Interview: Jennifer Féin

Mount Gallery Reaches Out: How are Artists Around the World Responding to the Coronavirus Pandemic and Social Distancing?

A Series of Interviews.


In the PART III of the Series, we fly to the West Coast of the United States in order to gain insight into the feelings and reflections, deliberations and concerns of Los Angeles-based artist and fashion designer, JENNIFER FÉIN.

Award-winning fine artist and chief designer of FÉIN, Jennifer Féin attended both the Studio Art College International in Florence, Italy, and the School of The Art Institute of Chicago, earning her BFA primarily in fashion design, though never relinquishing her love of painting. Owner and operator of FÉIN, an independent atelier that provides styling and custom designs for fashion editorials, films, television, and the music industry, Féin’s styles and designs have been published in American Vogue, Vogue Italia, Vanity Fair, W, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, Elle, Marie Claire, and Interview. However, in her not-so-spare time, Jennifer takes solace with a paintbrush and canvas, or applies her myriad of artistic skills to produce works in other inventive mediums stemming from an innate voracity for artistic creation. Now based in Los Angeles, Jennifer spent fifteen years working in New York City.

Féin’s video interview response to Mount Gallery’s questions represent the above-mentioned ravenousness to constantly create, to live art. The text was written in one night and the film showcases some of her more recent work produced as though a premonition of this lockdown. Her most recent works were painted after moving to Los Angeles, though I believe they speak to the world’s and Féin’s current stasis as of late.

For example, in her video, Féin gives a voice to the never-ending circles that consume her and which she cannot stop painting. Below, is a work in which one can feel the that which has become the banality of isolation, loneliness and repetition of sterilisation choking the figure of a being as she is being engulfed by a circular trend of hand-sanitised monotony. Combining the abstraction of those haunting incessant circles, Féin uses her figurative skills in order to establish the sentiment. Perhaps one can even speculate that it is an emotive self-portrait: a person drowning due to the repetitive circular immobility’s endless plague-induced incarceration, screaming for someone to lend a hand of humanity. However, the sterility of social distancing no longer allows for such an act. And thus in cleansed purgatory, the being longs to scream, though one may surmise that the hand around her throat disallows her a voice.

Noname, Canvas Board Watercolour (12×16 in.)

The essence of the above painting reminds me when Féin and I first discussed these recent works. Around the beginning of the pandemic, Féin was in Gatwick Airport on her way back from a fashion job in Denmark and I chatted her on Viber. I did try to call her to ask as to her state: ‘I don’t want to open my mouth.’ Disgusted by the lack of precautionary measures being taken by others in the airport, ‘I [was] terrified.’ ‘Don’t travel.’ After [‘finally!’] her plane landed in the City of Angels, Féin reported back that the moniker had not cautioned the population. While the image was rendered before that point in time, it certainly evokes a silent suffering of eternal petrification, a stunting of articulation being swallowed by the repetitiously, viciously circular merry-go-round of daily sanitization in order for Féin to be able to open her mouth again, so to speak. Social distancing has allowed her an utterance, however painful.

The video response to my interview questions in which Féin roams in chaotic movement alone through the dense field covered in glowing orange popping poppies is an artwork itself, though it sends quite a clear message: Féin may roam, however, she remains isolated from the scent of the flowers’ nectar: she is covered fully by a vintage fireman’s suit (obviously altered). Touch is demonstrably that sense for which she longs, however the pandemic has taken the option away. Hence, sight is the sense she has wished to make palpable, even visceral, in the following pieces. The pieces below were also rendered upon moving to the City of Angels, however, they are very relevant now:

Optical Delusions, Canvas Board Watercolour (12×16)

Whilst discussing the piece above with Féin, I immediately said it reminded me of the Doppler Effect. The Doppler Effect is commonly defined as the change in frequency of a wave in relation to an observer who is moving relative to a wave source, such as the pitch of a vehicle’s horn changes in relation to the observer as it approaches and recedes. Féin said that this was the idea: to see sound.

I wanted to make eyes vibrate from sight and lose focus in the optical illusion viscerally.

Inspired by Op Art (short for Optical Art) painting and fashion, which is usually black and white and gives the viewer an impression of movement, flashes of images, as well as vibrations or swelling/warping, Féin calls this style of her work a psychedelic illustration, magic-eye-inspired use of her artistry.

Below are two further exemplifications of Féin’s more recent paintings, all of which were painted in premonition of her psyche during this pandemic; when one moves across country it can be quite the lonely experience. When one is not allowed to experience that new environment through close communication and expressions of care, one could say that the world, indeed, does become an optical illusion.  

Circle Circle Dot Dot, Canvas Board Watercolour (18×24)
Noname, Canvas Board Watercolour (12×16)

Today, the 17 June 2020, I learned via social media that Féin had ventured out to the beach with a mask, as being cooped up she could do no longer. However, her articulation of others’ apathy to the plague that is ailing the world only left her starved of confidence in humanity: ‘Sitting on Manhattan beach in a mask. Having the biggest panic attack looking around at so many f*£^ing careless thoughtless a*–hole human beings.

We deserve this. We really do. Humans are garbage. We should go extinct.’

This is quite her right, as the pandemic is killing. It also marks a change in the artist’s style; Féin has been known to paint the human figure and studies of its sculptural essence with rigour. She has now turned to the abstract screaming that she chokes upon in the works above. Some of Féin’s older works and studies are below.

Presently, through the catastrophic depletion of human contact, Féin has been experimenting with a series of ‘busts’ made solely out of recyclable materials, the technique of which she is not yet ready to expose. However, with these figures, it is as though she is bringing the antiquated practice of busts in this century and disfiguring them in order to make a political as well as an environmental statement about the status of our world’s order. Personally, I look forward to seeing the series continue on, the recyclable materials juxtaposed by the traditionally upper-class materialism of having one’s ‘bust’ depicted through extravagant materials as a means to remember forever. Féin’s busts may not have the longevity that the tradition of the bust boasts, yet—as with Degas’ wax dancer sculpture—are they supposed to? Perhaps expounding on the political illness of her country does she disfigure the sculptures; perhaps with the material’s short lifespan does she hope the rectification thereof.

Plastic People No. 1, Approx. 2 Ft. in height.
Féin at work in her Los Angeles Studio

Instagram for Féin’s Fine Artwork

Féin’s Official Website

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