Piece description from the artist
There is an ever growing obsession with place and identity that arises from a world that perpetually grows more connected while its neighborhoods grow farther apart, where people are torn between comforts of home and community and longings for adventure and the universal. We seek tangible things and places as ways of anchoring us in our homes, relationships, and identities, from saving old yearbooks to choosing to live close to our families. Yet we also seek tangible things as means of escape, from drinking off a bad day at work to traveling to places we have never been.
But we miss a vital point in the midst of these searches for the next big thing to lead us forward or at least away—that our dissatisfaction does not stem from where we are but why we choose to be there. What keeps us where we are, or what chases us away? At what point does a home become intolerable, though we hate packing and moving our things? What changes a faulty relationship from tolerable enough to sit on and blame for our problems to bad enough to end? We want long-term love and instant gratification, slim waistlines and chocolate cake, and everything we cannot afford; some of us wait for new romantic interests to make the first move, others for a heart attack to give the wake-up call about our health. We all live on thresholds, waiting endlessly for an outside force to break them.
The subjects in my work exist in this tension. Animals collide together, violent yet intimate, or appear alone, pointedly aggressive without a scapegoat. The drawings themselves are reminiscent of old fable illustrations, yet in our adulthood have none of the straightforward simplicity of the moral lessons that children’s books and parents once preached to us. These are interrupted conversations, intimidating women, and incomplete construction that neither continues nor ends. My processes of pen and ink and woodcut are old-fashioned and imbued with history; there is something decisive about putting things in ink and carving pieces out, forever. But as we depart from the basics of our teachings, we learn that change, not stability, is constant, and that process, not conclusion, is permanent.
Jenie Gao is an artist specializing in woodcuts, ink drawings, and allegorical storytelling. Her work
across industries has made her a firm believer in different disciplines working together to inform
and help one another. Art is nothing without dialogue and inseparable from culture and the
values that define it.
Jenie received her BFA in Printmaking/Drawing from Washington University in St. Louis.
Following her studies, Jenie worked in education and nonprofit before going into commercial
printing and the pursuit of a career in lean manufacturing: the reduction of waste in business
In the past year, Jenie left her job at her former company to pursue her artwork. She spent the
beginning of 2015 traveling to pursue two art residencies in Argentina and Chile, and has now
returned to Madison with new work and new stories that challenge the way we see ourselves
and the world around us, and therefore invite us to make a difference. She continues to consult
in lean and sees her creative philosophies as inseparable from her vision of organizations that
run more simply and beautifully.
Bonus info: Jenie makes an award-winning strawberry rhubarb pie.
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