For most people, a comfort zone is easily defined to things like public speaking, breaking the ice with strangers or job interviews. What if walking outside was outside your comfort zone? For many people, that is their reality. That is the struggle that Jennifer Lang must fight with every time she steps out of her apartment, and I could not have been more surprised, because I met Jennifer hula hooping in front of a large audience.
A passion, and a very big challenge in Lang’s world is hooping. She makes her own hoops, paints intricate designs on her face around her eyes, dresses the part, and then steps out into the world that nearly paralyzes her on a daily bases, and hoops. She’s good too. Easily maneuvering like the hoop was born with her.
Her website and blog is titled, Hunting Tiny Elephants, and does feature tiny elephants having various adventures in our huge world. But like the many facets of Lang that I was soon to discover, her website title is a euphemism referring to the difficulties in getting her art the exposure she longs for. It was her art that I overlooked the first time, but during a recent visit to her home studio, I was floored a second time.
Lang graduated summa cum laude from UH in 2002 with a BFA in painting. Her paintings are good, or so I was thinking as I stepped closer to examine her unusual shading technique to discover minuscule writing … whole books it seemed, etched over the oil paint following every curve, shadow and shape. I was hooked!
What got you started “writing on your paintings “?
It was my response to getting my feelings hurt. I don’t connect well with people and I often feel like no one actually listens to me. I have a lot that I want to say, but no one I’m comfortable talking with. So now, I write it all down and I try not to edit my thoughts.
I once had a therapist recommend that I somehow incorporate my writing into my work and that has always sat at the back of my mind. I like to have something going so that I can journal almost daily. I’m currently working on another self-portrait.
How long does that take and do you use a magnifying glass?
The writing is time consuming, but that’s the point. I write unaided and for the paintings I use the point of a metal compass. For my ink work, the smallest nib I can afford is a 0.03 nib. I generally don’t keep track of my time when I work, but my writing is all dated. Come to find out, it takes me about six months to complete a painted 12”x24” piece. The ink pieces go faster, though my 2013 self-portrait took about six months too.
What is the one thing you’d like to accomplish with your art?
I’d like to accomplish not killing myself. I need the distraction and make stuff to keep the thoughts quiet.
You told me you are diagnosed bi-polar, has art been a therapeutic outlet for you? What would you like people to know about that and your art?
I want people to be aware of sensitive people, we keep ourselves hidden for a reason. When I hurt, it’s deep and I’m as of yet unable to control the chemicals that are triggered in response. Several of my pieces are actually suicide notes or refer to contemplating suicide. It gets scary in there. For me, my art is more about the process rather than the end result… though I do like painting a pretty picture.
Lang has more traditional work to fall back on like pet portraiture. She also creates stunning shadow box art from found objects or in her case of sentimental value but will consider commissions.
Lang certainly taught me a few lessons, among them humility, not to pre-judge and my comfort zone is just plain silly.
Jennifer you are an amazing person and artist, I’m glad you reached out to me, thank you.
Currently Lang is seeking gallery representation, however you can view her amazing work, and those tiny elephants on her website www.huntingtinyelephants.com. There’s a good chance you can catch her hooping at the next First Saturday Arts Market too.
Cohen is the founder and manager of First Saturday Arts Market. Contact him at ArtValet@gmail.com or visit him on the web at ArtValet.com