San Francisco Chronicle's Rachel Howard interviews Jenifer Kent's on her current exhibition

Jenifer Kent’s clay board pieces — stillness and speed

July 2015

San Francisco Chronicle
by Rachel Howard

“People say I must be crazy to make these,” says Jenifer Kent, whose obsessively precise drawings — some look like starbursts, others resemble quivering organisms — are on display at Dolby Chadwick. “I think if I didn’t make these, I would be crazy!”

Kent works in ink on clay board, a surface covered with a thin layer of clay so that the line creates an indentation. “I love the way the lines hover on the surface,” she says. She allows her forms to grow organically, often starting from a central point with no fixed design. “They’re incredibly labor intensive and there’s not a lot of room for error.” But “there’s more energy and living quality in the line when you don’t use a ruler.”

Just as importantly, the sustained concentration required to make these drawings becomes part of the works’ meaning.“Things can move so quickly, particularly life in the Bay Area,” says the Mills College master of fine arts graduate. “But to make these drawings and capture that sense of speed, I have to work incredibly slowly. I like that paradox.”

Four years ago, Kent moved with her family to a Petaluma sheep farm, though she commutes to teach art at San Francisco University High School. Fittingly, she became interested in creating a simultaneous impression of stillness and speed. Increasingly, the drawings impart an uncanny sense of being three-dimensional. (“The amazing thing is that the repetition of the lines creates that vibration in form,” Kent says.) Several of the newer drawings contain spheres of negative space; Kent says those voids “look to me like the experience of time.”

With a young child and work to balance, she’s hardly walking around in meditative bliss. Rather, “these drawings are a path into a feeling of calm, generated within the chaos of life.”

— Rachel Howard

Jenifer Kent: Hyperspace: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. (Gallery closed for summer break Aug. 9-17) Through Aug. 29. Dolby Chadwick Gallery, 210 Post St., Suite 205, S.F. (415) 956-3560. www.dolbychadwickgallery.com.