Jennifer Pochinski is a Northern California based figurative artist. Raised in Hawaii, she earned a BFA from the University of Hawaii and spent much of her young adulthood traveling to the UK and Europe, finally settling near Athens Greece in 2003. In late 2010, she and her two children relocated to California.
Men, women and groups of people captured in moments from everyday life are the subject matter of Pochinski’s paintings. In a chorus of colors, lines and shapes, her paintings are unrestrained and energized, but reflect the discipline of a productive daily practice. She tells us “My studio practice is considered a ‘space to fail’. I have no specific method for painting. As with most ‘expressive’ painting it is never a linear process.”
Pochinski’s paintings are intuitive and honest, balancing energetic, gestural brushstrokes with human narrative. For many years Pochinski has collected photographic imagery – figures, environments and historical paintings to provide information that she cannot get in life, leading her to discover her subjects as she paints. Her improvisation and freedom in using the brush to grab color to define and describe, make overriding marks to correct or emphasize, reveals “being in the moment”. With this spontaneity and authenticity she creates the characters within her paintings like an author, each day “writing” something that feels true to her, at the end putting it together to make a story.
The stories of other women artists inspire Pochinski. While reading Ninth Street Women, she was reminded of her love for the work of Lee Krasner, which in person always “stops her in her tracks.” In particular she recalls a story about Krasner being so fed up with her work, she ripped up the canvases and shed them on the floor. A few days later Krasner came back to her studio and found them together looking like collages and it set her on a new, powerful path. In dealing with the emotion that comes when something doesn’t work, it heartens Pochinski to be reminded that “some good can happen when you get to the brink!”
Jennifer Pochinski is represented by Dolby Chadwick, San Francisco; b. sakata garo, Sacramento; Tregony Gallery, UK; and Baker Schorr Fine Art, Midland, Texas.
MKM: Tell me about your childhood, where did you grow up?
RH: I was born in an English colony called British Guyana in South America. My mother is Portuguese and my father is Dutch and Chinese. My parents moved our family to Los Angeles for education opportunities when I was one. You could say my life was that of a stereotypical “California Girl”; school and beach on the weekdays, and beach and work on the weekends. For my college years, I lived in Westwood, studied at UCLA and explored the Hollywood scene. Two years after graduation, I went back to art school at Art Center College of Design. Both were very exciting and explorative times in my life.
MKM: Were you always creative?
RH: My mother was an amazing and talented fashion designer and seamstress, so I was surrounded by creative energy my entire life. I remember drawing a lot when I was young and making my own clothes with her through middle school. Around 12 years old, I dragged my entire family to the Getty Museum to see the Queen’s edition drawings by Leonardo Di Vinci. Soon after, I begged my mom to let me take the life drawing class at the adult education center where she took a painting class next door. I recall being the only youth in the class and I would sit in the front row without any thought, just like a pro. I laugh now because it would not be allowed today.
MKM:Why did you pursue art?
RH: After a very successful career in design, I felt it was time to speak with my own voice.
MKM: Where did you study?
RH: I enrolled in UCLA as a math major to appease my father, but a year and half later, I secretly applied to the Design department. I ended up graduating in design without him even realizing it. Actually to this day, I have never even told him about that. After graduating, I worked for a few LA design agencies. I soon learned the fastest way to get where I wanted was to go back to art school because, of course, I wanted to be a top creative director. I was so motivated that I again secretly applied to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Believe it or not, Art Center would not allow me to enter a Masters program because they did not accept the BA design degree I received from UCLA. I was required to enter the undergraduate program again to earn a BFA. At the time, I didn’t care what I had to do. Fortunately, they allowed me to enter as a sophomore, which was never heard of at the time, with a full scholarship.
MKM: When you’re creating what’s your daily routine? Rituals, patterns?
RH: There is no routine in my creative process, especially in the conceptual initial phase. Sometimes an idea will come from experiences or contemplating the daily news. Sometimes it’s during a run, or in the state when I’m half awake, or in the shower. Sometimes it develops in an instant, or in a few days, or at times over years. I need to visualize the image first in my head, and it often develops right away, or sometimes over time like slow motion viewing. With every project it seems there are times I just hate the piece so I have learned to walk away, to absorb, stew, stew some more, and then jump back in. I can’t say how or when but my work always seems to need time to percolate and just become.
MKM: How has your practice changed over time?
RH: I have learned to accept and trust the images in my head and also the surprises that happen along the way. It’s all about following my gut that always leads.
MKM: Do you focus on a specific medium or combination of mediums?
RH: I wasn’t trained as a “fine artist” in art school, but I have always studied life drawing and much later, oil painting. At some point, I came upon a book about Russian-American painter Sergei Bongart whose work just spoke to me. I would study the small red book I found with his recorded lessons. I remember his words “There are two kinds of artists, the emotional painter and academician…The academician always creates something acceptable, boring, but acceptable. The emotional artist often misses, but when he/she hits, it is breathtakingly beautiful…touched by the gods!” It all made sense to me, that a great painting should express an emotional message, and that the emotional connection was equally important as color relationships and values, painting passages, and modeling light. This drew me toward the monoprint printmaking technique that I love. Every stroke and mark made is recorded and the process is full of unknown surprises.
What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
That’s easy, my hands and eyes, but it would be difficult to live without my etching press.
MKM: Is there an artwork you are most proud of? Why?
RH: Today, I am most proud of my “Facts are Stubborn Things”. It might be because it’s my newest piece. The image speaks of my worst frustration of today’s struggle between facts and truths. Rather than factual evidence, today unwelcome truths have become the narrative of reality. Facts have become overwhelmed by false information so it’s difficult to believe that the truth will overcome. Trust has been lost to fear.
What has been a seminal experience?
My mother’s death was a seminal experience. It marks the first time I entered a series of monoprint paintings into a juried show that won the Best of Show award for the exhibition. The images portrayed moments of the experience and suffering that comes with terminal cancer. They were my tribute and my final goodbye to my mother.
What inspires you? Other artists, other women from history, your process, a theme?
Sadness, fear, anger, happiness and joy inspire me. The emotional connection when making, seeing and experiencing art is universal. It is what makes art, art.
Do you have a sense of connection to a particular woman artist from art history? Is there a specific work from this artist that you find interesting?
I feel most connected to the pop art movement, maybe because of my design background. I appreciate the hidden messages, graphic contemporary style, use of typography and simplicity of image. Idelle Weber, an American pop artist, who later switched to photorealism, is known for her figurative silhouette paintings with bright colors (think Mad Men) and later her photorealist trash and litter work. She also went through phases of monotype works and collage. I really appreciate how she reinvented herself/work from one extreme to the other. Corita Kent also did some interesting things. She was a LA pop art screen print artist in the 50s and 60s, she juxtaposed ads, street signs, billboards with poetry, scripture and song lyrics, transforming them to hopeful messages and call for action. I love anything type.
Who are your female role models from history or present day?
I respect Angelina Jolie because she’s owned her bad-girl reputation while growing into an amazing humanitarian, aiding those in need and traveling to visit those suffering in places like Pakistan, Kosovo and Syria. She confronted her risk for cancer publically and then became a poster woman for breast cancer-related issues. Did I mention, I was the ‘bad girl’ of our family, following in my older brother’s foot-steps. My two sisters were rule followers while I was forging my own path.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Don’t waste your time and energy convincing yourself you can’t do something, instead spend that energy doing it. Believe you can and it will happen.
MKM: Tell me about your childhood, where did you grow up? Were you always creative? CG: I grew up in a retirement condo with my grandparents in Palm Springs California. I have been making art since I was four, and in fact have known I was going to be an artist since then. I blame it on a Bugs Bunny episode where Bugs is running away from that big red furry monster and at one point blends into the background dressed as a french artist. I remember asking my grandma what he was doing and she explained and I said I want to do that. Then I begged her for paints and canvas, a french beret and smock and art classes non-stop. I was either very persuasive or just broke her down. She was amazing and supportive. She took me to the only art class she could find. An adult painting class 2 bus transfers away at the WMCA. She convinced them to let me in at only four years old. I behaved when I had a paintbrush in hand.
MKM: Why did you pursue art? CG: I paint in my sleep, so it isn’t something I can ignore. I don’t just dream of making art. I wake often with my arm in the air painting the air. I once gave myself a black eye when my hand that only moments earlier was hovering in the air with me wondering why it was up there came down smack on my eye in the moment of acknowledgment that that was weird.
MKM: Where did you study? CG: University of Redlands- Johnston Center for Integrative Studies, with Honors. An incredible program where you don’t get traditional grades but rather evaluations and you evaluate the professors. You can create your own classes as well. I had gone through every art class they had by the end of my junior year so my senior year all the art classes we projects I worked with one on one with my professors. It was the beginning of a lifetime of chasing ideas and experimenting. I still had a great foundation in classical art studies but was able to accelerate learning down this path of experimentation that last year. For my MFA I found another program similar to Johnston at MICA Mount Royal School of Art where experimentation was emphasized.
MKM: Memorable teachers? CG: I’ve been really lucky to have a slew of teachers that took me seriously and really supported me or changed the way I think. The two professors that probably had the most profound effect on me were Sal Scarpita and Babe Shapiro, my professors at MICA. They would have these fights over my work. One would love it and the other hated it. Seriously loud debates. So I’d listen and change things and they would switch places. The one who loved my work would then hate it. After a year of this I was so frustrated I broke down in front of them. I lost it for the first time ever balling my eyes out crying I can’t please you both! I don’t know what I’m doing! But suddenly had the revelation that they were playing with me trying to get me to learn to listen to my own voice and stop painting to please others. That it doesn’t matter who likes or doesn’t like my work. It was a profound moment that allowed me to finally own my own work and creative voice. I am forever in their debt for that. Turns out they actually both liked my work. Those little devils!
MKM: When you’re creating what’s your daily routine? Rituals, patterns? CG: Coffee!!!! A must and plenty of it. When I am finally ready to work, it’s usually around 2pm. I am a late night kind of person. I’ll take a break to cook a nice dinner but I start work again around 10 pm and work till around 3 am. It’s quiet then. No phones ringing, no one asking me for anything. Total undisturbed time to think full thoughts to their logical end, plenty of time to make art. I get at least 8 hours of work in most days. I also take some days, or between waiting for work to dry, to work on PR or searching venues, galleries, exhibitions opportunities. I am rarely doing nothing.
MKM: How has your practice changed over time? CG: Obviously when my kids were babies and really young, I could not stay up late so I would drop them off to school and work till pick up. It never felt right. It was always this fight with my internal circadian clock. But some things never changed. I was always chasing ideas and experimenting with materials. My children would experiment with me too. I’d often have art materials out ready for them to use along with me.
MKM: Do you focus on a specific medium or combination of mediums? Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet? CG: I work with a lot of unlikely materials. Many have industrial applications. Most of my work is put together with resin and plexiglas usually figures in the work because of its ability to give support to the work but also kind of disappear if I want it to. I am very interested in encaustic but haven’t had a chance to try it yet. I’m also really interested in gelatin prints. You literally print on a sheet of jello. I did a lot of printmaking in college and gelatin prints allows you to print without a press, leaving you really portable and they are one of a kind works on paper.
MKM: What themes do you pursue? CG: Some of my work is political when it deals with the environment and I pull in remnants from the homebuilding industry. I try to rescue as much plexi as possible from going into the dump and often pick up remnants that my supplier has saved for me. Themes weigh more heavily in the memory of water and the preciousness of water. We are all conned by water across this whole planet. We are mostly water ourselves. Since I experiment so much and have a new series every year, I need something that ties all the work together. Keeping the subject about the memory of water allows for a lot of varied materials, yet does pull it together via theme. I recently had my 10th anniversary at BAU Gallery where I do my experimenting each year, and presented a retrospective of those experiments.
MKM: What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio? CG: Probably my level. If I want a good resin pour, my plexi had better be level. Resin is like juggling honey. It’s going to go to the lowest spot, so that level is key to having it stay where I pour it. Also important is my blowtorch. Without that, I will have cloudy resin. The blowtorch removes bubbles.
MKM: What inspires you? Other artists, other women from history, your process, a theme? CG: I tend to be more influenced by the artists around me currently making art. It’s a rift on ideas in conversations or sharing information, discoveries, just bouncing ideas off of each other. Some of my favorite time, especially when stuck trying to figure out my next series, is getting together with fellow artists (mostly women) for breakfast, just spending the whole morning and afternoon talking. I am refreshed and energized after a day like that. It’s important to have community and a sense of camaraderie. Making art can be a lonely experience. I don’t let that happen.
MKM: Do you have a sense of connection to a particular woman artist from art history? Is there a specific work from this artist that you find interesting? CG: Yayoi Kusama and her infinity work with all those polka dots is very inspiring. The Queen of Polka Dots! My own seafoam drawings are comprised of hundreds of thousands of micro polka dots, so I gotta love Kusama. She was so experimental and such a fighter in her early career. Always having to fight against sexism in Japan and in the heart of the NY Art scene. Men stealing her ideas and taking the credit. Her eventual rise to absolute dominance is something truly astounding to me. How did it happen? I think her talent was just too big to be ignored forever. Her dedication to her daily routine despite her challenges is something I deeply feel akin to. I also struggle with health issues and honestly, art keeps me going. I admire Helen Frankenthaler’s stain paintings. Again it’s someone who experiments and thinks out of the box that paint can be stain and canvas can be raw. That’s exciting to me. I also use a lot of stains and pooling of paint. I also feel a connection to Agnes Martin’s minimalist paintings which to me are these tiny lines of humanity. They force you to concentrate on the tiniest lines of the imperfect human hand in a field of order. Pattern, texture and light is what I see in her work. Although my lines are looser, my work is about line, pattern, light and shadow.
MKM: Who are your female role models from history or present day? CG: Lisa Zukowski is a friend of mine and she is a master of every medium she touches. She is an artist who has taught me so much, helped me to get a backbone in business, taught me how to hang shows and run a gallery, as well as how to put a show together. She doesn’t even realize how much of a mentor she is to me. I admire her art. Her talent. Her no nonsense approach. She is one of the artists who I love to get together with and bounce ideas around with her.
MKM: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? CG: Don’t give others power over your emotions or your self worth. This is a business. If they say no, don’t give up. NEXT! Move on and find a yes. Keep building. Make your own projects. Think out of the box. Reapply with better work.
Opening March 1st and on view through April 12th, 2020, Whitney Modern Gallery @whitneymodern is pleased to present 31 Women, an exhibition curated by Marianne McGrath @theartistcollector with Karen Gutfreund @karengutfreundart and Suzanne Whitney-Smedt @whitneymodern. 31 Women celebrates the work of 31 female artists, one woman for each day in the month of March, in honor of Women’s History Month. Women’s History Month annually commemorates women’s contributions to history, culture and society throughout the United States.
Highlighted individually throughout the exhibition are each artist’s process and inspiration, as well as her sense of connection to women in history and art history. Along with the show at Whitney Modern, artists will be featured on social media, blogs, websites and in the gallery – one woman a day for the month of March. This aspect of the show is intended to be a virtual exhibition that will be available to those out of the area, and it provides an opportunity to focus on a particular woman artist, emphasizing her unique practice and contributions to the art community.
ONE WOMAN A DAY begins today, March 1st with LINDA CHRISTENSEN
Excerpts from an interview with Linda Christensen
MKM: Tell me about your childhood? Were you always creative? Where did you study?
LC: I grew up with lots of coloring and drawing. The line drawings from coloring books were my first exposure to the beauty of line. I also scribbled and filled in with color as my way of experimenting with abstract shapes. I was very observant of people too and learned about what was going on in the world when I couldn’t make sense of the generalized information my parents gave me.
I studied art at San Jose Sate but tabled ideas of becoming an artist when I married a law student and began working full time in clerical work in San Francisco. I finished my art degree at UC Santa Cruz in the late 1980s.
MKM: When you’re creating what’s your daily routine? rituals, patterns?
LC: My daily routine is to create an environment that is calming and also entertaining. Studio work is isolating and can become tedious at times. I learned early on that black and white movies with simple plots provided a contrast to the pigments of my palette. The velvety grey-scale, deep shadows and single camera angles of the old movies are some of the elements that have informed my work. The day must be set up as to feel limitless with time as well as supplies, and someone else to make dinner. Everything is in abundance including a cabinet full of paint and a 6ft long glass palette.
MKM: How has your practice changed over time?
LC: In the past I thought nothing of having several paintings in progress at one time but now I have more reverence for what I’m doing in that I care about following the story to the end, independently. Each painting is a novel and I want to remember what happened in last week or month and stay curious and loyal to the process to the end. I’m still trying to figure out what the work is about and with painting one painting at a time I can better hear myself.
MKM: What would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
I am still fascinated with the printed line. I would like to figure out a way of incorporating the delicate look of a printed line with an oil painting. I would also like to try a larger format. I work up to a 6×5 but I would like to work larger than that.
MKM: What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
LC: I can’t live without a palette knife. It frees up the work when used, making my marks less controlled and it keeps the color from mixing when working wet in wet. I use the palette knife for mixing color on my 6ft. palette and use it to apply paint onto the canvas as well. It’s rough and sloppy but I can grasp the illusion of a hand or a face, which keeps me from getting too detailed. The image is not about getting everything correct but about getting the emotional content expressed. I also can’t live without my small oil pastels in black and white. Sometimes I use a blue. For a quick line addition, I love the pastel. It’s a chance to bring in the direct application of the artist’s hand at work. It feels especially intimate.
MKM: What do you like best about working in oils?
LC: I like to build up the surface of the work and scrape back and remove paint too. Oil paint represents butter to me… and when I’m resistant to going into the studio I imagine just putting butter on toast.
MKM: What inspires you? Other artists, other women from history, your process, a theme?
LC: Watching people inspires me. I can see glimpses of the human condition if I wait for it. I instinctively observe people, but I also use art books for reference and inspiration, I follow people on social media, I observe myself, and I have recently started hiring a model to come to the studio. I attend art conferences to hear and see other artists and their work; I love talking with other artists
Gabriele Munter was a woman I wrote a paper on during college. I was impressed by her ability to use black and the use of line. Munter was married to artist husband, Wasily Kandinsky and found it difficult to be recognized in her own right as a painter. I had a similar situation [in the past] being married to a criminal attorney. Graduating with an art degree was considered a frivolous undertaking and I was encouraged to instead go for a degree in education.
Squeak Carnwath is another artist that I admire. Her work is deeply personal and is based on her childhood. She also lets her political views be known and incorporates them into her work. I am inspired by Joan Mitchell for her abstract work and Dorothea Lang for her ability to capture the emotion of the time through photography.
Opening March 1st and on view through April 12th, 2020, Whitney Modern Gallery is pleased to present 31 Women, an exhibition curated by Marianne McGrath with Karen Gutfreund and Suzanne Whitney-Smedt. 31 Women celebrates the work of 31 female artists in honor of Women’s History Month. Women’s History Month annually commemorates women’s contributions to history, culture and society throughout the United States. 2020 is an especially exciting and powerful year for women as it is also the 100th anniversary of the 19thAmendment, which granted the right to vote to women in the United States.
Highlighted individually throughout the exhibition are each artist’s process and inspiration, as well as her sense of connection to women in history and art history. Along with the show at Whitney Modern, artists will be featured on social media, blogs, websites and in the gallery – one woman each day for the month of March. This aspect of the show is intended to be a virtual exhibition that will be available to those out of the area, and it provides an opportunity to focus on a particular woman artist, emphasizing her unique practice and contributions to the art community.
Exhibiting artists from the Bay Area and beyond include: Shannon Amidon, Elizabeth Barlow, Marie Cameron, Linda Christensen, Jennifer Cole, Sara V. Cole, Kim Frohsin, Karen Gallagher-Iverson, Carla Goldberg, Michelle Greggor, Laura Gurton, Christine Hayman, Ellen Heck, Rozanne Hermelyn, Kelsey Irvin, Ivy Jacobsen, Julia Jensen, Pantea Karimi, Sherry Karver, Michelle Mansour, Brigitte McReynolds, Lisa Noonis, Sandy Ostrau, Stephanie Peek, Jennifer Pochinski, Astrid Preston, Carole Rafferty, Sawyer Rose, Jeanne Vadeboncoeur, Josette Urso, and Elena Zolotnisky.
The opening event for 31 Women will take place at Whitney Modern on Sunday, March 8th, International Women’s Day, from 12:00noon – 4:00pm. For more event information please contact Suzanne Whitney-Smedt at Whitney Modern Gallery (408) 402-5922.
Marianne McGrath is an art historian, independent curator and consultant. After a successful decade with New Museum Los Gatos and The Museums of Los Gatos curating exhibits and presenting art and education programs, Marianne founded MKM Art Consulting, which offers curatorial projects and consulting services to art institutions, galleries and artists. Marianne holds a BA degree in Art, MA degree in Art History and her professional affiliations include ArtTable, College Art Association and the Women’s Caucus for Art. mkmARTconsulting.com
Suzanne Smedt is director/owner of Whitney Modern Gallery. Since opening more than two years ago, Whitney Modern has become Silicon Valley’s Contemporary Fine Art Gallery, fulfilling the need for high quality fine art in the South Bay. Whitney Modern is committed to engaging the community through the creative experience by showcasing thought provoking, collectible works of art from internationally recognized, mid-career and emerging contemporary fine artists.
Karen Gutfreund is a curator, exhibition director and art consultant, as well as an artist. Her focus is “art as activism” to create dialog and social change; a strong focus is promoting women in the arts through national exhibitions. Karen has worked in the Painting & Sculpture Department for MoMA, the Andre Emmerick Gallery, The Knoll Group, the John Berggruen Gallery, Arc Gallery and the Pacific Art League. Karen is a member of ArtTable, CAA, the Women’s Caucus for Art and The Feminism Art Project (TFAP).