Jen Coon creates woodblock, lithograph, and hybrid prints combining traditional techniques with an experimental approach. She often develops the image by layering multiple impressions and adding marks by hand. She loves using tools and processes that date from ancient cultures, and especially admires the beauty of paper and the craftmanship of her Japanese gouges and barens.
Jen graduated from the State University of New York at Purchase with a BA in Fine Art, and moved from Ossining, New York to Raleigh in 1987. She later studied printmaking at UNC-Chapel Hill and the techniques of Moku Hanga at Penland School of Crafts. As a member of the NC Printmakers Guild , she exhibited at colleges and art venues across the state between 2001 to 2009. She has held studio space in Raleigh since 1990, and lives in Raleigh with Sophie, her partner of 27 years, and their cats, Bossa and Nova. She is employed full-time by the North Carolina Museum of Art.
I have printed from skin, a baby cradle, chair seats, book covers, bubble wrap, crochet, and onto paper, cloth, clothing, and neck ties. I have combined those direct references to the body with photos, maps, and sometimes words in an effort to express personal and universal experiences.
Mark-making by applying and transferring ink is less predictable and more fun than painting. In my practice I get to offer used objects a second chance to have a purpose and be loved. I hope my work invites deep looking and a way to explore my and your observations of the world . - Jen Coon
During an imposed separation from my partner, I made a series called Dinner Without You, printing a metaphorical tabletop from plywood in black on white. My studio mate, cartographer Denis Wood, wrote:
"...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 seems compelled to capture in ink these everyday surfaces we touch, that she touches, ...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...
Yet there is also always this sophistication, this reticence, this reserve, as if speaking too fully were some kind of transgression, as if there were -- perhaps -- something insulting about drawing another's attention to the everyday, to their own everyday. Yet there it is, and they haven't -- in fact -- been paying attention.
...(Her) color ricochets between near-monochrome and exuberance; and her design sense rarely lets her down.
In her best work these fuse to produce a beautiful, balanced image of so aching a sensibility it almost hurts: the marks of a meal, the wine glass picked up and put down many times, the plate, the motions the utensils, the open book, on a velvety black these fugitive traces of a lonely ritual, the act of eating alone caught in a print. This is what I mean by her wanting to print everything. Imagine: wanting to make a print of the act of eating alone.
Image: Signature of the artist, Jen Coon