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Jena Gorham

Jena is a painter working in watercolor and oil with some mixed media. She joined RWS in October 2020. Jena has made art all her life, but only recently has she chosen to make it a more serious and professional endeavor. She references the poet and sculptor Stephen DeStaebler when talking about her recent commitment to herself and her art making, “Artists get down to the business of making art when the pain of making art is less than the pain of not making art.” This self-awareness hit her recently when she realized she had neglected important parts of herself. Now she embraces what uniqueness she has to give and feels compelled to make art because she has to, “’s like breathing. After I do it, it’s such a relief.” This is because it gives voice to the part of her she pushed aside for so long. Making art is a necessary and selfish act for Jena, but what she likes about art is that it can be both selfish and giving, “Sharing yourself is a risk that requires vulnerability and bravery, but by opening up, the work shares a mutual opportunity for artist and audience to embrace the beauty and richness of the human experience.” Much like the human condition, sometimes making art is difficult and sometimes it just flows. It's those moments of flow that Jena enjoys most and she admires when an artist can paint in a way that looks like they didn’t labor over it, “It is a fresh, very in the moment kind of flow and you can see it in the work and that’s the beauty of it.” She has taken some classes focused on applying mindfulness to her artmaking. These classes have helped her become more accepting of flaws, and rather than focusing exclusively on the finished product Jena has learned to focus on the process as well. Since she paints more representational subjects - a space where perfectionism can creep in - the mindfulness aspect helps her move forward. Now she accepts mistakes as a part of the practice that leads to making good art. Jena studied the philosophy of art, which has had a big impact on how she thinks about art and the art she appreciates, about what it means to make art and why. She sees paintings everywhere, whether it’s the light, structure or colors. She’s also very interested in the play between the two-dimensional canvas and abstract qualities in a painting versus the piece's representational qualities. Jena worked as an art director in advertising and gained her graphic design skills in the process. Her paintings often reflect and incorporate her studies of the graphic arts. For example, she likes to use white because it has a very clean, abstract and simple quality to it, and creates well defined positive and negative shapes. She also likes white because it brings in a lot of light, both literally in its reflective qualities and for its emotional associations with calm, peace, and rest.

Jena is drawn to the energy of natural light. Her watercolors are often water scenes because of its light reflecting qualities as well as the abstract shapes water makes on canvas. She paints some landscapes in oil, too, but her oil paintings are often of farm animals. “I am drawn to very simple, calm subjects in intimate settings,” she says. The farm animals represent innocence and gentleness for Jena; they often show lots of personality, too. To her, animals epitomize mindfulness, living in their own little worlds, content in the present moment. When she’s working, Jena will hold her painting up in the mirror to see it in reverse to give her enough space to be objective. When she needs more space she will put the painting away for a while or hang the paintings upside down so that when she’s ready to come back to them she sees them with fresh eyes. “Painting is such a personal process for me right now. I’ve finally realized the full value of art in all aspects of life. I would hope people see that in their own lives.” For those who don’t, we suggest hanging upside down. Contact Jena through her website,, or by emailing


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