The skill required to meld technical prowess into profound artistic expression is elusive. Jane Gennaro’s art is notable for its diversity and complexity, but also for its clarity, with an eye for the weird and wonderful.
Those who have influenced and inspired her work include her suburban neighbor Joseph Cornell, prized by Gennaro for his haunting theaters of the imagination; the two great Louises, Nevelson and Bourgeois (the latter a model, she notes, of an artist who relies on her inner psychological life as the font of her creativity); and the not-so-obscure, blazingly original Colombian installationist Doris Salcedo. Like Cornell, Gennaro works at a small scale. Like those three formidable woman artists, she constructs, if not with such grandeur, gorgeous and poignant totems out of the most raw of materials.
With little formal training, her early work deployed the even stream of Rapidograph pens to capture, with dazzling graphic virtuosity and intricate, wacky humor, the vicissitudes of life in her native New York City. In due course, her natural drawing skills became enriched with striking coloration, evolving over time into elaborate three-dimensional formulations with the addition of such stuff as hair, puppets, a lot of string, thread, clippings, and then many bones and, eventually, the sensitive addition of animal corpses collected in the countryside.
Formally, in the words of critic Dominique Nahas: “She is a master in the use of rhythmic structural devices such as repetition, seriality, or doubling — techniques that mark her production with whiffs of the meditative and the cultic, both aspects attended by a fetishistic presence. … This creates the effect of a rigorous visual storyteller recounting stories that refer to often conflicted and ambivalent sensations and drives within the (social) body and (cultural) mind. This is done with artistry, namely in a freshly conversational, contemporary yet iconic way that infers timeliness and timelessness.”
Gennaro’s cabinet of curiosities is forever expanding, and at a giddy pace. The work illustrated on this website is both archival and ongoing, exploring — via incongruous juxtapositions — both society and natural life in magical, intensely intimate ways. “Making art is how I question the meaning of life on a daily basis. The work is an ongoing inquiry into death and renewal, and what can be preserved through an act of the imagination. It’s how I process my anger, curiosity, and concern with nature, politics, and the objectification of women. My process is completed by the viewer’s response. I invite you to be jarred, charmed, and seduced with questions.”