jenny, seeking jenny / by Protest Magazine

a dreamy convo with artist Jenny Oh

Jenny Oh paints depictions of the body in motion, traveling on. Sometimes the bodies on the canvas appear to be floating, sometimes the pieces are bright and airy, other times they are shadowy and sensual. Jenny’s exploring the relationship between creativity, consciousness and the body, she questions the way the health of one effect the other throughout her journey, and the way creativity and consciousness seem to pass through our physical being. Her paintings of limbs, lips, and fingertips are snapshots of what took hold of her at the time of creating. Her hands, her physical hands, held captive by the forceful energy telling her to paint! Cut! Paste! Paint and repeat!

She can’t define the process of creating her art yet because she’s still exploring it. And that’s okay. Sometimes drifting with no direction and no destination is necessary. The unknown is scary but to know it all means the adventure is over, this life and plane we exist in will lose it’s magic if there isn’t any mystery. Getting to know Self is a lifelong affair and it’s not helpful to punish ourselves for not always having the answers. Jenny speaks with us a little about exploration, titles, sporadic creativity, sending out her babies and being aware of the body.

 Artwork by Jenny Oh

Artwork by Jenny Oh

JENNY, THE SPORADIC CREATOR

I have to be thoughtful of my body and other peoples bodies.

I would have never gotten to know of other female reproductive health issues. I’m kinda bringing awareness of that by being the subject of study. So yeah that's why I think I put the body awareness, it’s for my own development. I have to be thoughtful of my body and other peoples bodies.

I read the Romans believed everyone had a genius, not that they were a genius. So the painter or the poet would receive help from an outside energy or force that would help them create their work.

Mhm

They were guided by a genius. Do you ever feel your body is guided while painting?

When I paint it's really sporadic but I feel like when it happens I’m focused, I’m like ‘okay I’m doing this,’ I’m focused. My mind is kind of at ease, my spirit is kind of at ease because I’m just focusing on seeing where this (artwork) is going to move or change to, what colors I’m going to move toward. It’s almost like my guards are let go. And that sporadic-ness is okay at that time. Even just going through magazines and cutting out shapes and stuff, that does offer me some solace but it looks crazy, if someone saw me in my room cutting up magazines and shapes and just cutting things out…(laughs) I think I kind of act manically, but creatively, it’s fine.

I noticed you added health awareness and body awareness in your bio on the IG page for your art, what does body awareness mean to you and why is it important?

I thought that I was fine and I was healthy and now with my whole situation, being diagnosed with endometriosis, adenomyosis and body dysmorphia, I'm starting to appreciate bodies in general. Any shape, any size, you know...I started to look at bodies differently and be a lot more thoughtful. I still don't feel comfortable in my own skin and I feel that’s partly about not being aware of the body. I feel the more I paint and let it out, express these ideas and these motions and positions I’m seeing in these bodies, helps me be a little more comfortable in my own body in a way. Which is crazy because I've been in this body my whole life and I feel that it’s just now that I'm slowly accepting who this body is. And you know, it sucks that I have to deal with the pain and there are these issues that I have to monitor and manage, at the same time I started to see it as a blessing. If it wasn't for the pain or surgery or the diagnosis I wouldn't have been able to get to where I am now with my creativity. I would have never gotten to know of other female reproductive health issues. I’m kinda bringing awareness of that by being the subject of study. So yeah that's why I think I put the body awareness, it’s for my own development. I have to be thoughtful of my body and other peoples bodies.

JENNY, MOVING JENNY

I think of it as getting a superpower back, and that goes for anybody...but I’m still fearful of these urges and things that come out of me. I feel maybe I'm getting there but its not...I feel that ball and chain. I feel that shackle.

Is finding where you belong hard?

Yeah, totally... I'm still moving, you know? At least I know that I’m moving and I try to look at it as progression, I try to look at it in the positive. It’s hard to see where I fit right now on the creative spectrum, I don't know where I belong in it (laughs) but I know that at least I’m moving through it.

Impostor syndrome can have us constantly questioning ourselves. What thoughts come to mind when you experience those moments of doubt?

Definitely, I have to push myself to try to shine. I feel like this is another thing I have to focus on and go through- my self-esteem and self-worth issues came from somewhere. And it's really hard for me to say ‘I’m an artist.’ I don’t know if it’s that I don’t want to label myself something so distinct..at the same time, I don’t think I’m that worthy of that label or title yet. It’s like, where am I in all this. I ask ‘Where is me?’

Do you think you're a perfectionist at all?

I don’t think I'm a perfectionist at all. I wish I was, it would explain a lot of things. But (laughs) I don't know. My moods take me to the type of expression that will come out. Sometimes I notice my expressions are...I want it to be a little more sexual or ‘raunchy,’ if that's what you want to call it. I don't even think of it as raunchy, it's just another way your body expresses itself. I actually love it, I don’t know, maybe I'm just really sexual and my mind gravitates towards sexuality and that type of stuff. Sometimes it's just all about anatomy. I ask myself where the expressions are coming from and at least I’m being a lot more thoughtful. But I don’t care anymore about people commenting on my work being sexual. It’s like, do you not feel that at any time? Do you not see and feel these things?

I feel like it's such a ball and chain and I feel shackled. And then I feel apologetic about everything. Once I get a reaction or I get a response, I feel very apologetic about it. And I don't know why but I think it's just ingrained from the dichotomy of the patriarchal arm on us, you know. I feel like when women, or other people, are able to express themselves sexually I’m like “wow you have that power, you’ve regained it, you’ve owned it back, you’re not afraid” And I’m like did I even have this power to begin with?

 

So you’re still exploring? Mhm, mhm. Definitely.  

That's a great place to be: (laughs) yeah...but it’s scary too, I'm always nervous about putting my work out. There are times where I’m like I need to part with these things, I need to send them out! Or else I’m just gonna keep working on it because I’m gonna always find the fault in it. I’m gonna have a manic episode where I rip everything up. That's why I expel things, I tell friends ‘I’m going to send it to you, no I'm going to send it to you!’ (Laughs) Even if it takes me a while to get there (laughs) I think I have these moments, even creatively, where I’m just letting it all go. I’m just letting it go.

 

and I'm happy about that, there's movement in it.

And even if there's a lull at times, each time I go back to it there's some sort of movement. Going towards something or focusing on something. So it's like okay, I might not ever find that in any area of my life right now except there. And that's why I'm like, ‘Okay, come back to this. Focus on this. This is where you can be.’ I can be emotional or whatever and it's fine.

You find freedom!

Mhm, yeah. Freedom in the creativity, totally.

 

What's something you're proud of yourself for?

I am proud that I’m expressing or sharing creatively, I am proud of myself being able to get to that point. But every step has been so scary and it's been mentally, emotionally, physically tiring. But it's all there and all on my Instagram, some of the pieces aren’t here (her home) anymore but they’re all there on Instagram and it's like, wow I’m sharing all this? And I’m continuing to share?

It seems like you're strengthening and developing your relationship with creativity:

Definitely a relationship and at least it's moving, and I'm happy about that, there's movement in it.

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Jenny Oh

is an artist based out of NYC. She is a fighter living with endometriosis and adenomyosis; she shares her story and brings awareness to women's reproductive health issues through her artwork. She's worked with Monthly Gift for the Endometriosis Foundation, and her work can be found here.