Artist Jennifer Young believes in the power of empathy. In her new gallery show Backstory, currently on exhibit at Roosevelt Island’s Paul Calendrillo Gallery, located at 507 Main Street, Young shows women caught in a vulnerable moment in hopes that the viewer will make an emotional connection.
“One of the amazing things about humans is that we can find ways to relate to one another,” writes Young in her exhibit statement. “Some of us have been through the same experiences, but they affect each of us differently.”
To accomplish the deep-layered moments in her paintings, Young stages and photographs the scene from many different angles and viewpoints. “I work from my photographs because of my love for the medium and my desire to show detail and realism in my paintings,” writes Young. She then translates the photos into oil paintings because she recognizes that photos don’t capture everything. Her goal is to convey the depth of what she considers to be the most important elements.
Young wants people to look at her paintings and be able to feel or relate to the emotions exhibited. Empathy, she says, “gives [people] the opportunity to express their inner feelings and experiences with one another, which deepens the human connection.”
Young says she has come under criticism for painting “negative” emotions, but she disagrees with the characterization. “Emotions like sadness, heartache, loneliness, defeat, hopelessness, fear and worry [are] neither positive nor negative. I see them as experiences, as lessons, as growth,” writes Young.
Jennifer Young was born and raised on Long Island’s south shore. As a child, she was inspired by her grandmother, a fashion illustrator, who would take her out in the garden and make collages from the materials they found, such as leaves, sticks, and grass. She credits the activities with instilling art and creativity in her.
Although she recalls drawing all the time as a child, it was when her father gave her his 35mm camera as a young teen that she became “obsessed.” By the time Young was 16 years old, art was the only reason she went to school. She says that was when she knew this was the career and life she wanted to pursue.
Young met gallery owner Paul Calendrillo through a recommendation by Ecuadorean curator Diego Ponce. Calendrillo says he was “struck by the narrative of the work, women at crossroads in graffiti plagued streets [and] a refreshing departure from graffiti inspired art.” This is Calendrillo and Young’s first show together.
Backstory is on view at the Paul Calendrillo New York Gallery, located at 507 Main Street, until January 8.