Buy Some Damn Art

Jenn Smith


Where are you from originally and where do you live now?

I'm originally from Morton, IL, which is a little midwestern town famous for pumpkins. I go back every year to eat pumpkin pancakes and see the winner of the giant pumpkin contest. Now I live in Chicago, which is a great place for artists. I love my neighborhood, Pilsen, which is covered with beautiful murals. My favorites are the ones under the railroad tracks at 16th street because they’re old and fading and falling apart.



What is your background as an artist?

My mom is an artist and a teacher, so there were always little art projects happening around the house. I continued to make things all through school and ended up getting my undergraduate degree in studio art with a concentration in painting, but I also did a lot of drawing and made ceramics and sculpture. I decided to go to grad school for library science and worked in a few different libraries, which put artmaking on hold for a while, but things began to fall into place when I got my current job as a librarian at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I have really grown up as an artist during my time at SAIC. I work side by side with incredibly talented artists and scholars, take classes, go to lectures and shows, and I’m surrounded by art, art books, movies, and music all day long.



You have a wonderfully active and playful etsy shop. Can you share a little about the experience of sharing and selling your work online?

Thank you! For me it's about connecting with people and making my work accessible to non-artists or people who aren't a part of the art world. I think a lot of people are interested in buying art directly from the person who made it, but don't know how to go about it. Do you go to a gallery? Is it going to be expensive? Where do you start? Platforms like Etsy make the process a lot more direct and less mysterious. One benefit of my Etsy shop that I didn’t anticipate is that it has helped me connect with bloggers, curators, etc. who want to feature my work or collaborate with me. So my shop has also been a good way for people to find me.

New on Videocassette


What do you do when not making art?

Work at the library, take art classes, see friends and family, read, sing, travel, and watch old movies. And, even when I'm not making art, I'm either talking about it or looking at it: my boyfriend and I both have our studios in our apartment and we are often giving each other advice and suggestions or talking about other people's art.


What do you hope your fans and collectors take away from your art?

I like the idea that there’s no right way to look at art, and I hope people make a connection to my work in whatever way is meaningful for them. If someone buys a painting from me and wants to hang it upside down because they like it better that way, I’m totally for it! When I made the six paintings for this show, I was thinking about failure, awkwardness, 80s arcade games, and underground rooms. Pretty much everything I make has a sense of humor, and hopefully that comes through for people. I like to say if my paintings had arms they would hug you awkwardly.

Flat Out


Where do you hope your art takes you (or vice versa) in the next year or two?

That’s a great question! I like the idea of my art taking me somewhere, like it packs my suitcase for me and books two tickets for Tokyo and sits next to me on the flight. I would enjoy that.

Written by Kate Singleton — August 03, 2012