Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday Treats: Jenny Ziomek

Today's  Tuesday Treat is the very lovely and very no-nonsense, Jenny Ziomek. Jenny is an artist and illustrator who wears many hats. Not only does she do compelling portraits as seen here with her work completed as an artist-in-residence at the School of Visual Arts Summer Residency Program this year, but Jenny is also very accomplished in drawing and illustration. I think part of what makes Jenny's work so extraordinary is her deeply insightful observations of her subjects and her basic understanding of humanity. For her day job, Jenny has worked as a special ed teacher in public schools and a 3rd grade teacher in lower Manhattan. She is not the kind of teacher that sits you down with paste and glitter and reads you stories. Jenny is hands on. She is challenging. She is demanding. She is questioning and her students respect and love her for it.

Jenny is not one of those artists who set out to be an artist. She does not stay up all night listening to Avant-garde music, smoking cigarettes, drinking black coffee or vodka, splashing paint over a canvas. Jenny is disciplined and at the same time obsessive over her art. As her mother recently said to her, "You've always drawn. You never consciously chose to, it was just something you always did."

Jenny majored in studio art at Beloit College and then studied two semesters at Parson's School of Design.  When I asked her the dreaded question of why she pursues art, what does art mean to her, she reminded me of the Woody Allen movie, Hannah and Her Sisters. After the character, Mickey, suffers an existential crisis that one day he will indeed die, he stumbles upon a movie theatre playing a Marx Bros. film. After failing to find the meaning of life through several different religions, he realizes that art is the reason life is worth living. "Art is comforting and permanent," Jenny says. "That's why I love to draw." She went on to say, "its about sharing stories...that meaningful sense of shared experience."

Jenny's work blows me away with both its sincerity  and its charm. Its magnetic empathy in her portraits juxtaposed with delightfulness in her drawings and illustrations and in both the ability to capture the quiet moments in New York that we are often too busy to stop and admire.

She has also done a lot of work in the East Village with restaurants. (Jenny is an admitted foodie) You know those cool chalkboard signs with pieces of art enticing you to come in and try the lunch special? Well, if it was in the East Village, you may have seen some of Jenny's work! She has designed and drawn images of animals onto chalkboards in The E.U. (former East Village Restaurant.) She has done large scale charcoal portraits of hamburgers for Black Iron Burger in the East Village, designed and illustrated the menu for Cheeky Sandwiches on the Lower East Side, which you can read a review of her in Underconsideration's "Art of the Menu" profile here.

She has also done charcoal portraits of left-of-center people for Left Bank in the West Village (which has been written up by Daily Candy) including characters: Annie Hall, Proposition Joe from The Wire, also Marcel Duchamp and Elizabeth David, the influential and rebellious British cookery writer.   As of yesterday, Jenny's portrait of Zucco’s   storefront (the French CafĂ© on Orchard Street) is now hanging on their wall. 
Jenny commented about how she feels her illustrations actually fit into the negative stigma associated with illustration surrounding the New York Art World. She struggled with this and with trying to possibly push her art a different way in an effort to avoid being labeled with this stigma. But instead of shirking it or running away from it, Jenny has embraced it, (whatever the "it" is)  and has decided she's not too worried about it.

She says, "Without defining it, I am continuing the journey of finding my voice, and enjoying the process." And Jenny, one hell of a voice it is! I'm sure there will be much more to follow up with Jenny and look forward to revisiting her work again on Tuesday Treats!

Check out Jenny Ziomek here at  http://jennyziomek.tumblr.com/ and Follow her on Twitter @jennyziomek


Carmen said...

these are beautiful!

daleboca said...

i LOVE this work. Does she sell it?

Lindsey Anthony-Bacchione said...

Isn't she amazing?! I'm sure she sells some of it. Will check with her tomorrow.