CH.89: If you were to categorize or describe the style of your artwork, what would it be and why?
JN: I would describe my work as material-based contemporary abstraction inspired by consumer culture.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
JN: I draw inspiration from my experience of living life in this body. More specifically, I draw inspiration from my investigation of consumer products and trends that are marketed to women. I am interested in the way consumer culture constructs our ideas about the world, particularly gender, beauty, perfection, romance, and nature.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/ piece of artwork?
JN: My works are the result of hours of material explorations and cultural research. Most work is born out of a fascination with a particular product or observation of consumer culture, like athleisure wear or the trend of contouring one’s facial features with makeup. I’m constantly examining beauty and fashion trends and paying attention to things that bother me or attract me or make me laugh. While doing this cultural research I am simultaneously performing material experiments in my studio with products and art supplies that are attractive or fascinating to me in their own right. Sometimes these materials are directly related to the cultural reference that I am researching, like bronzer or blush and sometimes they are indirectly related, like latex house paint. When I am lucky, a synthesis happens where I discover an interesting connection between the cultural research and my material research that leads to a new body of work.
CH.89: Is there anything in particular that you would want people to take from your artwork?
JN: I hope my work causes the viewer to take a pause, slow down, examine and then reexamine, question, wonder, and reflect.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?
JN: Finding time and space to make art has been a struggle for most of my career because I’ve always needed to have a full-time job plus multiple part-time jobs to pay off my student loans, pay rent, buy food, etc. Despite the difficulty of finding time, space, and money to make art, there has also never been a choice because making art is just something that I need to do, like eating or sleeping. I am very lucky to now have a full-time teaching job that pays me enough so that I don’t need additional part-time jobs just to get by. This allows me time to make art in the evenings, on the weekends and during summer breaks. I am also very lucky to share my life with a supportive partner who respects my strange need to make things 🙂
CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?
JN: The beginning part of my process starts out very intuitively, and then, as the concept reveals itself, my process becomes more planned. In the beginning I am looking at the world around me, playing with materials to see what they do and how I can push them, researching and paying attention to things I like, things I don’t like, things I’m attracted to, things I find humorous, etc. Then, if I’m lucky, I’ll start to notice interesting connections between my material experiments and my cultural research. This latter part of the creative process becomes more structured as I start to hone-in on a specific concept.
CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?
JN: A major lesson that I’ve learned as an artist is that it is a gift to think differently! I remember being in grade school and high school and receiving funny looks or being told I was flat out wrong when I approached a solution to a problem differently than what the teacher or other students expected. I remember feeling bad as well as confused as to why people didn’t see the world the way I saw it. I think this made making art hard for me at the beginning of my undergraduate program because I was conditioned to think that there was a right way and a wrong way to do something, whether that was making a painting or interpreting an artwork. It wasn’t until later into my undergraduate studies and then in grad school that I noticed that people were drawn to the way I thought about the world differently. It is really special to me when another human connects with my unique perspective and I try to remember this as an elementary art teacher who is cultivating young artists!
CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?
JN: In my art, the concept and the aesthetics of the work, which is influenced by my personal style and taste, are held in the same high regard. I want to be a mirror of the culture around me, so inevitably taste comes into play.
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?
JN: Self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and finding time and space to make art are the biggest challenges for me.
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
JN: I love thinking through the conundrums of the world by working with my hands and the possibility of making a connection with another human being by sharing what I’ve made with the world.
CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artist’s that inspire you in any way?
JN: Andy Warhol, Agnes Martin, Gary Hume, Lynda Benglis, Louise Bourgeois, Carl Hazlewood, Jim Hodges, Sarah Cain
CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?
JN: I love being able to connect with other artists I admire and be part of a virtual art community through Instagram, although Instagram isn’t what it once was now that it uses algorithms to keep people in their insular groups rather than promote new connections.
CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?
JN: I’ve thought differently ever since I can remember, it’s just who I am. Being an artist allows me to celebrate that.
CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?
JN: I like the idea of traveling but I have a big fear of flying so I do not travel. During the pandemic my husband and I have spent many, many hours exploring our surrounding neighborhoods through daily walks, which has been really special since we never had the time or interest to do so in the past.
CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?
JN: Agnes Martin’s Writings and Lawrence Weschler’s book, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees about Robert Irwin completely changed me. Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions is a favorite.
CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your artwork?
JN: Moving back to a home studio because of the pandemic has limited the scale and material of my work so I’m looking forward to my summer studio residency at Pink Noise Projects in Philadelphia where I’ll have space to work bigger again!
CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?
JN: Being an artist and making things is essential to my sanity. It is my way of processing this crazy, messed up, funny, strange, heartbreaking, scary, beautiful, resilient, confusing, sad, unfair, lovely world around me.
CH.89: What’s the last song you listened to?
JN: Tash Sultana’s album, Terra Firma is on repeat right now, especially the song Sweet and Dandy. I also can’t get enough of Bartees Strange.
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your artwork?
JN: Throughout a lot of art history, especially modernism, the aesthetics of art objects like beauty, color, surface, decoration, pattern, etc. have not been taken as seriously as the material and the structure of the art object. Coincidentally (or not) beauty, color, surface, decoration and pattern have also often been labeled as other, whether it’s feminine, queer, or non-western. I intend for the aesthetics, the structure, the concept, and the form of my work to be regarded with equal weight and I hope in that way my work challenges the values of the past.