CREATIVE PEAKS: Inanimate actors

By on June 30, 2015

Jenny Dowd gives objects personality and attitude

This ink on paper work, ‘But Mom... Everyone’s wearing them!’ hangs in Jenny Dowd’s latest show at the Center Theater Gallery. (Credit: Jenny Dowd)

This ink on paper work, ‘But Mom… Everyone’s wearing them!’ hangs in Jenny Dowd’s latest show at the Center Theater Gallery.
(Credit: Jenny Dowd)

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Jenny Dowd doesn’t like rooms with only one chair in them. She wonders if the chair gets lonely when the room is void of people.

“I don’t want it to be sad because it doesn’t have a friend,” she said.

Dowd doesn’t like to stand up to turn on or off a lamp either. Instead she reaches and pulls it closer to her, resulting in all her lamps leaning slightly. She wonders if the lamps get annoyed and are secretly planning a revolt.

The fantastical idea that inanimate household objects come alive when people leave their homes inspired Dowd’s newest exhibit called “Acting Out.”

The show, which contains three distinct bodies of work, including ink on paper drawings, welding rods molded into steel sculptures, and ceramics, is about objects and furniture behaving badly.

“We choose our furniture and random household objects and maybe they’ve taken on our personalities,” Dowd said. “We live with them and we spend a lot of time – a lot of personal time – with items like chairs.”

Dowd started playing with the idea of collections – what people collect and why, how they treat the objects in their collections and what personality traits emerge because of that.

As a child, Dowd’s family would drive from their home in Kansas for family vacations. She started collecting napkins from Disney World, restaurants in Canada – leaving the country was a big deal – or even McDonald’s, because the family didn’t eat out often.

It was a collection that didn’t cost her anything, was small enough to take back home in the car and held a special memory of a trip, and of a meal with family or friends. Dowd continued the collection until she was in college and finally, regrettably, threw it away before graduate school.

Recently, she started thinking about the collections people inadvertently amass, like gathering teacups. Then, she started thinking about furniture and the relationships people have with it.

Dowd has always possessed a narrative imagination since she was young. She often made up stories like one about a mouse that lived in her desk in school, forcing her to arrange its contents for the rodent’s comfort.

She embraced that love of storytelling with this show, exploring the idea of what happens to her furniture when she leaves the house. Does the chair fight with the table? Do they act out?

The show is mostly new work created in three different mediums – paper and ink, steel rods and clay, with which she works most often.

Dowd always loved drawing, specifically with black ink, which creates a crisp look. She often creates images just for herself, not for exhibitions. Last year, she started creating ink drawings as decals on pottery she made.

And a few years ago, Dowd began welding when she wanted to create pieces she couldn’t seem to mold into clay. Sometimes creating it first in steel allowed it to click in clay. Other times the metal was enough.

The story of furniture acting out was something she envisioned so complicated that she wanted both two- and three-dimensional ways to tell it. Ceramics are still a part of the show; she explores the secret love affair gone wrong between flowers and vases in clay.

Working in a variety of mediums stretches Dowd creatively, forcing her to shift her mindset from two-dimensional to three and from molding clay to steel.

“I think they all inform each other and sometimes I use other materials like they were clay,” Dowd said of using the different mediums.

Recently, Dowd has been creating site-specific work, based on how the art fits into a space. This is a show that is about how people will interact with the art, she said. There also will be a few surprises, like a clay light switch, that might not actually do anything.

“The title is funny because all of these characters are acting out, but I also want the gallery space to be acting out,” she said. “I want people to act out.”

“Acting Out” is one of seven exhibits chosen by the Center for the Arts during a juried call to artists in 2014.

Jenny Dowd, “Acting Out,” an exhibition of new work, reception 5:30 to 7 p.m., Thursday at the Center for the Arts Center Theater Gallery.

About Kelsey Dayton

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