“Sometimes it is a little better to travel than to arrive.” — Robert Pirsig
Location and maps are a crucial part of painter Jennifer Palmer’s work. “The first maps I collected were from my childhood and they were used on family trips. I loved that they were used on our trips and I could see my Dad’s handwritten notes and the highlighted route for each adventure. These memories have become even more precious since my Mother’s passing from cancer this past year.” Palmer is currently working on a new series involving plein air artworks created during road trips throughout Kentucky in a 1951 Chevy Pickup: http://palmertravelingartist.tumblr.com/
Are you still touring Kentucky in your 1951 Chevy pick-up?
I currently am and the project is still in the beginning stages. I have spent the summer working on organizing my trip and scouting out locations to complete my artwork. This has allowed me the necessary time to come up with a more cohesive plan that has clear objectives and goals to make this a successful project. After my trip to Maine this summer I realized I wanted to challenge myself to something much larger than I had originally intended and to push myself creatively to use materials and process that I haven’t used before. This has slowed down the project, however, it has increased the drive to have a series that goes beyond what I had originally envisioned.
How many different places have you been?
Only a handful of places at this point and mostly I have been cruising routes and making notes on good places to stop and make some art. I feel I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the places to explore in this beautiful state. I have toured a lot of backroads in Kentucky cruising and I started to realize that I need to also include more urban areas on my travels.
What music do you listen to on the road?
I tend to just keep the windows down and listen to my surroundings and mostly the sound of the truck’s engine.
Do you listen to music while you paint?
I do and tend to listen to the same music over and over until I finish a series. You would most likely find Shovels and Rope and Roy Orbison in rotation in the studio.
What expectations did you have for the journey?
To stumble upon beauty in every place I visit.
Tell us something about the people you have met?
I have found that everyone enjoys sharing a story if you are willing to slow down and ask some questions and be sincere in wanting to hear what they have to say. The people I have encountered are the greatest resources on learning more about the areas I am visiting. They know the area and give out the best suggestions for places to see and also to eat. I have experienced that people always love sharing stories about their animals and that is a great way to start a conversation.
Also, I would like to add since I am still in the planning stages I would love to hear from people in Kentucky on places to go and more importantly why do they think I should visit there and document the space.
What's your favorite place to visit?
I will have to say Maine. I spent two weeks there this summer on an art road trip and I fell hard for the state. The landscape, the history, the people and the air were so inspiring. What made the trip memorable was visiting the Farnsworth Museum and seeing Andrew Wyeth’s work in person. It literally brought tears to my eyes. I was then able to make the journey to the Olsen House and spend time photographing the house and grounds. I have never felt such a connection with a place.
Honestly, this trip to Maine got me a little side tracked on the Traveling Artist Project here in Kentucky with the Chevy, however, it stirred a passion and desire to make it a more impactful series by slowing down and really taking time to plan out the project so I can create a wide range of pieces in various mediums. Kentucky holds the same charm and beauty and I want to explore the forgotten spaces to see the hidden gems myself and then be able to share these finds with an audience in a thoughtful manner.
So far, what is the longest you spent in any one location?
I crave the chance to be nomadic however, my heart always belongs to one place and that is wherever my horses are located. That is what brought me to Kentucky 10 years ago and what keeps me appreciating this amazing state is all the open land that is still available here. So my journeys tend to be short in nature, however, the list is extensive on places I want to visit, even if it is only short term.
What's the most challenging part when starting on a piece of work?
To not worry about what the outcome will be and just create and be in the moment.
How long do you usually spend on a specific piece of art?
It varies and can be a few hours to months. Recently, I have been going over work I had in storage for a few years and remaking it into a new series. I strongly believe in including an element of history in my work and I am enjoying making something new out of pieces that I never felt were quite finished. It is nice to see new life given to them and also to go back and relive the time period of when I was creating them.
Has your style changed or evolved over the years? If so what do you think influenced this?
It has and it goes through cycles. Location and time of year influences it, also the events going on in my life. The most significant change came with the passing of my Mother from pancreatic cancer. She was the inspiration in starting to live my life to the fullest and to finally get my dream truck, and then for this journey to gather stories. I realized how significant stories and personal histories are after you lose someone and they take the stories with them. If you don’t take the time to gather and archive them you will end up losing them forever. And now my work is more about searching out those feelings and memories and I am seeing a shift of including more figurative elements into my work as a way of processing these shifts in life.
If you could meet any celebrity who would it be and what would you ask them?
Wendell Berry and I would love to ask him to show me his favorite location in
Kentucky and learn more about why he chose that spot.
Name: Jennifer Palmer
Hometown: Simpsonville, Kentucky
Education: MFA in painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design; BA in Art and Political Science, Cedar Crest College (Allentown, Pennsylvania)
Are you interested in being on Artebella? Click here to learn more.
Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2016 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.