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Art Tue May 19 2015

An Interview with Jaime Foster: Biophilia @ The Elephant Room Gallery

The paintings of Jaime Foster, a Chicago-based artist, are reminiscent of the waves in Lake Michigan: When the fog has drifted and the overcast sky hangs low above the horizon, the water greets the shore with a kiss-and-go. Many of her pieces are vast--both in scale and in palette. Her work acknowledges the larger landscape--the water, the mountain, and the trees--but the core of her work is in the details--the foam of the water, the snow-covered crevasse, and the vascular tissue of a leaf.

"Philias," stemming from the title of Foster's upcoming solo exhibition, Biophilia, are the attractions and positivity that human beings feel towards the natural world: organisms, species, habitats, etc. Celebrating the "love of life," Foster utilizes her brush and paint to spiritually connect with the wider world around her and expose its awe-inspiring beauty.

Elephant Room Gallery will be featuring Jaime Foster's exhibition, Biophilia, from May 29 until July 3.

Enrapture.jpeg
"Enrapture"- 12x12 Acrylic, Watercolor, Ink and Mixed Media on paper

Below is an interview with Jaime Foster where her future plans, studio practice, and source of inspiration are discussed.

Your background is rooted in photojournalism, where you began working for the Herald News, The Sun, and Liberty Newspapers. Was your transition into visual arts a smooth one? When did you decide to make this step?

Photography really sparked my interest around the same time I rediscovered the joys of painting, after quite a long hiatus. In 2000, my friends and I created our own avant-garde camera club of sorts. We would hit all the nearby abandoned farms and houses out in the middle of the cornfields, photographing anything that would catch our eye. I was fascinated with how quickly nature would reclaim abandoned properties, wear down old farmhouses and all of the nearby infrastructure. It's near impossible to recreate all of those emotional textures that nature creates over time. I would also take abandoned antique doors that were lying around home with me and paint on those.

After shooting non-stop for months and building up my portfolio, I began working for the area newspapers in 2001. I loved it, running around between several different events and spontaneously capturing moments. You learn to be brilliant and quick, because the job demands it of you. Capturing candids unobtrusively became second nature and before I knew it, I was getting booked to photograph weddings and portraits. In 2003, I founded 'Boojazz Studios' with my husband, and within a few short months the workload grew exponentially. He left his day job to work with me full-time.

Unfortunately, over the years photography felt like more of a job than an artistic passion. I found myself feeling very stagnant. I still shoot, but it's completely on my own terms now--my own vision. Yet painting is and will always be my ardent love. 

Your works are typically large in scale but for Biophilia, your pieces are smaller and on paper. Becoming intimate with the brush strokes, the mixture of hues, and the rich texture within the piece is important for the viewer and can be achieved on a large scale as well as a smaller canvas. Has size always been something of importance to you in terms of your visual practice?

courtsey of the artist.jpg
Jaime Foster in her studio. Courtesy of the artist.

I started off working on fairly big 4x3-foot wooden canvases. There was no real reason to go so large, other than it seemed natural to paint such landscape-driven environmental abstractions in that way, in order to truly capture the scale. I loved to work large, I felt it really captivated the viewers attention. Recently, I started working on 12x12 paper, as an exercise to learn to play within the boundaries of a smaller, confined space. It has helped me focus more on form, shape and placement. With less room to play in, you naturally become more minimalistic and focused, which has its own unique set of challenges. It also helped me place more of an emphasis on intricate detail, working in such an intimate scale. 

Can you discuss your decision to work with your choice of palette? Despite some of your pieces including splashes of crimson and chartreuse, the majority of your body of work is compiled of neutral layers, which create a softness and visual ambiguity.

It's funny, I found a lot of internal peace painting in a somewhat melancholy palette. It also seemed to represent the spiritual aspects of my work really well. When you work with really bright colors, it's almost like you're shouting at the viewer. When I think of how one would portray spirituality in nature, I visualize vast amounts of space, majestic mountains, enormous glaciers and the surreal patterns of swirling clouded skies. Hence the muted colors, which play better when you're considered about overpowering the viewer with a grand composition. I wanted to present that feeling of awe when in a presence of such a scene. Since I started working on paper, I've been slowly incorporating more splashes of bold color, and I am having a great deal of fun doing so. 

Take us through a typical day in your studio.

I'm very particular when I work. I have to listen to music, and not just any old music...It has to be a melody that allows me to tune everything else out and sink into the process of painting. Once I'm there, in the moment, I can begin. My painting method can be considered very zen-like and meditative. I've been painting with my hands a lot more these days and use my fingers to manipulate the paint and ink, creating that perfect swirl or line. When the foundation for the painting is built, the detail work begins with a tiny brush or dip pen. I can pour hours and hours into crafting the details. I think the most time I ever spent... has been around 100 hours on one painting. I also feel the need to photograph my work throughout the process. Having that image and perspective gives me a better visual presentation of how the work would eventually look framed or displayed on a gallery wall. When I need to step away, I will play with my dogs for a bit and get back to it. My art buddies are the perfect emotional recharge.

Where does your source of inspiration come from? Many works appear ethereal, while others come to the viewer like underwater creatures--both familiar yet alarmingly foreign.

The intricate patterns and natural formations you find in nature are definitely the ultimate source for my inspiration. More recently, psychology of our interaction within the natural world. I am interested in the personal relationship we have with nature and our environment, both positively, negatively and how this affects us on a primal, emotional level. I've found myself researching eco-psychology, conservation and biodiversity. As my work taps into our collective subconscious of the deep emotional connection with environment and nature, it's important to know the science behind it.

Does Chicago influence your work in any way?

Of course, Chicago and the urban landscape influence my work since we moved back from the Pacific Northwest in 2012. There's interesting visuals in the everyday architecture that the city radiates with. I've come to know so many proficient artists, curators and teachers. Each one of them is an inspiration. Being a part of 33 Contemporary Gallery in the Zhou B. Center has been a edifying part of my journey. I've learned a great deal, and I had the pleasure of working directly with Sergio and Yanina Gomez. Chicago will continue to be a city of limitless possibilities. 

ElysianFields.jpeg
"Elysium"- 12x12 Acrylic, watercolor, ink and mixed media on paper

Any plans for the future? Creatively, personally, professionally?

Ideas are constantly buzzing around my mind. The next step is a three-dimensional work and assemblage. It's something I've always been fascinated with and really eager to jump into. Plans for my solo shows, next year, are in the works. 

I'm always striving to evolve and try new things. I think it's needed for growth as much as it is to keep viewers engaged in my work. The moment you rest on your previous achievements is the moment you stop having new experiences. My plan is to keep evolving, always exploring new mediums and discovering new techniques.

~*~

A self-taught artist, Jaime Foster's work has been exhibited in galleries throughout the Pacific Northwest and in the Midwest. Foster has an upcoming exhibition at NYCH Gallery on August 14 entitled Psychoterratica. An opening reception for Biophilia will held May 29 from 6:30 to 9:30pm at the Elephant Room Gallery, 704 S. Wabash Ave.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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