Now Showing in the Café Gallery

Lighness of Being

Artwork by Jennifer Moss

Jennifer Moss is an artist unconfined by a single medium. A near-lifelong Alaskan, Jennifer uses contemporary visual elements to interpret the natural environment. She is uses a wide range of approaches to explore both figurative and abstract imagery and the elusive connections within the natural ecosystems. She believes that “Science defines the unseen languages of the things and processes of the world and Art delivers the feeling of it.” Jennifer studied at the Pacific Northwest College of Art and is currently an instructional designer and adjunct faculty at UAF.

Q&A with the Artist

What is the story behind the collection of artworks featured in the Café?
The works featured in the Café are directly inspired by my involvement with the online Kenelm Philip Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) Collection and examination of specimens using a scanning electron microscope (SEM) at the UAF Advanced Instrumentation Laboratory. If you look at butterfly scales with an SEM, they are fascinating in their diverse structure and patterns, with layers of form and function that combine to create these gorgeous creatures.

Is there a theme to the artworks that you selected for this show? 
The paintings in this exhibit are a meditation on the ephemeral nature of life, especially during short summer seasons in the Arctic. This idea is reflected in the title, ‘Lightness of Being,’ which is a simplification of a feeling for what we are able to perceive of the nature of the brevity of life. 

In this series, acrylic paint, many cut out pieces of paper, and reflective materials were added in multiple layers interlaced with acrylic gel medium and more layers of acrylic paint. The result is a painting with great depth and luminosity when examined closely. For me, this represents that intense but brief layered feeling of summer–the warm breeze, the hum of tiny wings, the smell of living things, the touch of warm sun on skin while knowing the shortness of the warm season, the paths we traverse.

Why did you pick these particular works?
Wearing my UAF eCampus instructional designer hat, I have been working on creating the Kenelm Philip Online Lepidoptera Collection with CITE Fellow, Derek Sikes. This is the largest private arctic butterfly collection in the world, most of which will soon be heading to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. As part of the education component for this project, I enrolled a scanning electron microscopy class, and looked at samples from the Kenelm Philip collection as well as some of my own. The SEM imagery that you can obtain from butterfly wings is so amazing, I was inspired to create work that reflected this experience. You can see more of my SEM images on the Lepidoptera Up Close’ presentation on the educator page of the website.

What inspires you as an artist?
I find those unexpected spontaneous moments, where you notice some interesting or surprising thing and make an instant connection with it, sparks intense curiosity that leads me down new paths creatively. I love the process of discovery and research that these moments inspire. I also am deeply moved by the long dark monochromatic winters in Interior Alaska, as they provide a natural blank canvas for the imagination where anything can lurk. Color in this landscape, although at times subtle, is so alive and takes on great importance, is a vivid reminder of the immediacy of living.

What does it mean to be able to reach visitors from outside the community? 
Alaska is exotic and special because we have the largest stretches of true wilderness that remain in the United States. I am proud to share this with our visitors and my hope is that everyone who comes will take a moment to experience the natural world in a meaningful way to them.  

What are you hoping the audience will take away from this exhibit? 
I hope audiences will take time to view the Kenelm Philip Online Collection that inspired this work. I also hope that, upon walking out of UAMN after viewing this work, visitors will take a moment to let the essence of summer bring peace and mindfulness of how amazing and precious the natural world is. Perhaps this moment will arise when seeing a butterfly wander by. 

Have any of the pieces been shown in public yet?
None of the pieces in this exhibition have previously been shown in a gallery, however I have shared some photos of the work in progress on my Instagram account, @jennifermossart.

ABOVE: Lightness of Being V (detail), by Jennifer Moss.

This presentation is part of a rotating schedule of exhibits featuring UAF adjunct artists.
Moss studied at the Pacific Northwest College of Art and is currently an instructional designer at UAF eCampus and adjunct faculty at UAF and CTC.