Print artist Jennifer Jolley Brown wanted to create a gallery that represented what she and her audiences “root” themselves in. In her latest exhibit, aptly named “Rooted,” Jolley Brown did just that.
A 1990 alumna, Jolley Brown’s first-ever solo exhibit debuted Saturday at Studios On High.
“The idea started with thinking about the things that ground us,” she said. “What makes us who we are, what gives us a sense of place or a sense of identity. So, trees are the obvious connection because trees have actual roots, but I feel rooted in nature too.”
In addition to wildlife, Jolley Brown pulled inspiration for her printwork from human-built structures, particularly those that are old, broken down but still loved. Often, those structures are houses. Printmaking is an artform in which paper, or other similar materials, are printed with an original element, rather than reproducing photograph on paper.
While scoping for these houses on “art safaris” with her husband and fellow artist, Rex Brown, she often went the extra mile to gain insight on her muses. Jolley Brown would stop to talk to homeowners to learn of the stories behind the walls she sketched.
Jolley Brown’s piece “Homestead,” for example, was created based off a farmhouse that she had to pull over on a highway to visit.
“We happened to be driving by there one day and we saw people out,” Jolley Brown said. “So, we stopped to talk to them about the story … the man that owned it said that [the farmhouse] was his grandma and grandpa’s homestead.”
Simple stories like this are what Jolley Brown said she loves about her craft. One person’s home on the freeway can be another’s place of identity or connection to family roots.
“I love that the art can also have its own story or that people can bring their different stories to it like, ‘That looks like a place I remember or somewhere I’d like to live or it reminds me of this feeling I had once,’” she said.
For Studios On High, an artist-owned-and-operated gallery, diversity in stories and art mediums also is important. Jolley Brown, who joined Studios On High as a full-member artist over the summer, fills the studio’s printer role, while Kim Maurer, fellow member and encaustic artist, is happy to stick to her own style.
But despite — or more likely because of — their art’s differences, the members of Studios On High appreciate the works of each other’s mediums. It’s made the gallery a place where diversity, rather than competition, is celebrated.
For Maurer, “Rooted” has tapped into a feeling that Jolley Brown intended the exhibit to reach: peace.
“[Jolley Brown’s exhibit] is just really calming and beautiful. That was my first reaction to it,” Maurer said. “It’s a beautifully serene show.”
“Rooted” by Jennifer Jolley Brown will be featured through April 5. Studios On High Gallery is located on 686 N. High Street and is open noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.