Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a New York-based painter and illustrator?
I went to college in my hometown in León, Mexico, for graphic design because I had a natural inclination toward illustration since I was a kid, but something was missing. I never saw myself doing work for someone else's vision. I wanted to push my limits and experience the freedom of creation outside of my comfort zone and at that time, it felt like my only choice was to drop out of school and leave town. The challenge of being alone and starving in a city like New York seduced me more than anything.
You frequently use acrylic paint and collage in your work. Can you discuss why you chose these mediums and how they help you express your vision?
My style comes from my limitations, really. I chose acrylic and collage because both were cheap, and I was broke. And I paint the way I do because I never really had any proper painting lessons or guidance, and that naiveness has worked in my favor, I guess. With time I got to practice my line a lot, and I got good at it. That's the key. Practice, practice, practice… that's how you get to Carnegie Hall.
You've described your paintings as universal, using recurring characters such as clowns and ghosts. Can you delve deeper into the symbolism behind these characters and how they relate to your personal experiences?
I aim to make paintings that anyone, regardless of who they are or where they're from, can understand and relate to, hence the "universal" description. A sad clown, a lonely ghost, a lady looking through a window… all of these scenes carry heavy feelings without much explanation. Visual motifs like these were often used in ﬁlms I grew up watching, so those were a big inﬂuence. You can see an old silent movie today and still be completely moved by it. I look for that simplicity in my work.
Humor is a signiﬁcant part of your work. How do you balance the use of humor with the exploration of more somber themes in your art?
Humor is a big part of my everyday life. It is how I keep myself sane and my defense mechanism. I'm very self-deprecating, and I don't take myself too seriously. So yeah, I incorporate humor into my art but not as much as I used to. My work has now become more serious and grown up, as has my audience, but I'm still Jenny from the block.
You've previously stated that you see art as a profession that requires daily commitment. How do you maintain this discipline, and what advice would you give aspiring artists?
Being an artist is a wild ride that often comes with existential crises and disappointments. You need to have the courage and the will to keep going regardless of if it sounds like a crazy thing to do for a living. You have to sacriﬁce a lot, sometimes leave loved ones behind, and commit to your craft with unlimited passion. My advice is not to let anything stop you.
You've mentioned the importance of your community and how they've supported your artistic journey. Can you share about how your community has shaped you as an artist??
I've been lucky to meet people for whom I have profound respect and admiration, and I feel luckier that I get to call them my friends. I always liked that line from that Talking Heads song: "I've met the people that you read about in books." It applies to my life in NYC. In many ways, these wonderful and unique characters have contributed to giving me that little push of conﬁdence when I needed it, and I hope I can do the same for them.
Your work often explores the idea of solitude. How do you enjoy solitude, and how is this reﬂected in your art?
I spend a lot of time in my room. I'm surrounded by my favorite things: books, records, plants, and objects of sentimental value. There are three windows, so a lot of light gets in, and my favorite time is the golden hour. I cherish the time I get to be with myself because most of the time, I'm out with friends or working behind the bar, so being home alone kind of feels like a treat. It's better for my art if I stay in and get some good rest and wake up fresh the next day, obviously. But it's hard to be a saint in the city.
What's the most unexpected thing you've ever found inspiration in for your art?
Old matchboxes, half-peeled ads in the street, piles of vintage magazines… and my friend's nephew, a 3-year-old named Leroy, who comes up with the most unexpected sentences. He makes songs and calls them things like "Chinatown Passion Fruit," "Jazz at Bedtime," and my favorite, "The Magical Hand of the Village."
How do you see your work evolving in the future? Are there any new themes or techniques you're interested in exploring?
I'm excited to venture into making huge pieces. The kind that you have to climb a ladder to be able to reach. I have friends that paint with bleach, wall putty, and even wine, and I think that it's so cool when you can use non-traditional materials as a vehicle for your practice. So I deﬁnitely want to explore something similar. There's an endless sea of possibilities out there.
Do you have a favorite time of day to create? If so, why do you think this time is inspiring?
Right after lunch, around noon, I have more energy and drive to create. I don't like doing the nighttime shift unless I have a tight deadline. I'm very routine-oriented, so I usually go to the studio for 7-8 hours, and then I call it a day.
As a bartender, anyone can walk into your bar and you never know where the relationship might go. How have these interactions inﬂuenced your work and your understanding of human connection?
It's my favorite thing about bartending. Those rare occasions when you connect with a stranger are so thrilling. The music, the atmosphere, the clinking of glasses. I've met some of my best friends through bartending, so I'll always be glad to have worked in the service industry. Human connection is what most people yearn for, and whoever says otherwise is probably lying.
Can you share any upcoming projects or exhibitions that your fans can look forward to?
This has been one of the most proliﬁc years of my life, and we're only in August. I'm trying to step back a little and reset. I'd like to go out and meet some new people, spend time with my friends, and fall in love with New York again. I'll go back to the studio in the fall, but for now, I'm just focused on living.