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Jennifer Young

My life experiences and love for photography are the inspirations for these paintings. My paintings feature women in various settings. The images I create are often symbolic or metaphorical of intense emotions. I also love to find the beauty in the decrepit and run down, whether it’s a decaying building or a distressed woman. My artwork is my visual diary. I recall past events or emotions from my life and then think of images that portray them. Once I have an idea for the painting, I set up a photo shoot and recreate the scene that I imagined. I orchestrate the photo shoot by telling the model what to do and how to look. After perusing many photographs, I choose one and paint directly from it.

I work from my photographs because of my love for the medium and my desire to show detail and realism in my paintings. I have always felt that the camera is the closest thing to allowing the viewer to see what I see through my eyes. However, what the eye sees and what the photograph captures is limited. Unlike the camera, the mind has the ability to filter and focus on specific aspects of the picture. It is then my task to emphasize what I feel are the most important elements in my painting.

I paint with oils on stretched, acrylic-primed canvas. I consider composition while I am taking the photograph; I want the structure of the work to be interesting, to have some sort of unique quality. To accomplish this, I shoot from many different angles and viewpoints. The uniqueness of the photograph depends on the camera angle.

A lot of people have asked me over the last 10 years of these series why I paint such sad and depressing images. "Paint happy things!" is what some would say. But I never looked at it the way they did. People automatically think that any emotion that is considered a "negative emotion" is a bad thing. Emotions like sadness, heartache, loneliness, defeat, hopelessness, fear, and worry. But I don't see them that way. To me, they are neither positive nor negative. I see them as experiences, as lessons, as growth. What kind of person would you be if you had only experienced just one emotion in your life? If you had never experienced pain, sadness, or heartache? I think that those emotions -the "negative ones"- are essential for human existence. They are imperative for our growth, our experiences, our survival.

I still remember what one of my teachers once said to me during my senior year of art school, when this series began. "You're too sentimental." But once again, I didn't see that as a bad thing. Our memory system is an incredible thing. What we remember from our lives, why we remember, and how the autobiographical memory system affects our lives. Why wouldn't I be fascinated with what my mind remembers? Why wouldn't I cherish the lessons that I've learned in my life? Why wouldn't I be proud of what I've been through - the good and the bad? We are what we create. We go through many steps in life to become who we are and I have recorded some of mine on canvas.

One of the amazing things about humans is that we can find ways to relate to one another. Some of us have been through the same experiences, but they affect each of us differently. I would like people to look at my paintings and feel some emotion, or maybe even feel like they have felt the same way the person in my paintings do. When people feel empathy from someone, it gives them the opportunity to express their inner feelings and experiences with one another, which deepens the human connection. I want my artwork to be universal.

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