Artist Profile: Jenifer Wofford

To exist within an art community and thrive, one must be able to grow, learn, develop, and maintain an incredibly multi-faceted practice to stay relevant. To take it a step further, as an arts educator and practitioner, it is imperative to make work that is accessible to the public and be ready to engage. Jenifer Wofford is a rare gem in the arts. From artist residencies in Denmark, Italy, and most recently, Norway, she continues to make profound connections between ideas, cultures, and people through her work. Her travels and thirteen years of providing arts education in the San Francisco Bay Area public school district as well as at the university level, including California College of the Arts, UC Berkeley, and University of San Francisco have produced a unique combination of art practice and theory that illuminates as much as it entertains. Wofford thrives on collaboration and participation from her peers as a part of the creative process. Her observations, conversations, and dynamic global studio practice are not only imaginative but showcase a multitude of talent across genres.

When asked about her favorite medium to work with, Wofford stated,

I had reasonably rigorous training in the traditional plastic arts, and so, even if I veer off into more performative or experimental practices, I still often begin from a hands-on, drawing-based approach. I also enjoy drawing, particularly with ink, more than other forms, so it’s the easiest, most straightforward form that I can express myself in. Some projects and ideas reveal themselves to be best suited to remaining within the two dimensional realms of painting and drawing; other projects reveal themselves to be better addressed in video, performance or installation.

In addition to her fine arts practice, her illustration and design work are characterized by strong, bold, non-tentative lines. Past work include, Flor 1973-78, which was a San Francisco Arts Commission Market Street Poster project. Flor provided a fictitious pictorial narrative of a Filipino nurse’s journey from the Philippines to the United States in the late 1970s that included visual references to both the cultural and political climate of the times. In looking at Filipino-American culture and history mixed with tongue and cheek humor, individuals can easily use her work as a point of departure for discussing identity and culture without it being overly abstract and complicated. Her current work, Grand Tour, tethers representations of real-life people to fictitious stories that one wishes were true because Wofford crafts such engaging tales through her drawings and paintings. Lastly, performance-based work with art collective Mail Order Brides will have you convinced that artistry necessitates being a maestro of creativity. You will inevitably find something telling in the way she narrates a story that is intelligent and witty. With a myriad of skills, the common thread, as Wofford explains lies heavily on creating work that allows people a rich experience of art.

There’s always a subtle, or maybe not-so-subtle, politic at work underneath my artworks,” says Wofford. “While the art world is ever-more international, there’s still something of a dearth of voices and perspectives coming from women and people of color, as well as a limited perspective represented from the non-Western world. Since I come from a mixed-ethnicity, mixed-nationality, Third Culture, feminist background, I’ve often felt like I’ve been blessed with a unique opportunity to speak from this perspective, and to give voice in my various projects to something beyond simple formalism or more generalized or codified concepts within Western art. That said, I don’t think I’m doing anything particularly radical, and I dislike anything that smacks of being overly agenda-driven. It’s important to me that my work feel accessible on a number of fronts, and to still retain both a sense of play as well as some formal chops—as far as technique and execution go.

Originally posted to Asterisk

This past weekend was rife with art. First, the Get Lucky: The Culture of Chance exhibition at SOMArts Cultural Center on Friday evening. Then, Saturday, Disrupture at icTus gallery in the Mission District of San Francisco. Check out the shows if you are able. I will be working on a write-up for Disrupture so please be on the look out for something a bit more polished to follow.

In the meantime, here are a few photos I snapped during opening night! Enjoy!

Upon entering...
An intro to the show
A view of Jenifer Wofford's work for the show
C. Ree's work titled, Overhead
Video installation and work of Heather Sparks

What’s the biggest compliment (ever)?

Having your mentor say some really wonderful things about you. 🙂

Visual artist, Jenifer Wofford, was interviewed by artist and founder of Art of Hustle, Anthem Salgado a couple of months ago. Jenifer has been my mentor for the past few years and its been an incredible experience. Not only did she let me in on her art practice, experiences, knowledge-sharing about the art community, she helped me see my potential and all the possibilities around art writing and becoming an active member of the art community. Naturally, listening to the podcast, I was ridiculously honored when she mentioned our mentoring relationship during her interview and said some flattering things about me. It was such a phenomenal feeling.

Aside from Jenifer’s kind words and wisdom, once again, she introduced me to an invaluable resource – Anthem Salgado. I highly recommend you listen to his podcasts, read his posts, and access him via Twitter/RSS/Facebook ESPECIALLY if you’re an artist. Art of Hustle is fantastic and very much needed!!

To learn more about Jenifer Wofford’s work, click here to view her art portfolio and CV and here for her custom illustration and design site.

Click on the image below to visit Art of Hustle

Opening Night – Friday, January 11, 2008

On the cusp of Downtown tucked away on 14th street and Valencia, you will find the Southern Exposure gallery.  As you step through the red door and proceed to the back of the gallery, you will find two metal detector installations set against a trans formative mural that goes from cityscape to a sprawling lush simulation of a Philippine Islands seascape (large durian boulder included), and a prominent Manila market place – ShoeMart.  The concrete floor and foreboding metal beams on the ceiling are the perfect compliment to Jenifer Wofford’s show, Unseen Forces.  The show itself touches upon the idea of surveillance and detection, which runs rampant in our modern day world.  From high school corridors to a weekend getaway, one encounters facets of security that, at first, become intrusive and over time become a fabric of normalcy and existence.

As Wofford states in her blog, Wofflings, “There’s something so simultaneously wonderful and awful about these clunky devices: they’re situated in such highly fraught but also totally mundane environments, in situations where masses of people must be processed and moved on quickly, efficiently and undramatically”.  Unseen Forces conveys this statement in an exemplary fashion.  Most, if not all, individuals on opening night passed through the pseudo detectors nonchalantly.  I, on the other hand, purposefully avoided them.  Knowing I had the choice to pass through was surprisingly liberating.  One would think there is no psychological effect of passing through something an artist has reproduced from our commonplace knowledge.  Yet it was amazing how Pavlovian it was to not hear the detector go off when I did eventually decide to pass through the makeshift security system.

Similar to Wofford’s collection of drawings and paintings, her installation and conceptual pieces certainly rouse a sense of anxiety and showcases the multi-faceted nature of the every day life we seem to negate due to everything that is mandatory and obligatory.  If it is necessary to pinpoint a primary objective for Unseen Forces, it would have to be the idea of human technologies and our relationships with our collective technological advancements and how the human no longer makes the subject but becomes the subject.

Please check out Jenifer’s site to see more of her work and read her awesome blog!

Originally Posted: January 05, 2008