Thursday, November 29, 2007
Jenny Keith Hughes, Honey Lens, Prairie Artsters: Vue Weekly, November 29 - December 5, 2007
It was almost one year ago to the date that I first met and interviewed Jenny Keith Hughes. Meeting up at the then-still-functioning Red Strap Market, we spent the first half an hour of our interview unloading her relatively large paintings out of her proportionately small car and moving them one by one through the snowy parking lot up to the second floor gallery.
I learned that although she had completed her BFA in painting at the U of A in 2003, Hughes didn’t stick around Edmonton after graduation—neither was she then interested in the local arts scene. She wasn’t really sure about integrating into any scene, but just knew she loved to paint. She felt confident enough about her work to apply for a small independent show, but didn’t feel quite ambitious enough to go knocking on commercial gallery doors. The Red Strap show was a reintroduction of herself and her whimsical, animal-inspired pieces, and since then it has been a whirlwind year for the 26-year-old artist.
Before its doors were shut, the Red Strap introduced Hughes to the works of Sydney Lancaster, who has become an impacting inspiration since the two set an artist play date. Lancaster’s influence has transpired as the base of beeswax that has completely saturated Hughes’ current body of work. A duo summer show between the two artists emerged with wax as the common denominator; it became quickly obvious that the malleable etching nature of wax melded beautifully with Hughes’ penchant for the finer details of horns, claws, tentacles and scales.
Fast forward four months and Hughes couldn’t believe her eyes as she sat listlessly in her grey cubicle, still trapped in that remedial identity between office drone and aspiring artist. Opening her e-mail, the short paragraph that flashed back read, “I am interested. Give me a call and we’ll discuss the parameters of your show.”
Flash back to three weeks prior, Hughes was alone in New York City, ditched by the friend she had travelled down to visit, and was having a few drinks with freshly acquired friends at the Grand Saloon in the Grammercy district. Following a tequila-infused conversation with “Reggie and Yvette,” an e-mail address transpired for a gallery in midtown. Not thinking much of it once sober and home, Hughes eventually followed up with a link to her artist webpage not expecting to hear anything. An hour later, Jonathan Rieves, gallery manager of the Prince George Ballroom Gallery replied back, “I am interested. Give me a call and we’ll discuss the parameters of your show.”
It was definitely luck, affirms Hughes today, as she sits exhausted and nervous in her west-end basement. Scrambling since then to finish 18 new works that will exhibit for two months on Times Square over the Christmas season, it was pure luck that the original slotted artist cancelled—but it’s pure ambition to continue her art, reach out to a long-shot contact and in receiving what she could only dream of, buckle down and continue to plow forward to whatever may come this next year.
Image credit: Jenny Keith Hughes, 2007
First published in Vue Weekly, November 29, 2007.
at 3:58:00 p.m.