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ArtPrize Artist Profile: Jennifer K : Vibrant Art from a Vibrant Woman

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Speaking of her entry into ArtPrize, Jennifer K. Waldner says she hopes that people take away “a new way to think about the things that they are going through.” She hopes that her work invokes emotion rather than a specific idea, taking the viewer on a journey, perhaps leading to self discovery.


Waldner’s works are called photograms. She admits that she is a bit secretive about her whole process but she did share that they are created in the darkroom with various viscous materials; no slides or negatives are used. Each piece begins as an original print which is then scanned into a computer and edited in Photoshop for many hours.

The photograms reflect Waldner’s positive personality. They are full of bright color: fluid blues, greens, yellows, and reds swirling across the page, sometimes mixing to create new, vibrant hues. One might describe the series as a sea of colors that change based on the emotions and thoughts the viewer brings to them. They are full of life, just like Jennifer. She smiles often, is easy to talk to, and has an unmistakable light in her eyes. Indeed, no one could claim that Jennifer K is pretentious. She has a hard time in the gallery scene, not knowing what to wear or how to act. It can be awkward.

Waldner grew up in Jenison but has lived in downtown Grand Rapids for nine years. Growing up, she was surrounded by a creative atmosphere. Her mother was always cooking, baking or sewing, while her father often worked in the garden. From the beginning, Waldner enjoyed cooking, exploring cultural diversity, and going the extra mile with school projects. As we talk, she reminisces about a project she did on the country of England in elementary school. With her mother’s help, she baked a cake with an elaborate design of the Parliament building and Big Ben made of marmalade icing.

Waldner, who received a Bachelor’s Degree from Grand Valley State University in Photography while minoring in French, has been rather nervous to have her art on display and to learn what the public really thinks of it. Yet she “admires anyone who takes the risk to put it out there,” and this contest has been her chance to overcome her fears.

When asked why she entered she responds, “Why not? I have to at least try.”  The online process for registering, she found, was very easy. Voting should be similarly easy for the public. As we chat, I pose the question, “How do you respond to the concerns of some in the art community who think the voting should be done by a panel of experts?” Jennifer answers, “I think people should give the public more credit” and that if really worried about it, artists should use the situation as “an opportunity to inform the public” on the formal aspects of their work.

The group of five photograms that Waldner has entered is hanging in Beta Design on Ionia Ave. Six other artists are displaying their works at Beta, which is right in the middle of the action. After the competition, Jennifer plans on selling this set and hopefully, twenty other similar photograms.

Jennifer’s long time boyfriend, Kyle Hilla, has entered his graphic design into the competition as well. His entry can be found at Compu Craft, INC on Stocking Ave. The two are competing for the same prizes but have a positive outlook on the experience. They bounce back and forth between each other’s venues, supporting one another while doing their best to check out other artists’ works and supporting the artists that they become fans of. Both Kyle and Jennifer are happy to be a part of this ground breaking competition. “We tell each other that we are going to be number one and number two,” she says, smiling.

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