Saturday, November 29, 2014

THE HIDDEN ARTIST: Jennifer Gunlock

CONNECTION TO NOHO: Lives and breaths and "trees" there

MEDIUMS: mixed-media, photography


I’ve always been enamored by trees.  As a child, I collected leave specimens into my tree album from my Chicago neighborhood, and I still have it to this day. Trees have also been focal points in my own artwork, but no tree that any artist or I have ever depicted quite stands out like Jennifer Gunlock’s.   

My interview with Jennifer was at her one room apartment, which also served as her art studio. I entered through a piece of pastel-colored tulle she’d cleverly hung to keep the bugs out from the small, sparsely furnished guesthouse she lived in. I immediately noticed half of the room provided her with her basic needs; a bed, a computer, bathroom, and kitchenette, while the other half was clearly dedicated to her work. For along one wall, only a few feet away from where she slept, hung six large pieces of art paper placed side by side to make one huge canvas and on it were the beginnings of a mixed-media project that would represent perhaps only one-fifth of what was to be an over 20 foot mural for the “Fires of Change” exhibition (a collaboration between the Southwest Fire Science Consortium, the Landscape Conservation Initiative, and the Flagstaff Arts Council) in Flagstaff, AZ next September 2015.
"Smoke Signal" Jennifer Gunlock

Its no wonder Jennifer was chosen for the exhibition given these perennial wood plants have been a central theme to her work for a few years now. At first glance, that’s exactly what you see; images of tall conifer-like specimens contrasted against a sparse background. But a closer look reveals Jennifer’s trees have taken on an urban quality; shaped and textured by none other than her own photographs of often overlooked designs and all found within our own natural and city environments. For the “Fires of Change” project she used such images, overlapping them to become the trunk and branches of her trees; sunlit reflections of a skyscraper’s windows, blown-up details of a fire engine grill, or the charred remains of an ancestor tree lost in the Kaibab National Forest.

"Mothership" (sequoia) Jennifer Gunlock

Jennifer’s trees are hybrid transmitters. They still own their natural state, but then you'll notice an antennae or a resemblance to a cell phone tower. There’s something timeless about them; nostalgia crossing over to futurism, all of which gives the viewer a unique opportunity to delve deeper into her urban forest and wonder if they are trying to communicate something to us. And that they will, when her “Fires of Change” mural is complete and on exhibit at the Coconino Center of the Arts in Flagstaff next September.

In the meantime though, Jennifer Gunlock’s work is on display from November 23 to December 19 (artist reception December 6) at the LADCA/Canoga Park Youth CenterCome see her forest for the trees.