Jen Coon creates original works on paper using traditional, hand-pulled printmaking methods and often combining Eastern and Western processess. She brings an investgative approach and a strong command of inking and layering to her work. Jen's work showcases tonal subtlety, responsiveness to materials, and curiosity about the ways in which prints can reflect human presence, action, and residual notations.
Having grown up in rural Western New York State, surrounded by small farms, lakes, gorges, and rolling hills, Jen's appreciation of nature comes through in her work as organic shapes, colors, and relationships. The environments she grew up in fostered an awareness of hand tools, with their beautifully distressed surfaces of metal and wood. Her fondness for carving tools, wood grain, and paper is an extension of that familiarity. Her experimental use of mark-making implements (bicycle tire, crochet, pastry blender, bubble wrap), and her appropriation of used furniture components (table, crib, clock), are references to domestic settings and haptic (touch-related) experience.
Jen studied at the School of Fine Arts at State University of New York at Purchase, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in painting and drawing. Her experiences at art school established lifelong work habits of meditative attention, self-reflection, and aesthetic rigor. She also credits her Purchase experience with fostering an understanding of the expansive potential of self-expression: "There, I was encouraged to question identity and social constructs at a time (during the '80's) when manifestations of queerness and otherness were stigmatized and marginalized. I think this lives in my practice a searching, restless approach to process and point of view." (JC)
She moved to Raleigh in 1987, and later received instruction at UNC-Chapel Hill and Penland School of Craft (notably, with master Keiji Shinohara in the moku-hanga technique). As a member of the NC Printmakers Guild from 2001 to 2009, she exhibited at colleges and art venues across the state, and recently has shown her work at the Village District Library and the North Carolina Museum of Art. She holds a studio at Blam! on Kinsey St. and makes her home in Raleigh with her partner, Sophie, and their two cats.
It exercises my imagination to design and develop a print; to carve a block or ink a surface in such a way as to generate a particular mark, which then is puzzled into a composition. It exercises my problem solving skills to take advantage of an unexpected result, which is known to happen in printmaking. The end result may be a sensuous, graphic conjuring of 3-dimensional surface (the appearance of a tabletop marked with fingerprints and cup rings -- and whatever emotions that may carry) or a more complex evocation of ideas through pattern, language, family photographs, or articles of clothing.
I want to find out what can happen in this moment of recording a surface; what presence or action can be implied or postulated. The actions of preparing and pressing an object can raise ideas in and of themselves. These forces can cause physical change to the block, which allows for a documentary approach. I keep the process methodical enough to support the opposing goals of repetition and exploration, which typically results in serial, related monoprints. I find the work to be an absorbing feedback loop that demands not only skill and ingenuity, but courage and poetic imagination.
- Jen Coon 3/2023
"...Everything she does is so deliberate and well-crafted..., in the quality of the inking, in the presswork, in the attention to the surfaces Jen chooses to print. Invariably, these bear the marks of life. They have lived as wood, been used as crates, or tables, been worn as clothes, as skin. They are skin. Jen [captures] in ink these everyday surfaces... through the tactile equivalent of a kiss. I have accused Jen of wanting to print everything, but what I mean is, everything in its ongoing daily-ness. It is as if she were determined to keep a diary in the form of prints."
-Cartographer, Denis Wood
Image: Signature of the artist, Jen Coon