April 25, 2008

Jen Mazza: "It's easier, maybe it's more honest, to be mocking."

In The Star-Ledger, Dan Bischoff profiles Jennifer Mazza, a painter who lives in Newark above Hobby's Deli at Branford Place and Halsey Street. She's been an artist-in-residence at the Newark Museum and at the Museum of Modern Art's P.S. 1 on the strength of her tiny oil paintings of hands. "Her work is focused for the most part on hands: Hands crammed absently into a mouth, or plunged into the buckling pages of a book, or, in one memorable, early series, squishing a jelly doughnut into globules of scarlet goo. Mazza, 36, has garnered notice for these odd little paintings because, small as they are (usually smaller than a sheet of copy paper, not more than 6.5- by 8.5 inches), they often express the emotional range of an altarpiece. Fingers stand in for Roman soldiers, nailing a chin or a lip with their verticals and diagonals, or occasionally gnarling into a fist pressed against cheek or throat. Convincingly realist and painted in a high blond tone (she sees a correspondence with Jenny Saville, the English artist who first appeared over here in the controversial Saatchi exhibition called "Sensation" and paints colossal, nude, fat women), Mazza's paintings often carry subtle suggestions of both violence and sexuality. But that's not all they suggest.

"'There's a kind of psychological dichotomy in art making,' Mazza says. 'You spend all day in the studio trying to make something sublime, and then you sell it for money... . I think that's why, in the current dialogue about fine art, sincerity is frowned upon. Making something that is both meaningful and intimate in that larger context is really kind of difficult. It's easier, maybe it's more honest, to be mocking.'" Read more.

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