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Art Watch : Jennifer Mazza

Jennifer Mazza is our Art Watch Artist for today. This section is brought to you by Art From Us and Divvya Nirula. The Artists we spotlight here can be from any field, across nay discipline, and using a variety of media. We share here why we think they are important and worth watching. Be it genius creators of eras gone by. Or the upcoming contemporary artist who is yet to have their first show. All come under the purview of Art Watch. 

Odd, sensual, horrific – these words come to mind when you first come face to face with Mazza’s oil paintings. Cropped, intimate, and modern framing of her subject matter, Mazza celebrates the ‘strange’ in her work.

Talking about her craft and what motivates her, the artist says “I actually think the paintings are kind of funny, I started out doing ears, you know, stretched this way and that, out of shape, kind of abstracted. I was thinking about Vincent Van Gogh. It was like, he looked for a part of his body that he really didn’t need in order to cut it off. He didn’t even cut off his whole ear, just the tip of it. It was like a painter’s plea for attention”. In a way her works succeed in that plea for attention – you cannot miss them, nor can you look away. They draw you in, and ask you to keep on staring!

Living in the small city of Newark, painter Jennifer Mazza has been an artist-in-residence at the Newark Museum and at the Museum of Modern Art’s PS1. Mazza’s strength are the quaint sized powerful pieces that she creates.

Why Jennifer Mazza?

She is known for the focus and detailing of hands. Hands crammed absently into a mouth, or plunged into the buckling pages of a book. Or, in one memorable, early series, squishing a jelly doughnut into globules of scarlet goo. There is something about the way the hand translates thought into tangible gestures. They become an intrinsic part of a person and they are recognised by them.

Mazza’a work on closer inspection reveals an unusual pathos. Like an emergent story, that begs the viewer to think about the context and the person to whom the hands belong to.

Mazza, work of the little paintings, has garnered interest for their intricate detailing and smallness of the canvas of her choice (usually smaller than a sheet of copy paper, not more than 6.5- by 8.5 inches). The fingers are depicted nailing a chin or a lip with their verticals and diagonals, or occasionally gnarling into a fist pressed against cheek or throat, or they stand in for Roman soldiers. The artist often sees a correspondence with Jenny Saville, as she uses a high blond tone, and she is convincingly real. Mazza’s paintings are often labelled as sexual and depicting violence But that’s not all that they suggest.

It has been a while since Mazza has been trying to fit her work in alignment with a revival of representational painting. This has been a concept that has gained popularity in the world of contemporary art for more than a decade. Part of the method involves presenting the piece in a similar context, with meta frames that mock the style itself. As if artists were worried folks would see representational painting as an attempt to revive a historical and now condemned notion of what art should be.


For more Artists handpicked by Divvya Nirula – explore the ART WATCH archive.

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