Jennifer Bacon was born in Bellevue, Washington in 1987. She received a BFA in Photography from Seattle University in 2017 after transferring from Bellevue College. She currently lives and works in Portland, Oregon as a second-year MFA candidate in the Visual Studies program under the Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies at Pacific Northwest College of Art. Her exhibitions include, DARKROOM IN USE, a solo show featuring new works that explored the boundaries of the traditional black and white darkroom. Her work has also been exhibited throughout the U.S. and internationally at PH21 Gallery in Budapest, Hungary, and other selected group exhibitions; most recently at Washington State University’s Fine Art Gallery 2 in Pullman, WA, Photographic Center Northwest and Gift Shop Gallery in Seattle, WA, Blue Sky Gallery, Verum Ultimum Gallery, and the Center for Contemporary Art & Culture in Portland, Oregon, among others. Jennifer has received residencies awarded by PNCA’s Visual Studies’ Residency Program at Caldera Arts Center in Sisters, Oregon and is an upcoming Emerging Artist-in-Resident at Leland Iron Works in Oregon City, Oregon.
My work relies heavily on the history of a photograph. Most recently, I have been using black and white photographic papers outside of the darkroom as a way to subvert and break from traditional photographic conventions. I have found, like other artists, that the darkroom is limiting and restrictive for an experimental process. While I have a deep passion and devotion to the craftsmanship of black and white photography, I find it much more interesting to reveal the possibilities of light sensitive materials in a way that engages wonder, chance, and phenomena.
My process is generative and structured within the scientific method. When starting a new idea, I propose a hypothesis then appoint multiple variables in which I navigate through in hopes to reach a conclusion. By working this way with light sensitive materials, I constantly find myself motivated by moments of failure. In this case however, failure is not a negative experience, failure becomes the ignition to stretch the meaning and understanding of what a photograph is and can be.
Q&A: PACIFIC NORTHWEST COLLEGE OF ART
Before applying to Pacific Northwest College of Art, I toured the campus and was overwhelmed by the amount of pure inspiration I felt within the building. Upon entering the black and white darkroom I instantly began to think of projects that could possible take place there. Similarly, when entering the studio lighting facilities, I was in awe—there is a full, professional-production greenscreen set-up, as well as an infinity wall for video and photography shoots. There are many amenities and inspiring resources within and around the community at PNCA that I try to utilize as much as I can and will be able to continuously use as an alumnus.
I was initially attracted to the Visual Studies program at PNCA because of its willingness to encourage an independent studio practice within a multi-disciplinary program. When accepted, I had just received a BFA in Photography from Seattle University, and was looking for flexibility through mediums; I was looking for an avenue of art-making that would be fueled by inquiry and research then envisioned with a bridge between concept and communication. However, it was later in my first year as a graduate student when I realized that I would not be able to get away from who I am, I am a photographer. So now, within the Visual Studies program, I continue to use photographs in a process-based mode of making and as my main outlet for artistic communication.
How has your experience at your school informed or shaped your work?
My experiences at PNCA has totally shifted, shaped, an informed my work primarily because it is a multi-disciplinary program; I was forced to fight for a medium I believed in in a cohort that wasn’t necessarily open to going back to the basics and fundamentals of traditional black and white photography. My work, at one point, unexpectedly turned cynical before taming, and becoming pedagogical. I feel now that because of the intensity and importance of graduate-level critiques, I have found a position to claim and speak to within the medium of photography. Graduate school is most definitely a profound experience, it leads you to unexpected and sometimes dismal outlets. But now, close to the end of my experience, I would not change the path that led me, as a photographer, and my work, for a master’s thesis, to where we are now.
My mode of making now is generative and seemingly endless, which is a great and terrible feeling all at once. As a graduate student at PNCA I feel a certain level of freedom when accessing facilities like the darkroom and the Digital Print Studio. Within in those spaces there is a reflective sense of trust and encouragement to make from my mentors, faculty, and staff, and because of that encouragement I have no fear, no sight of limitation; I am free to make. To prove it, once during a studio visit with art critic and educator, Saul Ostrow, he called me a darkroom terrorist. “Dude, it’s just coffee grounds and a little latex paint,” I retorted. That aside, I feel it was very important for me to feel liberated from darkroom restrictions and policies. Without that freedom, I would not be where I am now in my thesis research, writing, concept, or anticipated work to be made. I’m looking forward to it!
What kind of exhibition or arts-related job opportunities exist in the area for current students and recent graduates?
There are many exhibition and arts-related job opportunities for current students and recent graduates at PNCA and the Portland area in general. On campus, each semester there are new curatorial-fellows appointed to program student galleries for multiple exhibitions, usually one-month exhibitions ranging in all mediums and subject-matter. Student Life also facilitates pop-up exhibitions for all students, as well as organizes pop-shops for students to display and potentially sell work during the first Thursday of every month. To access exhibition, residencies, and other opportunities off-campus, I turn to The Regional Arts & Culture Council, or RACC (https://racc.org/). RACC offers programing and resources to artists, arts organizations, and residents throughout Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties of the state of Oregon.
As far as arts-related job opportunities, I am only currently aware of those I have actively pursued. I am currently an intern at an art gallery just a few blocks away from the main PNCA campus. There are many art galleries that host internship positions for active and graduated students, as well as many volunteer opportunities that become available when there is need to build, and set-up new and ever-changing large exhibitions and events at institutions like Portland Institute for Contemporary Art and the non-profit, Disjecta Contemporary Art Center, for example.
The arts community in Portland is amazing, there is a constant buzz of excitement and enthusiasm for the arts that stretches from within PNCA and beyond. My first introduction to the arts community beyond school was Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s annual Time-Based Art Festival (PICA’s TBA Festival: http://pica.org/tba/). Each year in September, PICA brings in artists from around the world for a ten-day, event-pact gatherings for performance and time-based art. It is beyond, beyond anything you might expect and for each performance or event I experienced, I was literally blown away by the level of skill, talent, and emotive responses from me and my fellow audience members.
TBA is a staple in the arts community here in Portland, but there are many other galleries and institutions with excellent, thought-provoking programs and exhibitions. To keep up-to-date, I check Art and About PDX (http://artandaboutpdx.com/) for current and upcoming exhibitions, artist interviews, and art guides.
What’s the most memorable piece of advice you've received from a mentor?
If God wanted us to view the world in portrait-orientation, he would have stacked our eyes one on top of the other.
Fuck ‘em, you do you.
Where can we keep up with your photo department online?