I often bite off more than I can chew in many aspects of my life. Particularly when in comes to conceptualizing projects that need to fit within specific constraints. For the six week residency at Marwen, I proposed an ambitious large scale project revolving around the idea of transferring images to glass. I calculated hours of my availability, sketched out drafts and plans, researched techniques and supplies and made multiple calendars outlining a projected timeline to bring my concept to life. Once accepted to the program, I was eager to hit the ground running.
I had planned to work with inherited images that would need to be scanned and retouched. In my original timeline, I allotted the first two weeks of the residency to do so. However once they were complete, I didn’t want to let go of the momentum I gained and decided to continue to scan. On the surface, this may seem like an inconsequential detail. However, to abandon a plan is typically a struggle. Without an outline of how to move forward, I was able to learn to work more organically. It was refreshing to be able to show up to a dedicated space and learn how to trust an uncontrolled process.
I spent many hours with the scanner. Delicately wiping dust off 35mm color slide film, placing it on the scanner and selecting individual images. Even more hours were spent organizing files and editing out dust marks and scratches in Photoshop. With the monotony of this process, I found a type of art making zen. I was able to reflect on the process of creating, on how the images communicated with one another rather than focus on the next step.
The physical space of Marwen allowed me to print the images as I scanned, pin them on walls, arrange them, rearrange them, and critically examine how they worked with one another with fresh eyes each day. The equipment the Marwen houses allowed me to experiment with material and the proportions of images in relation to one another. Having a large studio space was crucial to the overall development of this project as scale played a large role in my final pieces.
Leaving the residency, I did not create what I intended. I did not stick to my timeline. I never used materials and processes I had researched in detail. I didn’t transfer any images or work with glass. I did scan hundreds of images. I experimented with scale and how my images communicated with one another. I composed and printed a small body of large scale prints. I left with a new appreciation of trusting my creative instincts and the process of art making itself.
Jess created this work during her time as one of four 2017 Marwen Teaching Artist Residents. A program designed to:
To support the art practices of committed Marwen Teaching Artists.
To provide studio space & equipment use to Marwen TA’s outside program hours.
To expose the Marwen community to the studio practices and work of our Teaching Artists.
To provide exhibition opportunities for Marwen Teaching Artists.
Jess Leonard was born in the Chicagoland area, has spent stints of time driving around the country and living in carious cities, but calls Chicago her home, In 2015, she graduated with a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a focus in Photography. Her work focuses on the deconstruction and curation of inherited images and objects, establishing and manipulating a sense of place and time and the role of the artist's hand within each piece.