I asked Jen if she would write something for me about the wedding dress costume, and the painting Battle Dress. This is her take:
For the theatrical numbers of NJC shows I search for costumes that have a strong visual impact and use commonly understood icons and archetypes. I have been wanting to wear a wedding dress for an NJC show for some time: it's recognizable, and carries an emotional weight for many (including myself). My vision to make it tattered and bloody was of an innocent seeing some horrors that she was never prepared for. She seeks to escape or embrace the reality of living, destroying her white dress in the process. The Battle Dress painting illustrates that I'm too big for that dress, and the tattoos and androgyny clash with the archetype of a naïve, veiled bride. Wearing that dress in itself was a battle; I could not shake the image of childhood dress-up where we practice societal roles with my own conflicting emotions over a failed marriage. That discomfort and emotional weight was captured beautifully in this painting, especially with the pastoral background where I could imagine a lavish wedding was taking place.
Jen Rae 2017
Transmission is a continuation of the ‘Wired’ project, a body of paintings examining the human/machine interface, and the ethical and emotional dichotomies around new technology. Wired, Rumour, Touch, Fledgling and The Relic are the other paintings from this series, some of which were featured in Altered States, which was shown in the Mendel Art Gallery’s Artist by Artist program in 2013. My young collaborator in this exhibition, Cate Francis, is the model for this new work. I painted Cate as a child of the digital age, deeply connected to her virtual universe, but yet uneasily conscious of the potential danger.
The underpainting, with the beginning of the top coat in the far left figure.
The painting stages:
In 2018, the Mann Gallery in Prince Albert, SK will host a linked pair of exhibitions with Cate Francis and myself examining the narrative aspect in figurative art. In the main exhibition space I will have a solo show of large scale oil paintings, with work spanning a decade of experimentation using symbolism, allegory and metaphor to connect and contextualize contemporary issues within an historical lineage. Alongside this, Cate will display her ongoing engagement with similar issues in printmaking.