Fore artist spotlight
b. 1984, Philadelphia, PA
Lives and works in New York, NY
The often intimate scale of Jennifer Packer’s paintings contrast with the forthright attitude and confidence of her figures, who sit in varying degrees of repose—relaxed and self assured. They stare back, close their eyes or turn their backs to the viewer’s gaze. Often people of color, Packer’s sitters range from family members to classmates and friends. In their casual attire and ease, the subjects of Packer’s paintings complicate the artist’s more traditional approach to composition, which is influenced by Renaissance and Post-Impressionist painting. The loose brush strokes, neutral tones and muddled backgrounds frame her figures, whose clothes are rendered in radiant color and careful detail.
The furniture and settings featured in the paintings are also important since the chair, from Packer’s studio, is the thread that connects her portraits. An ottoman, empty lavatory and common space also surface as subjects, alluding to absent figures. With these scenes, Packer acknowledges still-lifes and portraiture as enduringly viable. How her figures are positioned in the paintings closes off possible points of identification or interaction with them, in turn preserving some mystery around the people and moments she’s chosen to immortalize.
—Jamillah James, 2012 Curatorial Fellow, The Studio Museum in Harlem
images: Mario, 2011, oil on canvas; Ottoman, 2011, oil on canvas; Joyce, 2012, oil on canvas. All courtesy the artist.