What we call "I" is just a swinging door, which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. --Shunryu Suzuki
House Cat, a collection of recent work by Jennifer Sullivan offers an eclectic collection of paintings, works on paper, and a new video, in which the artist makes a conscious effort to move away from direct appropriation which has often been a jumping off point in her process and delve more fully into her own unique voice. Yet there is a continuity as well, in her orientation towards expressing an emotional vulnerability, psychological states always in flux, and a promiscuity in form and subject matter. Her work is always a process of searching to uncover a larger meaning within the realities of her daily life and to operate from an improvisational “beginner’s mind” of many possibilities.
While House Cat includes several portraits, including a large one of the artist’s cat Queenie who assumes many roles in the artist’s work and life, especially as a stand-in for the artist herself, the title is meant to go beyond literal portraiture, to encompass ideas of interiority, self-sufficiency and the solitude of studio process. In addition to straightforward portraits, there is also a series of collage, house paint, ink and gouache works on paper that incorporate a wide variety of elements including lipstick prints cut from the artist’s business card, washy watercolors, rudimentary printing techniques made from spilled paint, traced purses and fans and more, which form densely layered exploratory images.
Other works incorporate and/or imitate household objects, such as a painting that is placed inside of a bag pilfered from the artist’s home, in which only the top of the canvas sticks out, leaving one to wonder about the obscured parts inside. Sullivan has also begun making intimate gouache and collage works on take-out menus collected from the establishments in her Ridgewood, Queens neighborhood, a kitty-corner reference to the inner life.
In The Only Way Out Is Through, Sullivan gropes towards her own breakthrough by drawing inspiration from the broken shards of Julian Schnabel’s iconic plate paintings to create something unique in form and content from their source material. Built on top of a door from her apartment, Sullivan affixes broken shards of piggy banks, a collection inherited from the artist’s mother (an aspiring but ultimately unrecognized artist), onto the door, which has been expressionistically painted with swatches of oil paint. The fragmented forms simultaneously act as homage to the artist’s influences on both a personal and art historical level, and assert a sense of being “broken open”. Finally, the work is pierced through by a tiny door-within-a-door at its bottom edge -- a “cat flap” as Zen-inspired self-portrait.
Jennifer Sullivan is an interdisciplinary artist who lives and works in Ridgewood, NY (Queens). Solo exhibitions include Big Girl Paintings, Emma Gray HQ at 5 Car Garage, Los Angeles, CA (2014), Adult Movie, Las Cienegas Projects, Los Angeles, CA (2011), and One-Week Walden, Freight + Volume, New York, NY (2010). Sullivan has also exhibited and performed in exhibitions at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, David Lewis Gallery, Essex Flowers, Pablo's Birthday, 247365, Klaus Von Nichtsaggend, and Arthouse. Awards include a fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center, and residencies at Skowhegan, Ox-Bow, and Yaddo. Her work has been reviewed in the NY Times, Artforum.com, and Art Papers, and her videos are included in the Geisel Library collection at the University of California in San Diego. This summer, she will be a fellow at the Lighthouse Works residency on Fishers Island, NY. She is represented by Emma Gray / 5 Car Garage in Los Angeles, CA.