JenMarie Zeleznak was born in 1984 in Cleveland, Ohio. She received her MFA in Painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design and her BFA in Painting from the Cleveland Institute of Art. JenMarie Zeleznak is represented by the Diehl Gallery in Jackson, Wyoming and her work is part of the permanent collection of the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Her work has been featured in American Art Collector, Art Galleries and Artists of the South, Savannah Homes, Southwest Art, and Images West magazines. JenMarie Zeleznak currently lives and works in Sierra Vista, Arizona where she is an Art Professor at Cochise College.
My work is introspective, concerned with emotional and spiritual experience. The animals I depict are a medium for the expression of the self, yet they retain their own autonomy, embodying gestures that convey emotional form and are signposts of a kind, indicating shared aspects of being. The pictorial space here isn’t the natural world, but an in-between place - the innermost space between thinking and being. There is serenity in surrendering to an external force, suspended somewhere between despair and reconciliation.
I need to establish physical and emotional intimacy with my process and subjects. Anxious mark making fills in my animal forms, as layers of gradients and nuances of color blend together. I meditate in these moments. I work with watercolor pencils in a manner both sensitive and crude, using my saliva and sweat, hands and fingers to manipulate the material onto paper. This personal and direct connection, much like caressing or grooming an animal, gives me the intimacy I need in the work as I bring the animal into being, inducing an empathetic response.
The angular line drawings that accompany the animals I refer to as star maps. I connect stars from NASA imagery in both an arbitrary and intuitive manner. Usually when I begin a drawing, I have a general sense of the placement of the star map based on the gesture of the animal. I am very inspired by science, and the energy of the stars and the moon on a clear night. My sense of spirituality revolves around the notion of energy distributed and transferred in the Universe. I experienced a spiritual awakening in 2013 that changed my perception of the world around me. I began to feel energy and almost see it manifested within the interactions of everything around me. The star maps serve as a visual for the invisible energy that is felt, but not seen, by the animal subject. As a viewer, we are onlookers of someone else experiencing something deeply or going through an emotional moment.
The star maps serve different functions, depending on the animal’s gesture. Sometimes it’s protecting them or shielding them, but it also might seem as though it’s cradling or supporting them. Sometimes the star maps are fragmented, suggesting a loss or absence of something, while other times the star map might seem fluid and graceful, signifying a moment of clarity and feeling whole. The star maps tend to complement or echo the thoughts and feelings of the subjects.