Before & After the Fall – The Art of Jennifer Ewing

p-Ruth's Boat_0104I have been familiar with Jennifer Ewing’s work for a number of years.  She lives at Developing Environments, where she and her husband, Leo Germano, are business partners in Ewing & Germano, a multifaceted commercial art business.  Jennifer and Leo have a studio that is “work-work”, from which they operate their business.  This means that the original “live-work” space is now converted to primarily “live-live”.  I talk about this background, because for many years after Jennifer started showing in San Francisco Open Studios in1986, I knew her and Leo primarily for the large murals that they made for Baym-03 Area businesses, such as Café Trieste in San Francisco and the Peet’s Coffee corporate headquarters in Emeryville.  The murals were lovely, Italianesque paintings.  The work was very accessible.  Leo laid out the backbone structure of the painting, doing most of the design and drawing.  Jennifer, with her natural affinity for color and texture, added those elements to the paintings, finishing the works.

 Then, when I visited Open Studios in 2005 suddenly, with seemingly no warning, there was a new Jennifer Ewing.  In that year, her father passed away.  It was a watershed moment.  Her very self-definition changed.  She was no longer someone’s daughter.  Now she was someone different.  And, she began to explore this new s-Wisconsin_7929_person in her art.  Before he passed away, her work had not been particularly personal.  It was skilled work, but in some ways it was more in the tradition of European craftsmanship.  It definitely did not evoke the French romanticists or the American luminists.  After her father passed away, the work became intensely personal.  It was a stunning transformation. 

 It all began innocently enough.  When Jennifer’s father passed away, he left behind reams of paper with chess diagrams and mathematical markings.  She did not want to simply throw the papers away.  They were physically infused with hisp-Changing_8143 spirit; and she did not want to let that go.  So, she began crafting and incorporating the papers into sculptural forms.  The forms, almost with a will of their own, took shape and morphed into boats – Spirit Boats.   In her studio, a fleet of physical boats hung from the walls and ceilings, dancing interplays of form and shadow.   In her paintings, intense color and texture directly manifested her raw emotions onto the canvas.  Clearly in these works, there is a reference to the traditional mythological role of boats as vehicles of transformation.  However, curiously, Jennifer’s boats never seem to have any passengers.  They are personal vehicles of transformation.  And, the soul being transported over and over again seems to be the soul of her father.

p-Even Breathing_3805You can see Jennifer Ewing’s work this weekend in San Francisco Open Studios.  Her work is featured at the Kathleen McMahon Gallery in an opening reception tonight.  Her studio is open at Developing Environments this weekend from 11-6 pm.  Additionally, Jennifer’s work will be on exhibit at 323 Gallery from mid-October for a month. The artist reception will be held on October 30th.   And you can, of course, always visit her studio by appointment.


One Response

  1. Bravo , I love the work , wonderfully skilled Artist that deserve their time in bright lights !! The Spirit Boats evoke much life !!

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