Jen Hitchings is a painter and curator who has been increasingly involved in the Bushwick art scene since she has moved to the neighborhood. She is currently a curatorial member of Transmitter. AIB interviewed Hitchings about her art, current curatorial project at Transmitter, and future plans.
AIB: How long have you been in Bushwick and how have you been associated with the art scene here?
Jen Hitchings: I moved to Bushwick in 2011, and curated my first show in a basement space at 56 Bogart a few months after. I had a studio in Bushwick for a few years, opened and co-directed the galleries WEEKNIGHTS and Associated, volunteered for a few Bushwick Open Studios benefit exhibitions, and currently I’m a curatorial member of Transmitter.
AIB: Tell me about Transmitter. I understand that there are several curators in the gallery–how does that work, do you share an aesthetic vision?
Jen Hitchings: Transmitter is made up of 6 curatorial members. Each member curates one exhibition per year, and there are 3 exhibitions that are co-curated annually. Though we don’t necessarily define any aesthetic vision, I think the reason we all came to work together is based on some shared aesthetic preferences. We’re all artists and have varying practices, so we each bring different kinds of shows to the table, yet we also do our best to maintain a diverse range of exhibitions throughout the year, and we aim to exhibit artists that aren’t necessarily already part of the local Bushwick art scene.
AIB: Tell me about the current two person show you curated at Transmitter. What is the genesis, premise, curatorial process?
Jen Hitchings: Remainders is a two-person show featuring drawings and sculptures by Colette Robbins, and drawings and a large-scale lightbox piece by Justin Amrhein. I’ve known both artists personally for several years – Justin and I worked together at Pierogi gallery for 5 years – and I think their work fits together for several reasons. Formally, they both make primarily black and white work. Colette’s work is highly process-oriented and comes from interests lying in psychology and personal history, while Justin’s work is very labor intensive and pragmatic yet also has a post-apocalyptic undertone to it. He creates schematic drawings of complex engines and mechanical “replacement trees” but the physical object he’s depicting never exists. Colette’s work takes form in a somewhat opposite way – she takes inherently meaningless Rorschach inkblot drawings that she makes, and then scans them, digitally manipulates them, puts them in a 3-D rendering program and 3-D prints them, then does some surface treatment to give them an archaic look. I sort of liked how the two bodies of work also allude to false truths, which is of course relevant to where we are politically right now.
AIB: You show quite a wide variety of art. How do you reach and select the artists?
Jen Hitchings: Everyone in the group goes about it their own way, but from my perspective, I generally have shown artists whose work I had already known about usually from seeing it in person in another show, or from a magazine (for example I came to Katie Bell’s work through Maake Magazine which a friend of mine publishes) and I try to focus on showing artists who I consider to be underrepresented.
AIB: Do you encourage artists to submit their work and if so, what is the best way?
Jen Hitchings: Though one of our members does look at submissions that are emailed to us, we don’t really have an open submission policy. I always advocate for just becoming friendly with curators/gallery staff if you think your work would really fit in with their aesthetic, and hopefully a natural progression will lead to a studio visit.
AIB: You are a painter as well. Tell me about your work and how do you prioritize your practice as artist and curator.
Jen Hitchings: I’ve been making paintings primarily of psychedelic camping scenes with distorted perspectives and acidic color palettes. A lot of my work is about escapism, social relationships, and my experience growing up in a suburban working class neighborhood. A few years ago I decided to stop curating and focus more on my work, but after a year or two of that, I really missed curating, and luckily I was asked to join Transmitter around then. Both practices are very important to me and fulfill my desire to be part of a highly supportive, creative network of artists.
AIB: What can you share about your curatorial plans for 2017 (or beyond)?
Jen Hitchings: Well, I don’t have any other shows planned at the moment, though there is always that list of ‘shows to curate’ that I look back into saved on my phone periodically.
AIB: Are you / Transmitter planning any curatorial response to the political mayhem we are in these days?
Jen Hitchings: We haven’t really talked about changing our exhibition aesthetics due to it, but speaking for myself, I’ve sort of noticed a gravitation towards more politically-engaged work. At the same rate, almost all artwork can be seen as political in some sense. I curated Josh Liebowitz’ solo show at Transmitter in December, and between the time that I asked him to be in the show and the actual show, the election happened, so a lot of the work in the show evolved in response to that. And, with the current show, Justin Amrhein had made his large-scale Political Engine drawing (which is displayed as a lightbox) in 2009 after Obama’s inauguration, and since Trump’s election, he decided to go back into that drawing and add about another third to it, which is his way of visualizing the progression of political leaders in America. The last ‘part’ that is labeled in the drawing is the ‘Trump Shit Extruder.’
AIB: What are your concerns and hopes for Bushwick art scene in the upcoming year/s?
Jen Hitchings: I hope the neighborhood continues to grow and that the
energy keeps going. I hope more artists in Bushwick are discovered by galleries that can manage to financially support their careers. I hope more patrons of the arts make their way out to see the shows being mounted. I hope here is more collaboration between artists and Bushwick natives. And like everyone else, I’m concerned about the rising rents and gentrification, and I really hope that starts to correct itself, because it’s pretty unbelievable how many people have already been priced out.