Faculty Focus: Jen Blazina
April 29, 2019
Jen Blazina, a professor in the Department of Art & Art History, is an acclaimed Philadelphia artist who regularly exhibits nationally and internationally. With a background in printmaking, Jen has been awarded numerous residences and grants, including funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Leeway Foundation, Maryland State Arts Council, and the Independence Foundation. Her work has featured in exhibitions at the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY; Ha’mizgaga Glass Factory Museum, Israel; the European Ceramic Work Center, Netherlands; the Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio; Art Basel, Miami, Florida; the Pittsburgh Glass Center, Pittsburgh, Pa.; and the Museum of American Glass, Millville, NJ. Professor Blazina received her M.F.A. in printmaking from Cranbrook Academy of Art, her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and her B.F.A., cum laude, from the State University of New York at Purchase College. This month, her work will be featured in several exhibitions and she will lead workshops across the United States. Jen spoke to Communications Coordinator Laurel Hostak about her artistic career and the exchange of value between professional practice and the academic sphere.
Tell me a little about you as an artist; what inspires you? Are there questions or themes you tend to explore in your work?
My inspiration come from various sources: My grandfather who was an amateur photographer who documented our family’s history. My grandmother told family stories using his images as a reference point, discarded objects, personal keepsakes and the world around me. My work often questions themes of memory; time; what is discarded by a person whether it is an object or an idea; what I view; and the media. As an artist, I am intrigued with the idea that what is precious to one person will be discarded by another. My work is influenced by commonplace possessions, familial vignettes and photographs. Whether found in a second-hand shop or passed down from my family, I am often attracted to and captivated by the lost beauty of subtle images and materials.
You work frequently with glass and metal; how did you find your way to these media? What is achieved by working with glass over other materials?
First and foremost, I always chose media that reflects the concepts of my work. Media to me should be chosen specifically for the reason of ideas and themes. After graduate school I started working at a glass gallery and found that glass conceptually and visually is what appealed to me. I was and still am interested in glass, because of its translucency which creates a haunting and dream like quality that conveys a past experience and a notion of memories. Whether it be screen-printing on glass or casting objects in glass the sensibility of this material is one which conveys my concepts. When I started teaching printmaking at the University of Maryland, I enrolled in a bronze casting course. I love the physicality and history of the media. I enjoy creating this media to have the illusion of fragility.
May is a busy month for you, with two exhibitions opening and a weekend workshop. Can you speak to these events, what you’ll be showing?
The first exhibit is the 47th Annual International Invitational Awards Exhibition at Habatat Galleries – Michigan. I will be displaying three new large glass panels with screen-printed images of water and water lilies. The work will appear online as well in the 47th digital catalog that will appear on www.Glass47.com The exhibition will begin on May 2nd and runs until July 5th. The Preview is on May 3rd and the grand opening is on May 4th at 8:00 P.M. To learn more about the exhibition visit the Habatat website here.
The second exhibit is the Summer Instructors Show at the Appalachian Center for Craft at Tennessee Tech University. The show opens May 10th and will continue through August 6th. I will be displaying a series of screen-prints and dye sublimation on glass which has imagery of trees and vibrant close ups of the sky.
The workshop I have been invited to teach is called Screen-printing on Kiln Formed Glass the weekend of May 17-19, 2019 at the Appalachian Center for Craft. The workshop will focus on innovative approaches to screen-printing and alternative printing on glass. Find more out about the workshop and the center here.
I was also awarded through the generosity of our college, the Westphal Faculty Mini Grant to support for an exhibition in August at the Peters Valley School of Craft in Layton, NJ.
Do your professional experiences—residencies, exhibitions, workshops—enrich your interactions with students? Does your teaching experience likewise inform these professional opportunities?
I believe that my professional experiences allow students to see that it is possible to be a working artist who exhibits internationally and nationally. It is important to me that my students see it as a reality. I try to encourage my students to also get out there by telling them about opportunities that have been encouraging and inspirational to me.
I am often very privileged to impart knowledge to other countries as well as in the states to universities, museums, art schools and non-profit centers in the country. I love sharing knowledge and often think my students inspire me to push myself as well.
Where can readers learn more about you, see images of your work, or follow updates?
They can see my work on my website: jenblazina.com
As well as Instagram and gallery sites: Habatat Galleries in Detroit, MI; Koelsch Haus Gallery in Houston, TX; The Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY; Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery in Pittsburgh, PA; and the Packer Gallery in Chicago, IL.