Jhenai Mootz

The act of creation has always been my key to the secret garden, my way down the rabbit hole, my looking glass.

To me, art is a true, honest magic that can change the way one looks at the world, and it is an honor when someone else finds a new way to see the world through my work.

I had the blessing of growing up in Jakarta, Indonesia. From an early age I was immersed in the beautiful culture of a people to whom art was simply a way of life.  Walking down the street one can see an old woman teaching a child how to bead a sarong or young man carving the most extraordinary wooden bas-relief.  My mother, a watercolorist who at that time was affiliated with Kori gallery in Jakarta, seized this amazing opportunity to educate her daughters.  We were taught how to weave baskets and to weave banana leaves into packets for longton (rice steamed in banana leaves). We painted barong masks and sat with the masters of the wyang kulit shadow puppet shows as they worked their magic. We performed Indonesian dance and learned how to play the traditional music of the Javanese Gamelan.  One of my favorite childhood memories was the summer I spent learning how to wax and dye batiks at a little studio just outside of the Monkey Forest in Bali.

In 1994 we returned to the States, moving to Midland, TX. My mother’s determination to educate her daughters in the arts was as ambitious as ever. We took pottery classes and learned how to make candles from scratch. It was a common occurrence to come home from school to see a pile of broken pottery from the Salvation Army and my mom and sisters using the shards to mosaic a picnic table in the backyard.  Summers were spent as nine-week road trip adventures to every national forest and museum we could hit as we drove from Texas to Nova Scotia to see family. This exposure to such a variety of artistic media so early in life has led me to a very elastic way of approaching art. Before I had even left for college I had earned a more vast and varied art education than most garner in a lifetime.

In 2005 I arrived in Chicago with a freshly minted BFA degree from the University of Utah. Setting up my studio and business in this vibrant city, I secured a permanent retail location at the Andersonville Galleria.

I am crazy for texture and color, be it in language, or the kind that can be seen and touched. As a classically trained actor, the power and beauty of the written word have always been a touchstone to getting my juices flowing. I have found that by implementing striking images and vibrant colors combined with textures (gold leaf, mirrors, embossing, sand, pressed cork, and more) on 6×6 inch ceramic tiles, I can give a fresh new look to words that have inspired us for centuries. I also use the playground of my imagination to work on commissions and functional artwork such as mirrors, coasters, coat racks, benches, and tables.

I have found no need to pick one single medium; the fun for me comes from constantly diving feet first into a new technique, playing with it, and reforming it to enhance whatever I am currently trying to coax out of my mind. For me there is a joy in it all, be it in photography, mosaics, decoupage, graphic design, embossing, wire work, sculpting, engraving….anything I can get my hands on. Manipulating physical images, words, and materials all gives an outlet to the sometimes off-bubble way I view the world…all of the beauty, humor, and yes – sarcasm, that gives me pause and make me think twice about things.

I work from the inside out, my work being shaped by both tangible and abstract ideas. Though I work quite deliberately, consciously employing both traditional and innovative techniques, my unconscious is the undisputed project manager. I rarely start with a plan. I start with a little spark of an idea and plunge into the project. This way of working provides many opportunities for happy accidents and for the universe to influence the finished product.  I am constantly awed by the mystery of how creation occurs. Amazingly, our subconscious mind fits images and ideas together to form a kaleidoscope of unique perceptions.  You look at an image and see one thing; I can look at the same image and have a completely different experience. My art is simply my way of combining these impressions, be it with visual images, the written word, or the blending of transitional elements. Sometimes if I’m very lucky, what comes through my mind, and is formed by my eyes and hands, resonates with someone else.

At the end of the day for me there is simply one goal: there needs to be a story.  No story is ever complete unless it is told and heard.  That story may be different for every person, but as long as the story is there, I have done what I set out to do.

Everywhere I look I am inspired. I hope when you look, you’re inspired, too.

Website: jhenaimootz.com