Although classically trained as a figure painter, Jenny Morgan is breaking with the labor-intensive preciousness associated with the realist approach. Technically intricate with a haunting quality, Morgan's paintings experiment with psychological visual realism, obscuring the physical to expose the spiritual. She obfuscates the portraits' meticulous details by annihilating their likeness, stripping away layers like physical and spiritual wounds, while retaining a striking intimacy. Like an archeologist, she digs to discover the subject's identity.
“I have reached the point where I need to play around with the paint on the canvas surface just to keep myself interested and engaged in the process,” she wrote in her artist statement. “I am exploring and 'messing up' my realist hand by employing different methods of disturbing the surface through sanding and glazing.”
Morgan depicts people she knows well, creating renderings that are sensitive and compassionate, and sometimes brutally perceptive. Lately, she has turned her focus to people she knows personally, but not intimately. “If there is a spark of mystery to our relationship,” she wrote, “it leaves room for me to explore them on canvas.”
Her corporeal but also ethereal portraits become almost supernatural portrayals, hovering between the spheres of the known and the unknown. Her intensely personal work examines the complexity of human relationships and the multiplicities of self-awareness. Her subjects sometimes hold objects as metaphors for their personalities. “The figure is simply the most compelling subject matter for me,” she wrote, it feels natural, and with the ebb and flow of my style and maturity, I find new ways to approach the portrait.”
Born in 1982 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Morgan now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She holds a BA from the Rocky Mountain College School of Design in Lakewood, Colorado, and an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York. She is represented by New York City's Driscoll Babcock Galleries, which presented a solo exhibition of her work in 2013. Her work has been exhibited in the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.; 92Y Tribeca and the Le Roy Neiman Gallery at Columbia University, both in New York; and at galleries in Orlando, Florida; London, England; and Falun, Sweden. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine.
Image courtesy of Thomas Hager.