Jennifer A. Reis, currently Gallery Director and Instructor at Morehead State University, is both an arts professional as well as a practicing artist with a B.F.A. from the Columbus College of Art, an M.A. in Museum Studies from Syracuse University, and an M.A. in Studio Art with an Art Education emphasis from Morehead State University. As an actively exhibiting and award winning artist, her work has been shown at Womanmade Gallery, Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Turchin Center for the Arts, National Quilt Museum, Dairy Barn Arts Center, Indianapolis Arts Center, Art St. Louis, Reece Museum, Southern Ohio Museum, Appalachian Artisan Center, among others. She is the recipient of the prestigious Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council, an award designed to honor high artistic achievement, and has also received grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and Americans for the Arts. Promotions regarding her work have been featured in Art in America, ArtForum, FiberArts, Fiber Art Now and the Surface Design Journal magazines, and she was a featured artist in Creative Quilting with Beads, a Lark Crafts publication. As a teaching artist, she conducts workshops and lectures on embellished textiles and professional practice for artists at universities, art centers, and non-profit organizations including the Society for Contemporary Craft, Surface Design Association (Confluence Conference), Craft Alliance, Cleveland Institute of Art, Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, and the University of Kentucky. Her curatorial work focuses on contemporary art and craft, resulting in over 100 international to regional exhibitions. She also serves as Kentucky’s state representative for the Surface Design Association, an international organization for education, exhibition, and promotion of textile art.
My current body of work, consisting of hand-worked embellished textile assemblages, hinge on intersections and the inherent tension, disorientation, and anxiety arising from conceptual and material collisions. The pieces investigate personal and cultural issues that are intentionally difficult: I believe good art comes from friction, micro or macro. The work glistening with embellishment and embedded with treasures beckons the viewer while presenting fractious imagery.
Working with a fine craft medium within a fine art structuring of concept and presentation is itself a subversive act, meant to posit a conflict of aesthetic assumptions. Incorporating personal narrative and popular culture iconography within Catholic inspired compositions, the medium of embellished textiles enables the investigation of polemic or emotionally murky subject matter with a material that can be a decorative foil for the content. The Counted Crows series, including Three for a Wedding, is representative of my interest in utilizing folkloric symbolism as a means of expression. My method of hand beading and quilting creates a dimensional surface that is highly tactile and luscious. Thoroughly complex and work-intensive creative processes attract me; the art in the work happens during the creative process, and the process becomes a type of meditative labor of stitching symbols and binding narratives.
Imbued with a Catholic aesthetic, my pieces in composition and content refer to both to the devotional and decorative. They are my personal altars, embedded within a ritualized context. I draw inspiration from objects that embrace artifice and decoration: Haitian prayer banners, Gothic reliquaries, Byzantine mosaics and paintings, Vienna Secession art and architecture. My aim is to create beauty; works that have the capacity to be seductively decorative in form and emotionally disconcerting in content.
Intuitive reacting to the surface
You know it’s funny, Iv’e been asked about the chickens
It’s just a different way of working