Chapter 2 Mid Career

Jane Gennaro’s transition to three-dimensional work took a turn in 2002 after a confrontation with a pair of wild geese on the peninsular of the pond at her Upstate New York home. Emerging from this incident was an ongoing series of reliefs with birds’ eggs, trapped or entangled in string, veiled by cheesecloth, and nested in material including her own bedding and clothing, the whole lot mounted on canvas. 


The series Eggs and Bones uses natural objects in reliefs and sculptures that explore the fragility of organic life, mortality, and the possibility of renewal. The forms that Gennaro uses suggest breasts, the soul awaiting rebirth and the shrouded Christ. Part of the Eggs and Bones series are the sculptures, The Brides of Bone. Gennaro made these phantom-like figures using deer ribs and other bones, with gauze and paper forming their diaphanous garments. Like all the works in the series, these pieces are painted white, suggesting both the bleaching out of life and the hope of transcendence.


Kinderdraussen, the artist’s invented word, literally means “children outside”, which one may translate either as “out of doors”, “left out in the cold”, or even in the sense of “outside the box”. Thus, a series of collaged assemblages in which Gennaro’s interest in the remains of life and the preserving of memory is expressed through vintage imagery (old handkerchiefs given by her mother-in-law, coloring book illustrations, etc.) and the skin, skulls, and skeletons of small animals. Like much of her work during this period, the series explores an uncomfortable subject, in this case the confrontation of innocence and death. Yet the skeletons in Gennaro’s cabinet, far from being morbid, seek, in series such as these, to redefine childhood as an age of natural curiosity.

John Mendelsohn has written of the Kinderdraussen series: “The effect is a frisson created from the deft melding of innocence and mortality. The collages on canvas, which read like a retelling of fairytales, seem to seek to subvert both the ideal and the real, making us wonder on what ratio of hope and dread can children best survive.” 


A spontaneous experiment led to a new series, Louises, reflecting the artist’s preoccupation with nature, and serves as a good example of her creative process and ingenuity. She placed a cracked mirror on her country driveway to reflect the sky. On that, she superimposed the breastbone of a bird skeleton, and photographed the composition. Not particularly satisfied with the result, as she then took an X-ACTO knife and began carving into the photograph, the etching began to suggest a mythological figure, creating a magical harmony that she reproduced in multiple iterations that as a body of work form an entrancing commentary on the character of women and the fleeting nature of existence.