Q&A with 1858 Prize Finalist George Jenne
George Jenne, one of the six finalists for the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art, earned a BFA in Film/Video from Rhode Island School of Design in 1995 and went on to get his MFA in Studio Art from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2013. He currently lives and works in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he uses both written word and film to reveal the intense emotions individuals through installations and videos. Jenne’s interest in the relationship between words and images stems from the ability of words to “allow me access to the complexity of ideas and emotions that I’m not able to deploy through purely visual means. I write, alongside the images that I create, in a way that word and image develop separately but synchronously, methodically but with minimal preconception. In time they cross-pollinate and meld.” Through his combination of these two mediums, Jenne creates works in which “intimate details are myopic surrogates for expansive places and boundless phenomena.” Read the rest of his artist’s statement here.
What is your creative process?
I write words and I shoot moving images. Generally, I will write until I’m stuck, then turn to the video or film camera and shoot images until I’m stuck there, then go back to the writing, and on and on. This way the words and images cross pollinate. They inform each other in a way that the normal script to screen process doesn’t really allow for. I find that the work evolves quite organically, this way
Where do you draw inspiration for your work?
Movies, first and foremost. For me a movie is the ultimate creative form even though it’s riddled with problems. I draw a lot from my home state, North Carolina, from the small details of the place; its terrain, texture, and its language. I’m in love with the way Southerners talk to each other.
Who are your artistic influences?
Barry Hannah is a writer who is always seeping into what I do. I’ve never seen stranger, more exciting sentences on a page. He also understood the South in a most unusual way. Then, art wise, I would say that Mike Kelley has had the most influence on me of anyone. At various points in my work and life, I latch onto an art hero for as long as I benefit from that influence, then I move on. I don’t think that I will ever outgrow Mike Kelley.
Do you have a favorite of the work that you have produced?
Right now, my favorite piece is a single channel video called “The Gong Farmer.” The title is an old English euphemism for the man who collected solid waste from people’s privies before industrialization. They were later called “Night Men.” The narrative follows a meal from the table to the outhouse where it’s collected by a gong farmer. Then the story jumps to a modern day Waffle House where a crew of night men are eating a meal having finished emptying every port-a-john in Caswell County, NC. The entire piece is written on a roll of toilet paper which slowly scrolls up the screen. I like it because it’s simple, elegantly worded, and raunchy all at once.
To watch more of Jenne’s works:
Big Bird Made Me Watch published in June 2013 in The Brooklyn Rail
1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art Unveiling Party
Thursday, September 17, 6pm
$25 Society 1858 Members, $35 Non-Members
Location: The Drawing Room at The Vendue, 19 Vendue Range
1858 Prize Dinner
Thursday, September 17, 7:30pm
$100 Society 1858 Members, $135 Non-Members
Location: The Gallery at The Vendue, 26 Vendue Range
For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit gibbesmuseum.org/events
—India Dial, Marketing Intern, 2015
Published September 4, 2015