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Get to Know... Jennifer O'Meara

04 . 03 . 2019

Jennifer O’Meara pioneered digital photographic printmaking in 1991 by experimenting with and successfully adapting Iris 3047 printers for use in fine art printmaking. Her studio was third of its kind devoted to printing with the Iris 3047, and the first devoted to the work of a single artist.

One of a Kind: Can you tell us more about your photography and the process?

Jennifer: Although I’ve worked in many mediums over the years including photography, watercolor, and oil, for the past decade I’ve worked in mixed media with encaustic painting combined with photo-based pigment prints. I also add oil stick and powdered pigments to the wax depending on the layers and textures I want to achieve. I make my own encaustic paint, which is a mixture of beeswax, damar resin and powdered pigments.

One of a Kind: What medium do you enjoy most?

Jennifer: Combining encaustic with my photographs has become my favorite medium to work with. I first photograph the barns, shooting many photographs (anywhere from 20 to 120 images) in a grid, which I then composite to create the pigment print as the basis of the work. This is the first layer of color in the piece. The encaustic paint comes next, in layer upon layer. Then, depending on the image, I add powdered pigments and fuse them into the surface of the wax with a butane torch. This creates many layers of color; and the refracted light from the surface of the print below combines with the layers of wax and pigment to glow with brilliant luminosity. I then finish with a glaze of oil stick on top in areas of highlights and shadows, again fusing with heat.

One of a Kind: What can we find in your booth at the Spring show?

Jennifer: I'm bringing three new large American Barn pieces: American Beauty with Fence, North Face Blue, and Matron of the High Plains Revisited, along with several smaller sized barn and rural landscape pieces and some farmhouse flowers. Many of these are framed in reclaimed vintage window frames.

One of a Kind: When and why did you decide to become an artist?

Jennifer: In 1990, I began experimenting with ways to print my photography in non-traditional (out of the darkroom) ways using non-traditional materials. At the time in the pre-digital photography world, there was no way to print photos that had been scanned into a computer on any medium. I read about the Iris 3047 printer that was being used in the textile industry - the granddaddy of all inkjet printers - and bought one! It was more expensive than my house at the time. I set the 600 pound printer up in my living room and that began my artistic journey that has lasted through the last 29 years. Through those early years of experimentation with hundreds of different papers and inks and traditional art mediums, my artwork has evolved to what it is today.

One of a Kind: What or who inspires you/your work?

Jennifer: Graham Nash, for being the first to adapt the Iris 3047 for creating fine artwork. Gerhard Richter, Richard Diebenkorn, Andreas Gursky, Bernd & Hilla Becher. Artprize Grand Rapids which I participated in many times over the past decade - it pushed me to take my art to different levels.

One of a Kind: What is your favorite part of doing what you do?

Jennifer: Being on the road with my camera, photographing and breathing in the American landscape and the iconic barns that are so dear to my heart after all these years. The sense of freedom is exhilarating. I also love meeting the people who are part of fabric of the landscape along the way.

One of a Kind: Have you ever made anything that you couldn't part with?

Jennifer: Yes, several pieces! But there are also many that I DID part with that were difficult to let go, although they all end up with wonderful homes! I love to see pictures of where they end up.

One of a Kind: What's your favorite Spring activity?

Jennifer: Seeding flowers, planting my tomatoes (difficult to grow here in the Colorado mountains), I love gardening. Or I should say I love GARDENS! Flowers everywhere. And always, the thrill of getting back on the road, out in the middle of the U.S. with camera in hand.

One of a Kind: What are some of your favorite things to do in Chicago?

Jennifer: Chicago has become like a second home to me. I really love the city and the surrounding areas. Many things: choosing from all the fabulous restaurants where to have dinner, visiting as many of the wonderful art museums as time allows, eating my favorite thin cracker crust pizza in Warrenville, late night swims in the lake at a secret spot. Most of all catching up with the wonderful friends I've made from Chicago.

Meet Jennifer and see her work at this year's Spring show.