Artist Registry

The White Columns Curated Artist Registry is an online platform for emerging and under-recognized artists to share images and information about their respective practices. The Registry seeks to create a context for artists who have yet to benefit from wider critical, curatorial or commercial support. To be eligible, artists cannot be affiliated with a commercial gallery in New York City.

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Jennifer Sullivan
Ridgewood NY US
Updated: 2021-09-01 13:05:59


My work is a diary, an ongoing self-portrait, and a form of psychoanalysis. It is a process of becoming and uncovering myself. In his book The History of Last Night’s Dream, Rodger Kamenetz writes that “more than half of who we are is unknown to us”. As such, my practice is an excavation site for knowing and bearing witness to being, translating my personal experiences, emotions, and insights into that are universal, and yet also deeply informed by my particular experience of living in a female body.

The boundaries between my work and life are fluid. I use my life as a material and process my experiences through my work. In much of my earlier work, I identified myself as an interdisciplinary artist, and I felt my most successful work centered around personal essay videos which I would perform in and live performances. The directness of this approach appealed to me, and the collage-like aspects of editing as well. However, over the last 10 years I’ve slowly moved away from performance and video to focus completely on painting. My history as a performance artist and video-maker gives me a unique perspective and approach to painting through which I continue to explore the same themes I have always been interested in – the relationship between psychology and embodiment, gender roles and feminist empowerment, humor, vulnerability, intimacy, and portraiture. I still use myself and my life as a material, but I now approach it through the lens of painting, which allows me to inhabit different characters, roles, masks, and emotions in a similar way that performance had done in the past. I find painting to be a very performative medium as well and have often compared my painting practice to method acting because I use emotions and memories to inhabit and perform the figures I am painting, and to imbue them with a sense of real experience and authenticity.

In both my paintings and videos, I have been interested in the way everyday experiences, and popular images can take on new meanings and symbolic potential through the ways that we reframe, or recontextualize them. I situate the viewer to experience my subjective POV both literally and psychologically through my compositions, and expressionistic use of color, line, and a sensitivity to materials, allowing ordinary moments and familiar images to take on new power and significance. In a series of recent paintings, I have been making portraits of Courtney Love, painting with dye on unprimed cotton that has been hand-dyed various light shades of pink and violet. I see this work as an exploration of my shadow self through familiar and archetypal images of Courtney Love. I am not interested in celebrity per se, but in the vernacular language of pop culture as a shared and accessible vocabulary or a character from the collective unconscious. Her image and the narrative arcs of her career and very public personal life, invoke issues about ambition, motherhood, feminism, self-esteem, loss, anger, survival, and transformation. However, my intention for this work is that it will communicate on an emotional level through its formal properties whether you are familiar with Love or not.

In my video and performance work there was always a direct sense of self-reflection, often through the combined use of my own voice-over commentary and my body performing on screen, a practice I continue to explore in my paintings which I see as self-portraits whether my own figure appears in them or not. Over the past several years, “mirror selfies” have been a recurring motif in my repertoire, which play upon a historical trope of the artist’s self-portrait yet updates it and shows it through a gendered lens. These paintings show moments of self-reflection which prioritize the female gaze - a woman who is in the midst of looking at herself. The painting becomes a film still from the process of seeing and becoming oneself. Portraying an image of a woman looking at herself, it also proposes a disruption of the dominance of the male gaze. In these private moments, I am both literally and figuratively creating a new image of myself. In Mary McGill’s essay, How the Light Gets In: Notes on the Female Gaze and Selfie Culture, she encapsulates Virginia Woolf’s observation that when a woman looks at herself “she ceases to be the passive mirror in which men see their greatness reflected. Under patriarchy, what could be more terrifying than that?”