Chances are you've walked or driven by one of Jenny Perez's murals on any given day in Wynwood. The bold colors and vibrant strokes of her artwork are prominently rich in technique and spunky in color. Jenny leads the pack in a new generation of visual artists making a name for themselves through artistic expressions and social reform through art. Her pieces are reminiscent of an abstract Picasso with a dash of Kandinsky. It's hard to take your eyes off her work.
In the short time I got acquainted with Jenny, it was her easygoing and sweet personality that first shone through. Then it was her story- an art school drop out with undeniable talent- that got me curious. She recently returned from showcasing some of her pieces in Dubai and she's already hard at work on her next street art project.
I had a chance to chat with Jenny in between her Basel rendezvous and we got down to what drives her, the first thing she ever painted, and her favorite thing about Art Basel in Miami.
Watch out, world. Jenny Perez is coming for you and she's not looking back!
FSF: I’m impressed with your work and technique. How long have you been painting?
JP: I have been painting for about 7 years now with no formal training. I dropped out of university to pursue art and apprenticed under several respected artists to learn as much as I could along the way. When I made that decision it was also accompanied by a promise. I gave myself a chance, devoted a solid 6 months to create a body of work. I promised myself that I'd give myself a year to see where my work would take me and that Id return to school if it hadn't gotten me anywhere at all. Turns out it did, and so here we are. Haven't gone back since.
FSF: Do you remember the first thing you ever painted?
JP: I do! The 1st thing I ever painted was actually a nude inspired by a photograph I had taken during a brief photography lesson. It was still very pop. I used bold colors as contrast and I still managed to use black outlines but also that piece was one of the most realistic I’ve ever painted. I hadn’t yet developed a style for myself, and so, it was a true reflection of the process of “finding yourself”
FSF: You and I talked briefly at an art event last month and you told me you were actually an Art School drop out. Did you feel that hurt you or challenged you in the long run?
JP: Being a college drop out had its pros and cons. I am definitely thrilled at the fact that I have zero college debt as oppose to most people my age who work so hard to pay off their loans, etc. Artistically, it gave me tons of room for error, but with that also came growth. I feel that is what makes the work so raw and unfiltered. I didn’t learn formal technique but I suppose I have developed one of my own- a unique style that works for me and allows me to express. I am constantly learning, developing, progressing and challenging myself - that’s what’s most important.
FSF: You would actually sneak back in to the school to paint. Is that true?
JP: I had to sneak into the school because it was the only place I knew where I could paint. Before that it was in my small bedroom where I learned to paint on the floor (which I still do). Every semester, the combination would change, and each semester I would sit in front of the lock and guess the combination, sometimes it took me hours! I did this for about 2 years after dropping out of school. One evening, my former art professor caught me in the studio, she recognized me and knew that I was trespassing. Instead of calling security she complimented the work and congratulated me for continuing to paint. It was one of the most unsuspecting moments of which I'll be eternally grateful for.
FSF: Tell me about being an artist in Miami and what it feels like to have your art plastered on the streets of Wynwood?
JP: Being an artist in Miami is wonderful. The movement here is really starting to gain lots of momentum. I enjoy Art Basel more than anything and look forward to having my peers come visit, exchange ideas and work together. It’s enough fuel to inspire me constantly. Wynwood is a wonderful place to be. There's so much talent here that it creates such a high standard for quality of work. My artist friends are people I look up to and learn from. Seeing them work fuels my work ethic, and vice versa. The culture in Miami is also unique- because everyone here is from all over the world. I enjoy the high concentration of different cultures too- makes it easy to tap into my own for inspiration.
FSF: Where do you get your inspiration to create? Favorite thing to draw?
JP: I gain inspiration from the experiences in my life; they are mostly connected to emotional connections, dreams, Living and loving this city and my Cuban roots. I enjoy drawing different versions of myself. This character I have created is a repeating theme in all of my work and didn’t realize until just recently that those women I paint are all me, connecting with different aspects of my personality or mood. So essentially, my work is a compilation of self-portraits much like Freda Kahlo, with an urban pop twist!
FSF: Who are you most excited to see during Art Basel and where will we find you?
JP: I am most excited to see all of the artists that I don’t normally have access to. Living and working in Wynwood allows a year round connection to artists whom I respect and often times have the pleasure to work with, but only during Basel do I get to see the most inspiring of the bunch. They are the plastic surgeons of the street, transforming the walls and giving us something to enjoy until the year that follows. Much like Christmas, when you start to see those lights popping up on homes, I relate Basel to this feeling, somehow connecting it to the moment I begin to receive text messages from Anthony Lister and Rone alerting me that they are in town!
Unfortunately, I have taken a back seat this Basel because I've just returned from Dubai where I exhibited all of my paintings at my 1st solo show titled "rich girl". Since all the work is still there, I had to decline offers to display here for Basel. I will however be painting a new mural at Wood Tavern this week which I am so excited about!
You can read about my experience in Dubai alongside other things on my blog www.thewynwooder.com
FSF: What's up next for you?
JP: Next up, more painting! I look forward to collaborating with some local artists and revamping my studio space in little Havana by painting murals on the outside of the building, etc. I want to dedicate more time to that space because it is my home away from home :) it is a very old building and needs some serious TLC!
Learn more about Jenny at: http://jennyperez.com/ and follow her on Instagram @jenn_aaa
*** ALL PHOTO BY: ALESSANDRO ABATE. INSTAGRAM:
*** ALL PHOTO BY: ALESSANDRO ABATE. INSTAGRAM: