the images from. Having the elements of my dwelling on display next to their painted representations was eye opening. It reinforced how warmth, touch, comfort, and memory have a huge impact upon what I paint and how I paint, especially when that was no longer viable during quarantine. It felt risky since I was receding into myself and my bedroom. Being confronted by the paintings made the subject matter feel so loud and overwhelming at times. I feel more thoughtful about what I choose to render now and my interest in banality took a deeper turn than I thought possible.
Slant
While I still focus on scenes and defined figures, I’ve shifted my focus to the periphery of these images. A figure may enmesh and assimilate with the space and perhaps a face won’t be present. Maybe a hand or a leg can convey a feeling more accurately than an explicit facial expression. — Nefertiti Jenkins
Do you remember the first work of art that captured your attention?
The Cyclops by Odilon Redon really stood out to me in my junior year of high school. That was the first time I realized art didn’t need to be a hyperrealistic masterwork to be considered, and it didn’t even have to make complete sense to be compelling.
Where do you find your day-to-day inspiration?
Moments of intimacy, be they platonic, familial, or romantic. Quirks, habits, and idiosyncrasies of the people I hold close being on display. Plants I encounter and enjoy looking at but can’t immediately identify. Graphic novels, anime, and various attributes of psychological space.
What tangible objects or intangible moments are you most interested in representing through your works?
I tend to gravitate towards mugs, jars, anything that can emit light, as well as anything that might contain a plant. I like that homes and dwellings are often a place of abundance so including containers, whether their contents are known or not, evokes the thought of things being plentiful. They could contain something mundane, special, simply serve as decoration, or be the object/catalyst of a personal exchange. I also generally enjoy rendering plants since they have the status of being an object while also being adaptive, living things. When they’re present in a space I think of them as bearing witness to anything that occurs.

Are you influenced by any author or non-visual artist? Are you influenced by any artist that does something completely different than you?
Natsume Soseki and a handful of Japanese literature had a pretty strong influence on how I view physical space and the effects it has on the person dwelling there and vice versa. There’s this sensitivity and thoughtfulness about nature and the weight each object carries, so suddenly a relatively mundane room is saturated with intense emotional baggage or effervescent with energy. In regards to an artist that does things differently, David Shrigley is someone I think about a lot. His simple (sometimes crass) drawings and irreverent text are immediately disarming and remind me that things don’t have to always be weighty and serious to be thoughtful and reflective.
Is there an aspect of the artistic process you find meditative and soothing?
Mixing paint on the palette. I used to mix colors with my brush, but now I make batches of colors and place them into glass jars. There is something wonderful about mixing large amounts of oil paint together and seeing the color shift and eventually melt into exactly what you want it to be. The nature of the medium makes it look like the most colorful and rich whipped cream you could imagine. Unfortunately, you cannot eat it, but it feels and looks scrumptious.

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