Jennifer Gillooly Cahoon
Being an artist means I am allowed to be a conduit between the worlds of the tangible and non-tangible — a channel for which the musings of the subconscious get to travel. As an artist, I am able to make that which I can only see in my mind’s eye visible to others around me, allowing me to connect deeply with those who view and enjoy it. For me, it is a deeply healing process to be able to create, and I believe that it has a similar effect on those who view it who enjoy the subject matter.
I like to think of my work as being “ethereal” in nature… Work that (in the case of portraits especially) is not just a mere likeness or rendering. My goal is to create work that taps into the essence of the subject matter, revealing something about the intangible nature of those portrayed. My most favorite subject to tackle is the human form, but even more specifically than that, the portrait. I choose my subjects based on a “pull” to paint them. I take on figures whose story strongly resonates with me and whom I feel will resonate with others as well.
My early love for travel, meeting with and making friends in many corners of the world have greatly affected my art. Traveling and making friends with those outside of my little slice of the world has made me realize that as a human race, we share far more in common than we have differences. These common threads of basic humanity and throughout religions and cultural practice are so beautiful to me, and have often informed my decisions regarding my subject matter.
It is very important for me to express something that goes beyond the surface of a simple face, to explore the essence of the subject I’m taking on. Regardless of race, gender or culture—when someone gazes into the eyes and face of one of my paintings, I’m hoping to make a connection with a very deep part of them. I have a great deal of admiration for Mexican artist Frida Kahlo—also a self-taught painter of portraits. Her drive to create and to express not just a simple likeness of her subjects (often herself) is something I have always found profoundly beautiful. Also, the fact that she spent most of her adult life in chronic pain, yet overcame that to become one of the most famous artists of the 20th Century is incredible to me.
To use a cliché, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. One of my earliest series focusing on the Latin American tradition of Day of the Dead is incredibly beautiful to me because of what the holiday represents in it’s honoring of the cycle of life including one’s passing. To many in our western tradition, the sugar skull makeup worn by the celebrants is viewed as macabre and dark. My goal has never been to paint pretty pictures in the hopes others might like them. I paint what I find to be beautiful even if it doesn’t fit into my society’s norm. The good news is that I have found many buyers and collectors who see the same beauty that I do, and who have supported me and my work.