Originally from the East Coast, and now residing in Albuquerque New Mexico, Jennifer DeSantis is a self-taught mixed media collage artist that goes by the name “LadyJennD”. She believes that the purpose of creating art is first and foremost, to add beauty to the world in which we live. How does this kind of beauty transcend? To Jennifer – it is not only a physical aesthetic, but something bigger – something intangible – like beauty through healing. She hopes to utilize her artistic gifts to encourage, inspire, and heal others.
LadyJenn has been creating mixed media collages steadily since the Summer of 2010, though she has always dabbled in art.
Her interest in the medium of collage developed out of a need to keep her hands and mind busy while recovering from some unsavory things.
Jennifer loves collage because there are few to NO rules. She truly enjoys the transformation aspect of this medium; that you can take an image or text from something already completely idealized, and create a completely different context for the images. She loves immortalizing old, discarded images and texts into imaginative realms, and considers herself a “DJ of Imagery”.
Jennifer is inspired by vintage imagery, patterns, textures, and the juxtaposition of those elements, as well as intuitive color blending. Many of her pieces reflect the oddities contained in the philosophic subconscious, and have deep meaning that she hopes resonates with you.
Have you always made art?
Yes. Ever since I was little. About two years ago, I visited my grandma, and we were going through photo albums, as it our tradition when I visit, and we came across a 5 year-old me sitting at a little easel, drawing something. I remember her and I used to do the arts and crafts projects in Highlights magazines when I was little as well. My elementary school was very supportive and encouraging of writing and art, so yes. I have always loved making art.
Are you self-taught?
Yes. Aside from taking art in elementary, middle, and some of high school, I have no formal education in art.
Where do you find inspiration?
Really, everywhere. I am so blessed in my life to know so many incredible creative people and artists, so most of my inspiration comes from viewing my peers’ art all the time. Specifically, to my work, I am enamored with vintage books and magazines, and I love to remix words and imagery from said publications into my mixed media collage work. Funnily enough, I love the old photographs but not so much old movies. I am also inspired by pop culture, the universe, and the idea of parallel universes and multiverses.
On a more concrete and tangible level, I am inspired by my surroundings here in New Mexico too. When I moved here and started creating art here, many people from Georgia remarked that my palette and moods were clearly influenced by my new surroundings.
Is this a full-time business for you?
Yes and no. I am sure if I calculated all of my time spent on the business including creating the art, then it would be full time, lol. I don’t do that. Especially when creating, I do not want to measure time. I want to escape from time. However, I do have a part time consistent contract gig working with a local non-profit, the OT Circus, in which my main role is organizing, hosting, and facilitating pop up art shows and events.
What is it about collage that you love?
Collage is a really unique art form. It is sort of a rebellious one, as one is taking things from different books, publications, etc., and remixing them into a new realm, with a totally new meaning and attitude. I love that about it, I call myself as a collage artist, a “Visual DJ”, and it really makes sense! I love the smell and feel of old papers. I love getting inspired by colors and patterns and imagery, and I get really excited knowing I am about to destroy them in a sense to create something new, and immortalize a part of say, an old advertisement, and that may or may not be recognizeable. Collage is like making sense out of nonsense, creating order out of chaos. I love that.
How do you source your materials?
Ahhh, the fabulous thrift stores, antique shops, and flea markets! Also, recently, myself,
Zach Collins, and Terry Garrett have created a local collage collective, “Scissors and Glue ABQ”, and prior to COVID-19, we were meeting monthly, and at each meetup, we exchange materials, so I also source many materials from trades and exchanges with fellow collage artists and enthusiasts!
What has been your biggest artistic achievement?
This is hard. I feel like the entire pursuit of making a living creating art is an achievement! Hmmm, yeah. It’s hard. I have evolved as a person so much in the last 10 years on this journey. One achievement early on, in 2012, was having a piece selected to be published in Renee Rongens book, “Fundamentally Female”. That was really cool! Further into this “art life”, another achievement was in 2014, having my first solo show at DooGallery in Atlanta GA. Most recent I would say, is the creation of the art auction platform for ABQ/NM artists to show and sell their work during this pandemic. Created with my fab female teammates at OT Circus, in one month, we have created a micro-economy and helped artists and creatives generate income. This is absolutely an achievement I am really proud of, and I am not gonna lie, it has helped me too, with needed sales and income, as a visual artist.
What has changed for you as an artist since COVID 19 happened?
Well, like so many have experienced, the cutting short of, postponement, and cancellations of art shows and markets have adversely affected my life financially as a visual artist AND with my work at OT Circus. I also found myself unmotivated in the very beginning, in March, to create. This if course, is not unusual for an artist. To go through these bouts of feeling uninspired or motivated. Nonetheless, when inspiration struck, I found my work deeply inspired by the COVID pandemic. Also, as mentioned earlier, it prompted me to think of ways to HELP artists in the community, so the auction group was birthed. It is not a new concept or platform to me personally, but to ABQ it is, and it’s been really rewarding in so many ways. This was unexpected, as I thought it would take a little more time to gain traction, but it is going so well Also, not being able to go to the store to buy supplies! Or the thrift stores etc.! Of course, there is delivery and all, but I miss going to the stores I am a tactile person.
Do you find the Albuquerque arts community supportive?
One hundred percent yes.
What are your favorite ABQ shows/events?
Our annual “Let’s Get Naked Again!” show at OT Circus. I love seeing all the positive and unique perspectives of nudity, and this was the very first group show I curated and facilitated, and it’s very special to me.
I have LOVED the Little House Auction fundraiser show that benefits Off Center Arts each year too! It is so cool to see such a variety of creativity!
Do you have any great marketing suggestions?
Yes. ENGAGE WITH YOUR AUDIENCE. Especially now that EVERYTHING IS ONLINE. Be present Treat online showcases as you would in person ones! Talk to your people! Talk to other artists! Form and nurture relationships. Particularly with Facebook, their algorithms respond most positively to comments. I am sure I can think of more, but this seems if utmost importance right now.
Where do you sell your art?
Predominately through Facebook groups. I have an ETSY shop, but I rarely see traffic, and even more rarely sales. I am not ready to shut it down yet though! I use Society6 as a POD (Print on Demand) site, where I have hundreds of my works available on a myriad of home décor products, apparel, lifestyle products, furniture, as well as canvas, poster, metal prints, etc. I love participating in any local in person shows. Most recently, I had a solo show at La Cumbre Brewing, and I’d planned to table at a few OT Circus markets this year. It has been a real honor and pleasure to participate in Ghostwolf Gallery’s annual “Women’s Work” exhibit, as well as WESST’s annual artisan holiday market!