Denver’s most important painter has left the building.
Still, while Jenny Morgan is in process of acclimating to her new life in New York City, she remains Denver’s most provocative painter. And this is only the beginning.
In the last year, Morgan's work has been flying off the walls and into collector’s homes and galleries around the country. In part because she has not wavered in her choice to work in a traditional medium, Morgan has established herself as Denver’s most important and progressive painter.
Interestingly enough, Morgan has only furthered her lore by leaving behind one last Denver exhibition as if she were leaving a goodbye note under her lover’s pillow. Entitled “Romantic Comedies” (showing at + gallery until October 7th), this show hangs as a bold testimony to Jenny Morgan's importance as a painter and her breathtaking evolution as a woman.
In part, Morgan's stature has grown on account of the story of her quick rise to the top. It is also coupled by the fact that she has struggled through the often difficult connotations of being a representational figure painter. And while it has been, at times, frustrating, all of this and more has only elevated her status in the Denver art scene, and beyond – making her one of the hottest artists to buy in town.
And what’s more? Not only is Morgan reworking some of the ways that figure painting has been appreciated in the past, she is also pushing at her self. Naked on canvas and for all to witness, Morgan has walked to the top of the art scene as she worked through her personal history in the most public of ways – “Romantic Comedies” being yet another extension of that quest.
A bold and brave move, to say the least.
To encapsulate Morgan's rise, one would start in Salt Lake City, her birthplace – where, as a child, her father pulled her watercolor paintings from the trash, to hang them in his business. Fascinated with art, Morgan began opening every book she could get her hands on, even at an early age. A rightful endeavor, for even in high school her talent was obvious, and enormous. On account of her drive, her insistence on constantly working, Morgan was accepted to Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, where she began to find her stride, showing at Pirate Gallery three times and then landing an internship at Plus Gallery.
Soon after spending time at Plus, owner Ivar Zeile noticed Morgan's undeniable talent and began hanging her work in the back of the gallery. And then the pieces started selling. Shortly after, Plus became Morgan's new home away from home. Subsequent to this move into Zeile’s gallery, Morgan's work began garnering big attention. Her next two shows received rave reviews and the buyers came from the woodwork. Then, in early 2006 Morgan's world began moving at an even more rapid pace. She began a new body of work (what would become “Romantic Comedies”); she was accepted into the School of Visual Arts in NYC to do her Master work; and she was notified that she was a finalist for the Outwin Boochever 2006 Portraiture Competition – wherein Morgan's work was going to subsequently hang on the walls of the Smithsonian.
Within all of this flux of 2006, Morgan has kept her ferocious work habit. Completing commissioned works, a piece for an exhibition on the Iraq war, not to mention her colossal and stunning exhibition at Plus Gallery.
In her previous bodies of work Morgan relied more on the figure to create the expression. With an inimitable style that has relied on cropping the figure and placing it in unexpected corners of the canvas – Morgan has made an indelible mark on the art world. For the most part her previous four collections have placed the human forms atop stark backdrops. Slowly though, one component has taken hold, couching Morgan's body deeper into a context thereby pushing both Morgan and her audiences to new and intriguing places.
For Morgan the human figure is not a subject that will grow tired on the eye. For her it is the one form that we all relate to. It is familiar. It is, apart from our words, our sole communicative vessel.
Yet she also believes that there is something else that we are just as familiar with – something that we cover ourselves in, every day: fabric.
Working on the premise that fabric (ala, clothing) is just as expressive as the human form, Morgan began incorporating fabric into her compositions, early on. And while this has provided her with a strong signature – the evolution is still adapting. With her current exhibition, Morgan has taken yet another bold and brave step away from the traditional stylings of figure painting. In the past, the use of fabric in paintings was not seen as an expressive, or emotional, element. But for Morgan the fabric is as important as the human figure, if not more so.
Using a new and intriguing style of cropping her images and lacing them into a sea of fabric – Morgan has elevated the expressive capability of the figure. Where once it was only human gestures that were able to communicate – now there is another pivotal element.
Take "Round I, Round II, Round III" – the stunning triptych which places Morgan next to a male figure. In the process of Morgan's creation – wherein she begins by sketching the composition, then painstakingly photographing it (this process is a protracted one for Morgan, one that is often fraught with mountains of emotion as she likens it to looking into the worst mirror of them all). In Round I, Round II, Round III the unintentional movement of the two bodies and hands – moving away from one another was something that Morgan did not script. Instead, through her photographic process, it simply happened. And what’s the most telling element in this piece? The fabric, undoubtedly – like a great molten intrusion, fiery and metallic; and permanent.
Jenny Morgan has evolved in her talent of creating lifelike figures. Pairing-up her previous work with the current exhibition, the progression is evident. And this is life: Growth and flux and movement. And Morgan wouldn’t have it any different. And this much is obvious. For her diligence and work ethic has most certainly enabled her hand to mature into a place of precision. Her bodies appear as though they may take flight when the gallery turns out its lights.
But still, what is making her work soar is the incorporation of her fabric. Now her works are filled with a different fluidity and pace. And the diction is furthered by Morgan's new foray into the world of color. Her exploration of color studies are yielding a great and open space that she has only begun to touch. Pieces like, “Anxiety Heavy”, “Change is Inciting”, and “Her Resurrection” stand as a testament to Morgan's bravery in heading-out into this new world.
And while things are dramatically different for Morgan, she is still standing in the same place she was in art school: In-between the often-dichotomous worlds of process and content. However, the difference is now that Morgan is beginning to brilliantly blend the two realms. “Romantic Comedies”, with its breadth and depth and consummate skill are allowing Morgan's audiences to make more lateral movement in interpretation. Evident is her ultimately personal process – a process that is so-involved - that now Morgan content is beginning to match-up with that process, and they are finally becoming one in the same.
Morgan, now 24, is hanging in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. In the same halls as O’Keefe and Hopper. Her work has been reviewed and mentioned in every Denver publication imaginable. She has even had the surreal experience of overhearing two girls talk about her work in a bookstore.
And after selling nearly everything she has produced, the need for Morgan to move-on – away from Denver, to stand on the largest stage in the world – is at once evident, progressive and brave.
And so while Denver’s most important and provocative painter now lays her head a thousand miles away, 7 floors up from Lexington street – she has most certainly kept a part of her heart here, in the Queen City.
From the hushed room where I can only wonder about her bravery in moving to the Big Apple, I say, “Come back Jenny Morgan. Come back…"
Go see Jenny Morgan's "Romantic Comedies" gallery - by clicking on the image at the head of this page.
Or keep up with latest work at: Plus Gallery at: www.plusgallery.com