Photo exhibit by Atlanta artist Jenny Bell examines facets of feminine energy 

click to enlarge Furies & Graces art exhibit at The Project Box in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Furies & Graces art exhibit at The Project Box in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015.

When asked about Furies & Graces, her new photography show at the Paseo’s The Project Box, Atlanta-based photographer and artist Jenny Bell said it’s mostly about feminine energy.

Once she started talking about her work, however, it became clear it’s far more personal than that.

“Being a woman is fucking hard,” said Bell, 45. “You’re pulled in two different directions, and you get a lot of feedback on how you’re supposed to act while you’re doing it. It can make you feel like you’re never doing enough.”

A mother of three boys, one of whom is autistic, Bell said Furies & Graces is an exploration of the way a female artist can lose herself in other parts of her life and how she can find her way back.

“Being a female can be very segmented,” she said. “My family is a big block of my life. My son with autism, that’s another big block. And as an artist especially, I think it can be hard to feel confident in your work because of the constant pushback you get on how you’re supposed to be behaving. This show is really about stepping into a place where I’m feeling confident.”

Perhaps no piece in the show is more indicative of that confidence than “Mother-GloryBox,” which Bell described as the focal point of the show. A black-and-white, long exposure shot of Bell nude from the waist down was actually the result of a nudge from her collaboration partner on the show, Oklahoma City fabrication artist Hugh Meade.

“I typically don’t ever do that,” Bell said of her decision to be on the other side of the camera. “I look at most of my pieces as self-portraits anyway, even if I’m using models, but Hugh kept suggesting a self-portrait, more of a photographic exercise than anything. So I decided that if I’m going to do it, I’m going to be as open as I can possibly be. By being that vulnerable, you know, showing marks and scars on your body, things like that, it can be empowering. Go big or go home.”

click to enlarge hiddendangersofgrace.jpg

Descriptive frames

Bell is good at describing her work, the why of it, a skill so many artists have yet to master. Specific and insightful, she seems to have a concrete reason or theme for every piece in the show.

“The laundromat is solid behind her, and the image of the woman is blurred. It’s about that busy frenzy, about working through frenzy to try and get to the quiet moments,” she said of “Hysteria,” the blurred image of a beaming woman throwing her head back in laughter while standing in front of washing machines at a laundromat.

“That piece is about using classical imagery to represent feminine energy, recognizable feminine energy, regardless of the setting or context,” she said of “Marilyn,” a piece in which the image of the iconic star, standing in a graffiti-filled rat hole of a hallway, is so blurred it could be a man in a white dress.

She said that one of her favorite aspects of Furies & Graces was bringing Meade’s energy and insight into a show based primarily on a feminine experience. Meade built the frames for three pieces, based on “glory boxes,” a kind of hope chest on which the vessel shape is supposed to represent the womb. Each frame represents either mother, maiden or crone, three female archetypes common in early literature, and the lid to the glory box is displayed above each piece.

Bell also said she loved working in Oklahoma City and is impressed with the openness and confidence of the artists she met while staging the show.

“I’ve been incredibly impressed with this city and so many of the artists that Lisa (Lisa Jean Allswede, Project Box owner) has introduced me to. There’s just something about Oklahoma City,” Bell said. “They’re very much more open here, more willing to share what they’re working on with other people. Other cities are very clique-y, but I don’t feel that here.”

She returns to The Project Box Jan. 23 to demonstrate resin techniques on photographs and said she’s looking forward to the visit.

“It’ll be my third time in Oklahoma City,” Bell said of her upcoming workshop. “Every time I come there, it gets more and more interesting.”

Furies & Graces hangs at The Project Box through Jan. 23. Gallery hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. For more information on Bell’s work, visit jennybellphotography.com.

Print Headline: Daring dames, A photo exhibit by an Atlanta artist examines facets of feminine energy.

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