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By HERLIFE Magazine June 2021
Jenny McGee, a mother and graphic designer, was diagnosed at the age of 31 with Stage 3 breast cancer and given a 50/50 chance of surviving the next five years. After two years of intensive treatments, she realized that, to go beyond the day-to-day survival mode, her love of art could be used to express emotions and emulate the beauty found within each one of us. Art became the release and she discovered a new horizon in which color, texture and unfiltered expression could connect pain and healing. Jenny’s art symbolizes victory.
Jenny’s paintings hang in numerous private collections. Some of her clients include HGTV’s designer Kelli Ellis, Boone County National Bank, Midwest Transplant Network and Boone Hospital. Her increasingly collectible status has attracted a growing list of patrons. You can see some of the publicly displayed pieces at the World Trade Art Gallery in New York City, BrandonJacobs Gallery in Kansas City, The Christopher Kennedy Compound in Palm Springs, Poppy in downtown Columbia, Missouri, and at Kindred, Healing and Expressive Arts Collective in Columbia.
HLM: What is your background in the arts?
JM: I received a bachelor of fine arts from Missouri State University in graphic design. In college, I was awarded an internship to work in New York City with former New York Times art director Mirko Illic. It was a wonderful experience, and I was able to work on a few design projects for designer James McMullen and design in the studio of Milton Glaser.
This time taught me a lot, and while I appreciated every second, I longed to see more of the world and return to my Midwest roots. In 2002, my husband and I moved to El Salvador and lived there for seven and a half years. My time was filled with rich artistic experiences including working with impoverished communities and brainstorming ideas of how to make art out of limited resources, working with a Salvadoran artist cooperative, LaFabrik, collaborating with ex-gang members to make works of art and doing graphic design for Salvadoran not-for-profit ENLACE.
HLM: What made you want to pursue an art career?
JM: From my earliest memories I can extract the desire to make things, make messes, create some things out of nothing and just desire creative play. Artistry runs in my family; my great-uncle, Nunk, both grandmas, my father and siblings are all artists and different mediums.
HLM: What has been your largest obstacle? Your proudest achievement?
JM: One of my biggest obstacles has been the belief that I cannot make a living as an artist. A long time ago I believed in that terrible saying, “starving artist.” It has taken me a while to debunk that belief. I am proud of the strength, determination and persistence through failure that I have had to believe differently now.
HLM: What would you tell fellow women who are aspiring to become artists?
JM: I love supporting and encouraging other artists, especially women artists. I often tell people to get a business degree and a minor in their art of choice, or double major in business and art. It’s important to have both of those skills.
HLM: What mediums do you prefer to work in? What scale?
JM: I work in all sorts of mediums. I like to combine acrylics, oils, charcoal, stones, resin, sand and clay into my pieces of all sorts of shapes and sizes.
HLM: What is your favorite piece to date?
JM: One of my favorite recent pieces is called “Oceans of Pearls.” If this painting could speak a prayer to you it would say, “Wherever you find yourself in your creative ocean, may you feel the presence of God keeping you afloat, whispering in your ear that you are safe in this mysterious space. In the wildest storms and darkest depths, I pray you to trust in your work and calling, listen to it, and learn from the lessons only it can teach you.” It’s 4′ x 8′ long, a statement piece that will add peace and calm to your living space, made with acrylic, freshwater pearl, charcoal and UV eco-resin. This piece would look fantastic printed on metal or museum quality canvas.
Art can come from the deepest parts of ourselves. It comes often from the unknown and mysterious internal waters, the waters where I believe the Holy Spirit swims, splashes, dives and holds us afloat. Art that comes from these waters takes laser focus and fierce obedience. Obedience that trusts in God’s guiding presence with each paint stroke. Sometimes people can view this intense obedience as selfishness. However, I believe the creation of art is an act of service, an invitation to look inside and swim into the deeper waters of our faith and life.
HLM: What inspired you to be part of Tigers on the Prowl?
JM: I love that Tigers on the Prowl supports both local charities and artists together. The organization is composed of amazing professionals with hearts that want to give back. I think it is exciting how they embrace creativity to pour back into the community. I love being a part of the Tigers on the Prowl
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