Inspire Speaker: Jennifer Thoreson

In this series of blog posts we are introducing the faculty at Inspire 2015. Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Thoreson who will be leading a session Photographing Women Jennifer Thoreson

Well, it’s taken the better part of two years, lots of mountain top moments, and plenty of heartache.  The new work is finally realized, and that is the mountain-est of mountain top moments. I pushed myself as far as I could to make this work, hung out in all sorts of uncharted territory, learned to work with new materials, and see the process making photographs in a completely new way.  This body of work is the most intimate, most personal work I’ve ever made, and I didn’t hold anything back.

Below is the artist statement for the work.  Stay tuned for images of the installation and sculptures that accompanied the photographs in the opening exhibition, along with a virtual tour of the show.

I’m so excited to finally share this journey with you, I hope you enjoy the photographs!


In my work, I revisit themes of human fragility, pain, and eventually, recovery. I am attracted to vulnerability, to peeling back a skin that reveals something precious, dark, and insistently tender. I am compelled by the moments where people are on an edge, barely laced together, befriending disaster, remembering something, or exposing something.

I am curious about how relationships survive, why they dissolve, how people love one another, and how such love is expressed. In this work, I am investigating heavy burdens and how we carry them. I am interested in the spiritual labor of bearing weight, submission, futileness, and persistence.

To create the work, I rented an empty house for a year, and transformed it into a makeshift sanctuary, a freighted space for constructing photographs. I chose this house because it reminds me very much of the house I grew up in. It has a worn-in, gentle quality, and I felt connected to it the moment I walked through the door. In the photographs, each room is styled with sentimental textiles, trinkets, and colors that I remember from my 1980’s childhood home.

For each photograph, I fabricated sculptural objects using materials such as wool, linen, clay, human hair, and beeswax. The materials borrow symbolic language from the Bible, and create alter-like, fleshy masses. I imagine the house as a gateway, the silent space just before crossing over. The people in the photographs are in the final phase of bearing weight, moments away from finally laying it down. I am seeking the moment of relief, and relishing in the moments just before it occurs.

In the opening exhibition, each room included photographs, textile works, and objects.    If you looked carefully, you would see each stage of a sheep’s wool, and it’s evolution from the animal’s fleece to finished woven cloth.  Wool is shorn, picked, washed, carded, spun into yarn, dyed, and finally woven into a functional woven or felted textile. The sculptures and installations in the exhibition use Biblical imagery and symbolism to speak to specific moments of awareness in my spiritual journey.

I like to know and feel the moment where people fall apart, and saturate my work in it. I want to push at a breaking point, and hold out hope for restoration. These photographs are representations of quiet, ultra-still, delicate moments of raw humanness; the phase just after a laboring, aching fall and at the point when renewal inevitably begins.

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