The first annual Members Show brings together three artist collectives from Crane Arts – InLiquid, Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, and Second State Press – to highlight the best work of their membership. Today’s Members Show featured artist is InLiquid member Jen Lightfoot.
I came across your work about a year ago at a Philly Raw artists show, and it’s stuck with me ever since. Do you think there’s something about ‘grotesquery’ that sticks with people longer than other genres – whether it’s the Grimm fairy tale you read as a kid or the horror movie you keep going back to every Halloween – what is it about the macabre that you think audiences find so desirable? And how do you address this in your work?
I do think that the grotesque is something that might stick with people longer than other genres… though I’m not sure people always realize it! The macabre and grotesque seem to fascinate people for many reasons I think. Within the grotesque are taboo desires, our darkest fears, and the forbidden. Many aspects of the horror genre allow us to break away from social conventions and feed into our darkest desires and fantasies. It also encourages and allows us to feel a sense of terror, disgust, and sometimes even rebellion depending on the film or image. I am a huge horror film and art fanatic and have always been drawn to the macabre. Even when I was younger my father took me to see Fantasia, a movie my mother did not want me to see at such a young age, and I remember loving it. My favorite part was the scene with the devil when they play “Night on Bald Mountain.” I think this love of the macabre is something that I’ve always incorporated into my artwork. It allows me to give the drawings a space of fantasy where we either want to linger and stay for a while or run away from while looking back in fear.
I read on your website that pinup girls are also an inspiration. Just curious – who’s your favorite pinup?
Yes! Pinup girls and pinup artists are something that definitely inspire and influence my work. I would have to say that Bettie Page and Dita Von Teese would be my two favorite pinups. My favorite pinup painters would be Gil Elvgren and Olivia De Berardinis.
Can you tell me a bit more about your life as a singer/songwriter? Do you find the musical part of your creative drive influencing your artwork?
I began writing songs when I was in middle school and soon after started playing in local coffee shops and venues. I formed a couple all-girl bands in high school, including a metal/punk trio called Painful Mercy and a pop/rock quintet called Doll-house. Neither of those acts lasted very long! However, I always continued to write and perform as a solo artist. My last record, a sort of dark, goth folk-rock record entitled “Little Nightmares EP”, was released last fall. Recording, writing, and performing live is something that I love. The process of making music is definitely an emotional release for me, while making art is a more soothing and meditative process. I think that more recently my music and artwork are influencing each other. Though for most of my life I always considered the two to be completely separate. I’d like them to overlap more and it is something that I’d like to experiment with in the future.
How has studying/working in Philly influenced your path as an artist?
I moved to Philly in 2003 when I began studying at Moore College of Art & Design. I grew up in the suburbs of northern New Jersey and when I came to Philly I felt at home. I was teased a lot in high school and living in a city with so much diversity felt comforting. I think that helped me to experiment and take more risks with my artwork.
What are you up to now, and what do you have in the works for the near future?
Currently I am getting ready for a couple of exhibitions, the Members Show in Philadelphia and an exhibition at Priya Gallery in New Jersey. This fall I will be participating in a couple of art street fairs, including The Faf in New Jersey. I’ll be recording new episodes for the podcast, Drunk Art Cast, that artist Ali Thompson and I started a little over one year ago. And I’ve been in the process of working on some new drawings that experiment with elements of color and contrast with using graphite and colored ink… while still exploring the juxtaposition of the erotic and the grotesque.
Can you tell me a bit more about the piece you’ll have in the Members Show?
The piece that I will have in the Members Show is a portrait style drawing that really evolved over time. It started out as this very clean, detailed illustration of a woman … and then after covering almost the entire drawing in multiple layers of charcoal, ink, graphite, and marker it turned into this sort of messy, horrific image of the same woman, but with a much more sinister seeming narrative. The title “She Was Her Own Experiment” twists the narrative and indicates that this woman mutilated herself. The smile at the corner of her lips is meant to imply that she liked it and enjoys the pain.
You’re one of our newest members – can you tell me what brought you to InLiquid?
I had heard lots of wonderful things about InLiquid while attending the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, which is where I recently received my MFA. After graduating I wanted to join an arts organization and InLiquid seemed like the perfect fit.
What are you hoping audiences will take away from the collaborative Members Show?
I have visited the Members Show website and browsed through the many amazing artists that will be in the show. I’m very eager to see this show as it looks really unique and vast in it’s selection of work. I’m hoping that audiences will take with them the realization that Philadelphia has a strong, diverse, and talented community of artists.
The Members Show runs August 3 – 24 at the Icebox Project Space at Crane Arts, 1400 N. American Street. There will be an opening reception Second Thursday, August 8, 6 – 9 pm.