Friday, May 25, 2012

Somerville’s Jennifer Swanson Downes: A Low Brow/Pop Surrealist Artist

                          (Downes struts her stuff in front of her art at Somerville Open Studio)

Somerville’s Jennifer Swanson Downes: A Low Brow/Pop Surrealist Artist

By Doug Holder

 When I met Magoun Square resident Jennifer Swanson Downes at the Sherman Café in Union Square one morning recently, she described herself as a Low Brow/ Pop Surrealist artist. She told me that in her mind this genre examines the grimier and seedier side of life. Her work seems to subvert banal realistic images and infuses them with her own unique sensibility. Her art is colorful, well, like Downes’ background is. She has a Black Belt in Karate, plays the harmonica, flute and mandolin.  Jenn-O-Matic (Her moniker), also has a cat and dog grooming service and has worked as a kindergarten school teacher.

 I was interested in her use of bright color in her works as evidenced in her Tiki series—a Polynesian flourish of artwork she has created. As I picked at the crumbled remains of my luscious Sherman Café oatmeal scone she told me:

  “I really learned about color by drawing in black and white. I mean there are a million shades in between. So it was a natural progression to experiment with different vivid colors.”

Swanson, like many an artist, uses her travels as an inspiration for her work. She has visited Belize, the Mayan Pyramids, and has a particular fascination with ancient civilizations—all reflected in her art.

Swanson loves living in Somerville. She finds the close proximity to other artists, culture, music festivals, etc… very inspiring. Like many creative people she has found a home in the Paris of New England, Somerville, Mass.

*** For more information about Swanson go to:

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