Artist Profile highlighting Jenifer Wofford in Asterisk Magazine

Artist Profile: Jenifer Wofford

To exist within an art community and thrive, one must be able to grow, learn, develop, and maintain an incredibly multi-faceted practice to stay relevant. To take it a step further, as an arts educator and practitioner, it is imperative to make work that is accessible to the public and be ready to engage. Jenifer Wofford is a rare gem in the arts. From artist residencies in Denmark, Italy, and most recently, Norway, she continues to make profound connections between ideas, cultures, and people through her work. Her travels and thirteen years of providing arts education in the San Francisco Bay Area public school district as well as at the university level, including California College of the Arts, UC Berkeley, and University of San Francisco have produced a unique combination of art practice and theory that illuminates as much as it entertains. Wofford thrives on collaboration and participation from her peers as a part of the creative process. Her observations, conversations, and dynamic global studio practice are not only imaginative but showcase a multitude of talent across genres.

When asked about her favorite medium to work with, Wofford stated,

I had reasonably rigorous training in the traditional plastic arts, and so, even if I veer off into more performative or experimental practices, I still often begin from a hands-on, drawing-based approach. I also enjoy drawing, particularly with ink, more than other forms, so it’s the easiest, most straightforward form that I can express myself in. Some projects and ideas reveal themselves to be best suited to remaining within the two dimensional realms of painting and drawing; other projects reveal themselves to be better addressed in video, performance or installation.

In addition to her fine arts practice, her illustration and design work are characterized by strong, bold, non-tentative lines. Past work include, Flor 1973-78, which was a San Francisco Arts Commission Market Street Poster project. Flor provided a fictitious pictorial narrative of a Filipino nurse’s journey from the Philippines to the United States in the late 1970s that included visual references to both the cultural and political climate of the times. In looking at Filipino-American culture and history mixed with tongue and cheek humor, individuals can easily use her work as a point of departure for discussing identity and culture without it being overly abstract and complicated. Her current work, Grand Tour, tethers representations of real-life people to fictitious stories that one wishes were true because Wofford crafts such engaging tales through her drawings and paintings. Lastly, performance-based work with art collective Mail Order Brides will have you convinced that artistry necessitates being a maestro of creativity. You will inevitably find something telling in the way she narrates a story that is intelligent and witty. With a myriad of skills, the common thread, as Wofford explains lies heavily on creating work that allows people a rich experience of art.

There’s always a subtle, or maybe not-so-subtle, politic at work underneath my artworks,” says Wofford. “While the art world is ever-more international, there’s still something of a dearth of voices and perspectives coming from women and people of color, as well as a limited perspective represented from the non-Western world. Since I come from a mixed-ethnicity, mixed-nationality, Third Culture, feminist background, I’ve often felt like I’ve been blessed with a unique opportunity to speak from this perspective, and to give voice in my various projects to something beyond simple formalism or more generalized or codified concepts within Western art. That said, I don’t think I’m doing anything particularly radical, and I dislike anything that smacks of being overly agenda-driven. It’s important to me that my work feel accessible on a number of fronts, and to still retain both a sense of play as well as some formal chops—as far as technique and execution go.

Originally posted to Asterisk

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Author: Dorothy R. Santos

Dorothy R. Santos is a writer, editor, curator, and educator whose research areas and interests include new media and digital art, activism, artificial intelligence, networked culture, and biotechnology. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco, and received her Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts. She is currently the managing editor for Hyphen magazine. Her work appears in art21, Art Practical, Daily Serving, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, and Public Art Dialogue. She has lectured and spoken at the De Young museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Stanford University, School of Visual Arts, and more. Her essay “Materiality to Machines: Manufacturing the Organic and Hypotheses for Future Imaginings,” has been published to The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture in 2016. She serves as executive staff for the Bay Area Society for Art & Activism, board member for the SOMArts Cultural Center, and teaches at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the Digital Art and New Media department.

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