J E N N I F E R ..L E V I N E

Artist Statement

How I got started painting

Exactly 10 years ago, I moved across the country - from San Francisco, CA to Montclair, NJ. I found my way to my first adult art class with Fern Bass, a wonderful artist and teacher. Bass nurtured her students' ability to see - to observe carefully and render accurately. She was also concerned with the type of seeing that occurs with your eyes closed. This inner work found expression on my canvas. The same year I started Transendental Meditation. A daily meditation practice, combined with the permission to make manifest the stirrings of my heart and soul, has laid the foundation for my body of work. 

Recent projects:
Turning 50  this year and raising a teenage daughter has inspired an exploration of our journeys as women - through respectively - menapause and adolescence. My new work makes manifest our ever evolving vulnerabilities and strengths as well as how and where we stand as individuals, with each other, and in community.
 Most of my work contains images of women with their arms outstretched, in nature or in a surreal circus. The women find home with magical elephants who escort them on their journeys. The paintings and drawings celebrate opening the heart and the freedom that comes from self acceptance.

For the past four years, I have worked with Scott Massarsky on "The Peace Garden Song and Mural Project" (Peacegardenproject.com) - an arts program that combines murals, music and mindfulness. To date, we have worked with over 1000 school children in New York and New Jersey. We are Teaching Artists with Morris Arts and the New Jersey State Council of the Arts. 

We are currently spear heading ART PARK - Montclair, a project that will turn a local park into an art mecca. 

My Materials and Process
These days I toggle between three methods. In the mornings, I use ink and create small drawings in bed before dawn. Midday, I am at the kitchen table with large watercolor paper and collage, and evenings are reserved for large scale paintings in the studio with milk paint.  
I feel deep gratitude to my family and friends and the town of Montclair for supporting my artistic journey. I am particularly grateful to my best girl Davida who puts up with a mama who doesn't bake cookies.

My inspiration and recent projects

For the past two years, I have worked with Scott Massarsky on “The Peace Garden Song and Mural Project” - an arts program that combines murals, music and mindfulness. To date, we have worked with over 1000 school children to explore peacemaking, create songs and use the songs to paint giant murals. We’ve worked with a wide range of ages --from children at the Montclair Community Pre-k (where we created a two story peace mural on the outside of the school building) to Mountain Lakes High School, where Senior art students worked with us to create a giant mural along a busy hallway using the school’s honor code as inspiration. This February (2015) we created a “Jardin de la paz” with students from a local neighborhood club in San Miguel de Allende.

Our garden continues to grow. We are amazed and delighted by how receptive schools and students are to learning mindfulness practice and it’s link not only to creativity but to the quality of life!

Mural making has become a centerpiece of my creative life. It’s a unique and beautiful tool for creating community, building public art infused with passion, and painting LARGE.

For more information, see www.peacegardenproject.com

My materials and process

Most of my artworks are created on wood. I live in a pre-war building on the main business district in town and scour our basement and neighborhood dumpsters for recycled surfaces on which to create my work. In the past year, I've used 50 bottles from a local bar, five window frames from the street, three wood desks from my apartment basement and countless wood planks from all over the neighborhood. I find the energy emitted from a discarded "canvas" speaks to me with a louder voice than one I buy new.

I create a piece based on the size and material of the canvas. I often have a feeling I'm working with, but I try to "clear out" my mind when I get down to painting. My materials are organized and at the ready - they include: acrylics, milk paint, pastels, oil sticks and india ink. I work with a large supply of collage elements, almost all of which are family documents. My grandfather Manny Levine's discarded stamp collection, my other grandfather Anton Rolland's sheet music, as well as letters and postcards saved from my own life and travels.

Throughout my process, I hope to reveal - make visual - the gentle, but powerful veins of community that connects us without words. I paint without self-judgment. I give myself permission for the voices, images and feelings to arrive on the canvas. My greatest wish is that the viewer will sense the community that imbues the canvas, and that this connection to community will inspire him/her to create, to live and interact with others in an open, non-critical embrace.

I see this connection with art and the creative spirit as "the missing piece" in my town, and in communities around the world. While we are connected virtually and through work, our families, schools and religious communities, we are often left isolated and alone in our day to day existence about town. I feel public art serves to link us quietly, yet profoundly, in our simple, day to day activities.

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© Jennifer Levine 2011