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Jenna Toro


Thesis Title: From the Ground

I often think about the ways that humans separate themselves from nature, how the structures built to serve us can also alienate us. This exhibition explores the idea of livability and a highly industrialized state and the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual consequences. Our surroundings are changing, expanding, and being built up on an incomprehensible scale, often at the expense of life and natural environments. Throughout this process, I have grown fascinated with highways and the thought of regularized danger. Fragments of car parts littered alongside medians, scrape marks, skids, and animal corpses on the road are routine sights while navigating my everyday life. This casual devastation gradually brought me to see the mundane as absurd.

This collection of work includes drawings, paintings, and works in concrete. Works in this exhibition are ambiguous yet communicative. They are the products of lingering feelings and impressions; ideas and images that are imprinted in my mind. My subjects are abstractions of real life that can reflect the internal and external repercussions of an industrialized world. Innovative approaches of contemporary artists such as Jack Whitten (1939 —2018) and Hugo McCloud (b. 1980) inspired me to place emphasis on the materiality of my artwork and the process of experimentation.

I began working directly with the materials used in construction, such as concrete, asphalt, and cement, to portray ideas through materiality, texture, color, and composition rather than literal illustration. Mixing primarily with my hands, working the water into the dry concrete was a surprisingly playful, natural feeling process. Additional materials that resemble hair, blood, flesh, and bone, gesture the presence of living things in these industrial representations.

This exhibition also includes drawings and paintings in which figuration is used, but often in ways that are altered or fragmented. Playing with color and manipulating the textures of my materials introduced me to a new language of expression, allowing me to achieve a level of harshness and visceriality in my works that mirrored my observations of the world around me.