Cut and color: Jordan Grace Owens opts for bright, compelling simplicity

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Jordan Grace Owens’ “Two Girls on Yellow” (2'x 2' acrylic on board) is part of her “People in Poses” show at The Garage re-opening. “A lot of my characters are caught in the middle of these weird gestures,” Owens said. Photo: Courtesy of Jordan Grace Owens Jordan Grace Owens’ “Two Girls on Yellow” (2'x 2' acrylic on board) is part of her “People in Poses” show at The Garage re-opening. “A lot of my characters are caught in the middle of these weird gestures,” Owens said. Photo: Courtesy of Jordan Grace Owens

The Garage, newly renovated over the past few months, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, will re-open with a month-long show of paintings, drawings, prints, and cut-outs by Jordan Grace Owens.
The show is titled “People in Poses”—simple and accurate enough, but more complex than it seems. Owens’ works depict figures floating against blank or solid color backgrounds, but the poses are all relatively still, non-dramatic ones. They’re flat, but there’s also a subtle tension. Though the figures are cute and cheerful, their postures imply apprehension, shyness, or anxiety. They are self-consciously holding still, rather than comfortably at rest.
“A lot of my characters are caught in the middle of these weird gestures,” Owens said. “They’re looking off at something beyond the composition, or they’re extending a hand towards who knows what, or their legs are folded up in an uncomfortable sitting position.”
The paintings resemble old photographs, particularly 19th century ones in which the subjects would often have to sit intently for the duration of a lengthy exposure. The visual style is different— flattened, simplified, and brightened—and although the figures seem more modern, that feeling of posing is still quite present.
“I love old photographs,” Owens said, “partly for nostalgia and partly for aesthetics—the weirdly forced poses and the flattened shadows from years of degradation. Most of my full-color paintings do refer to specific vintage photos, but the line drawings are almost entirely made up characters.”
Her drawing hand brings to mind several cartoonists, including Lili Carré and the comics published by the now-defunct French collection L’association (such as David B. and Marjane Satrapi). Owens shares with those artists a simple, thin line and a fluid expressivity. “I’m definitely influenced by the visual language of comic artists,” Owens said. “I haven’t ventured into narrative work yet, but that’s something I’d like to get into.”
Her clean and simplified figures also owe a lot to folk art traditions, as well as artists influenced by those styles. She cites a teenage exposure to the work of Margaret Kilgallen as “the moment that something clicked…I started embracing my tendencies towards flatness over push and pull and individual moments over full compositions. I think her influence on my work is pretty obvious. I’m a fan of folk art, too, for the flatness, lines, patterns, solid color, and lettering, but really I’m a fan of so many art forms that have a practical, decorative, or story-telling purpose.”
Owens’ sensibilities make her at home on both sides of the increasingly vague barrier between high art and low, between gallery and boutique. It’s cute enough to sell in one context, yet credible enough to withstand scrutiny in another.
“I don’t make much of a distinction in my own work between art and craft, but I do promote my work on both sides of that line,” Owens said. “I might hang a drawing in a gallery one day, and the next day print it on a tote bag to sell at a craft show for 15 bucks. Coming from a graphic design background as well, I became pretty comfortable with the idea of art as product. And I think the line continues to blur as artists, more and more, promote their work themselves and carve out a DIY career via Etsy, Society 6, and so many other venues.”
The Garage will host a reception for “People in Poses” from 5 to 7pm on Friday, April 5.

Rock around
Fans of freeform radio are advised to mark their calendars and buy some blank tapes (or bookmark some URLs) in preparation for the upcoming WTJU Rock Marathon, which runs from April 8–14.
Four times a year, each of WTJU’s departments takes control of the airwaves for a seven-day, round-the-clock celebration and fundraiser, and this spring is the rock department’s turn. The marathon will feature live on-air performances by local favorites Invisible Hand, Corsair, Left & Right and Dwight Howard Johnson, as well as a remote broadcast at the Tom Tom Founders Festival.
The rest of the schedule is stuffed with carefully curated tributes to genres as diverse as ’90s techno, surf psych, and country soul, with shows devoted to beloved indie labels like Merge, Jagjaguwar, Flying Nun, and Sacred Bones, and the return of marathon mainstay themes like Brian Eno, Riot Grrl, and Funky Virginia. DJ Baconfat will spend two hours playing every song and band namechecked in LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge,” and there are shows themed around the much-sampled “Amen” drum break, and the history of noise music.
This author will be hosting a show dedicated to “Songs About Cars” (to follow up on previous years’ “Songs About Girls” and “Songs About Boys”), as well as a tribute to the recently disbanded group Emeralds. Rounding out the schedule are shows dedicated to songs from the years 1963, 1973, 1983, 1993, and 2003, each hosted by a handful of the station’s DJs.
The full schedule is available online at wtju.net, and the marathon will kick off early with a dance party at the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar on Friday, April 5.

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