#49: Jennifer Ghormley
Jennifer Ghormley could be the poster child for Denver’s Month of Printmaking, which kicks off this week, simply because she’s so industrious as an artist and teacher, juggling numerous residencies (from RedLine to the Children's Museum of Denver), workshops at the Art Students League of Denver, and mentoring students at elementary schools and college campuses. In between so many gigs, she's also busy building community with other printmakers as a grassroots event organizer with the Mo’Print planning committee. As an artist, Ghormley is trained as a printmaker, but she also mixes other mediums into her work, experimenting with everything from installation projects to the creation of affordable retail products to help finance her fine-art practice. It’s a living. Learn more about Ghormley as she tackles the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Jennifer Ghormley: In my personal artwork, I am intrigued by so many things about the figure, the body, the human shape and form, both inside and out; a certain gesture, accidental poses, our delicate but incredibly strong skin, things that sag, body hair, wrinkles, folds, freckles and moles, scars, bruises, veins, the wide range of fleshy colors, membrane-like unknown substances, the way arm hair stands straight up when we get goosebumps, elegant soft light as it falls across a form, mysterious shadows created by ambiguous body parts, the sensation of a lover’s touch, the spark of energy and connection, the contrast of a solitary soul, never-ending analysis of the construction of gender and sex. All of these things inspire and motivate the creative urges in my personal artwork. I begin by taking photographs and translate them through various printmaking processes, primarily woodblock, screenprint, stencils and trace monotype.
I also find myself increasingly inspired by the many children and youth I have come to work with over the past few years. They really do see the world in a different way than adults do, as they probably should. I enjoy interacting with these little beings through the art process, as I get to catch a glimpse of the world as viewed through their unique perspective.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
Tim, because I am drawn to unusual “weird” people, as they tend to have the most interesting observations and stories. Maybe he can bring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter to keep it really weird.
Jerry, because I love people who can find something funny about everything, including themselves. And maybe he can bring Margaret Cho, because she has hilarious insights as to the non-traditional female experience.
Oprah, because even at a party, we all need someone around us with an unlimited growth mindset who is able to motivate, inspire and listen, as well as someone who can find the opportunity out of every difficulty. Maybe she can bring Michelle Obama, because two amazing, awesome, powerful women are better than one!
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
Best: The small-family feel. I love seeing people I know and their artwork just about everywhere I go. Denver may be sprawling, and traffic is getting more annoying, but it is nice when it can still feel like a small town full of friendly faces. Denver also has a pretty wide range of opportunities available to artists of many levels, with more prospects popping up every year. The arts scene is exploding, and it is very exciting. Anything is possible!
Worst: The small-family feel. Sometimes you just want to go out and be awkward and anonymous and not run into anyone you know. And beyond a certain level of one’s art career, it seems like the opportunities can plateau or become somewhat limited. Guess that's what travel is for.
How about globally?
Best: The global art scene offers an extremely diverse spectrum of culture, aesthetics, beliefs, subject matter, perspectives and voices.
Worst: Everything is so far away. Yes, we can access images and articles easily on the Internet, but sometimes a digital image is no comparison to being in person with the real object of art.
Are trends worth following? What’s one trend you love and one that you hate?
I grew up in a household sheltered from much of popular culture, so perhaps that created a bit of ignorance in me to their existence and importance. I’ve never really been a trend follower; it seems like a lot of work and constant maintenance to keep up. And for me personally, it just feels kind of superficial, like a temporary skin, disguise or costume. I should probably sign up for Instagram one of these days when I have the time, but by then everyone will have moved on to the next new thing. Or have they already?
One trend I really do love is the current explosion of murals and public artwork around Denver — they are everywhere! And many are very well done, too, by individuals and collaborative teams, and offer a wide variety of imagery, content and aesthetic tastes — something for every viewer to appreciate.
One trend I hate is the very long thin beards and man buns. But, hey, that’s just me. I am also a bit put off by the current Southwestern motifs, or Santa Fe-style, in art. I grew up in Albuquerque, with these stylized cultural patterns and colors integrated into everything, which felt genuine and authentic because of the history of the region. To see popular culture re-create and repurpose it through contemporary art, products, fashion and merchandise feels very tainted. Probably just opened up a big can of worms here, but everyone has their opinion.
What’s your best or favorite accomplishment as an artist?
Being invited to create a site-specific installation for the Denver Art Museum!
Being interviewed for the 100 Colorado Creatives series (seriously! It’s been on my list of goals since 2015).
You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?
- Invitation to hang a solo show outside of Colorado.
- Invitation to travel as visiting artist to a university or art organization outside of Colorado.
- Artist residencies, exhibitions and visiting-artist gigs in South America, Europe and Scandinavia.
- Find a trustworthy companion for a road trip to Alaska! Maybe a residency when we get there — or maybe an extended road trip and residency hop along the West Coast on the way to Alaska.
- Vacation to Hawaii or some warm tropical island somewhere (all expenses paid, of course — this is a fantasy, right?)
- At least one guilt-free day off a week.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I love Denver! I planted a tree on Detroit Street the year I moved here, in 1993, and I’m staying to see how big it will grow. I’ve always lived in the downtown area and know the streets and neighborhoods so well that I could probably drive or bike blindfolded and still know where I was at any given time. I love the never-ending layers of Colorado mountains and small communities. My roots and connections in the art community keep me happy, grounded and moving forward.
I did move away to Lincoln, Nebraska, in 2003 for a three-year graduate school program. Upon graduation, I moved back, ASAP! I also lived in Snowmass Village for two years and lived/worked at Anderson Ranch Art Center. It was such a fantastic, exhilarating experience to live in the mountains for a while, and it was so great to move back and live in the city again.
I think about leaving when I feel I am stagnating, or if I notice my habits and patterns are turning into ruts. But then I travel for a printmaking conference or other art-related thing and am reminded that it is always good to leave home for a bit and go on a trip, and it is always great to come home. In the future, I’d like to buy a long-term live/work space of some sort, but on a single-person/teaching-artist income, I don’t know if that is possible in Denver at this point.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
- I’m currently halfway through a residency at the Children’s Museum, where I’ll create a permanent site-specific installation as my leave-behind piece, inspired by interactions with their visitors.
- Month of Printmaking madness all through the month of March!
- Participating in group exhibitions for Niza Knoll Gallery and the Pink Progression project.
- Working with students at Clayton Elementary in April and May in the creation of a permanent site-specific installation for their brand-new school. Opening in August 2018.
- Woodcut demo at Clyfford Still Museum on June 2 (just received the invite — woo-hoo!)
- This summer, I plan to get out of the city and do more mountain-town art fairs on the weekends.
- Three-person exhibition at Colorado State Capitol Building, September through December 2018.
- Mid-America Printmaking conference in Laramie, Wyoming, in October 2018.
- Find a fabricator to help me translate my delicate installation pieces into something more sustainable for long-term commercial spaces and outdoor opportunities. Then work more closely with art consultants to find a good client fit for that aspect of my creative work. And have someone else install the piece!
- I’m planning to curate one or two group exhibitions for 2019.
- And who knows what else may happen? I have learned that while I tend to plan things, I also love when things suddenly just pop up. And, of course, teaching, teaching, teaching through it all….
Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
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In conjunction with Mo’Print 2018, Jennifer Ghormley’s work is on view through April in the large group show Master Printmakers and Print Educators in Colorado at the McNichols Building, 144 West Colfax Avenue. Additionally, Ghormley will participate in 5 Printmakers, opening March 16 at Niza Knoll Gallery, 915 Santa Fe Drive. Visit the Mo'Print website for information.
Ghormley’s work is included in Pink Progression exhibits at the Boulder Public Library through March 24 (artist reception on March 2, from 6 to 8 p.m.) and the Denver Central Library from March 2 through June 29 (reception on March 10, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.).
Ghormley is in residence at the Children’s Museum of Denver through March 31, with open-studio hours on Fridays and Saturdays; she’ll unveil her finished work during a culminating closing reception on April 4, from 6 to 7 p.m.
Keep up with Jennifer Ghormley and her work online.