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Arts in Milwaukee

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Jenie Gao

  • Art
I am an Art Professional

artist bio

Jenie Gao is an artist and printmaker specializing in the mediums of woodcut and ink drawing. Her work focuses on the interdependence of preservation and change. She discusses how the objects we choose to keep and places and images we associate ourselves with act as anchor points in our families, friendships, and relationships. The desire to anchor ourselves in familiarity contrasts with the need to grow amidst inevitably variable surroundings. At the same time, a grounded sense of identity enables further growth, by creating opportunities to connect with others and change along with our environment.

Jenie received her BFA in Printmaking/Drawing from Washington University in St. Louis. She currently lives in Milwaukee, working in art education and leading her own woodcut demonstrations. Within Wisconsin, she has exhibited her artwork at various venues including Cedar Gallery, Dean Jensen Gallery, the Marshall Building in the Third Ward, Caggio, BYO Studio, The Black-Eyed Press, and RedLine Milwaukee. She has shown her work in various parts of the country and has had her work reviewed and featured in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, SGC International, Graphic Impressions, ArtMail: Milwaukee, The Art List, and Aesthetica Magazine.

She makes an award-winning strawberry rhubarb pie.

artist statement

There is an ever growing obsession with place and identity that arises from a world that perpetually grows more connected while its neighborhoods grow farther apart, where people are torn between comforts of home and community and longings for adventure and the universal. We seek tangible things and places as ways of anchoring us in our homes, relationships, and identities, from saving old yearbooks to choosing to live close to our families. Yet we also seek tangible things as means of escape, from drinking off a bad day at work to traveling to places we have never been.

But we miss a vital point in the midst of these searches for the next big thing to lead us forward or at least away�that our dissatisfaction does not stem from where we are but why we choose to be there. What keeps us where we are, or what chases us away? At what point does a home become intolerable, though we hate packing and moving our things? What changes a faulty relationship from tolerable enough to sit on and blame for our problems to bad enough to end? We want long-term love and instant gratification, slim waistlines and chocolate cake, and everything we cannot afford; some of us wait for new romantic interests to make the first move, others for a heart attack to give the wake-up call about our health. We all live on thresholds, waiting endlessly for an outside force to break them.

The subjects in my work exist in this tension. Animals collide together, violent yet intimate, or appear alone, pointedly aggressive without a scapegoat. The drawings themselves are reminiscent of old fable illustrations, yet in our adulthood have none of the straightforward simplicity of the moral lessons that children�s books and parents once preached to us. These are interrupted conversations, intimidating women, and incomplete construction that neither continues nor ends. My processes of pen and ink and woodcut are old-fashioned and imbued with history; there is something decisive about putting things in ink and carving pieces out, forever. But as we depart from the basics of our teachings, we learn that change, not stability, is constant, and that process, not conclusion, is permanent.