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Jennifer Sullivan

The soft animal of your body

Los Angeles | October 28 - December 21 2018
Press: Artfacts







You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Excerpt from Wild Geese, a poem by Mary Oliver

Jennifer Sullivan kept the first five lines of this Mary Oliver poem pinned to her studio wall since the beginning of 2018. The entire exhibition “the soft animal of your body” was created this past summer in Los Angeles, where Jennifer made paintings in the studio above Five Car Garage, while caring for a tiny one-eyed rescue dog names Tiggy. What follows are the artists thoughts and feelings about her show and how it came about:

“In NY I am a cat person, but in LA I became a dog person – taking Tiggy for walks multiple times a day, feeding her, bathing her, and holding her during her intense scratching. I fell in love with Tiggy because she is such a raw and authentic creature with only one eye. She reminds me of the animal part of myself, the primal being. I love her because she wears her scars right out in the open. She can’t hide them, and she doesn’t try to.

I have always tried to be “good”. My therapist once told me there is a saying in psychoanalysis – beware the good child. Children aren’t supposed to be good – they are supposed to be themselves, something that encompasses good and bad, darkness and light, imperfections. In my art, I feel as though I have found a space where I don’t have to be so good, I just have to be myself. I can be a little bad even. I make big bad girly paintings. I try to embrace the wrongness of being feminine, overtly emotional, and soft.

I had lots of ideas before I came to LA, but I decided to approach the show like a diary of my time in LA. I want it to be a record of where I was and how I felt at this particular time in my life. I used the physical details and the details of my day, and sometimes fantasies as well. I see this body of work as a kind of site-specific psychoanalysis – the physical details of the materials of my life are inextricably woven together with my feelings and desires and in painting them they take on symbolic proportions and uncover thoughts and ideas I may not even be aware of until I see them re-manifested and laid bare in paint.

The subject matter encompasses a constellation of images – writing in my journal, an imagined embrace with my crush, various portraits of Tiggy, driving, tacos, watching Mullholland Drive framed by the shadow-y minutia of the living room multimedia hutch, dinner alone, masturbation, and a few different self-portraits. In fact, I see all of my work as a kind of self-portrait in which I use my own experiences and moods to plumb the depths of the subconscious, to bring these hidden drives and desires into the light, and to hold up the vulnerable parts of myself in loving acceptance.













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