painting of a young man leaning back. mostly in reds and oranges.
"Idle Hands," detail, by Jennifer Packer, 2021, oil on canvas, 90 x 84 inches (228.6 x 213.4 cm), © Jennifer Packer. Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York.

Groundbreaking Artists at The California Studio for 2022

The California Studio: Manetti Shrem Artist Residencies in the UC Davis Department of Art and Art History will welcome acclaimed painter Jennifer Packer to campus in February. Packer currently has solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. She will work with students and give a public talk.

The California Studio was launched in the fall of 2021 with a $750,000 gift from Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem. The program brings to campus spotlight artists like Packer for up to 10 days, with teaching artists-in-residence for a full academic quarter. All the visiting artists interact with both undergraduate students and Master of Fine Arts students as part of UC Davis’ commitment to hands-on studio art education.

black and white photo of a women sitting down with an open room behind her
Jennifer Packer (Jerriod Avant)

Packer’s intimate, loosely rendered portraits depict friends and family casually posing in personal spaces. Using a limited color palette, the demarcation between figure and setting is often hazy and fluid.

Of her paintings, Packer has said, “It’s not figures, not bodies, but humans I am painting. I hope to make works that suggest how dynamic and complex our lives and relationships really are.”

Her art sometimes reflects on instances of institutional violence toward African Americans.

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn (Breonna! Breonna!) refers to the police killing of Breonna Taylor in her apartment in 2020. It is not a painting of Taylor, but of a man lying on a couch. Say Her Name, from 2017, commemorates the life of Sandra Bland, who died in police custody after being arrested during a traffic stop. The painting is a floral still life, which is another type of work Packer does frequently.

Although engaged with contemporary art and issues, Packer is also in a dialogue with art history, and she has pointed to Caravaggio, Titian and others as inspirations for her practice and, at times, references for specific works.

Packer’s paintings were included in the 2019 Whitney Biennial, and she has received awards from the American Academy in Rome and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She holds a Master of Fine Arts from Yale University School of Art and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Tyler University School of Art at Temple University. She lives in New York.

Her public presentation will be at 4:30 p.m. PST on Feb. 10 in the Main Theatre, Wright Hall.

Spotlight and teaching artists for spring

The California Studio artists for the spring will be spotlight artist Ann Hamilton and teaching artist-in-residence Beatriz Cortez.

Hamilton is the winner of the National Medal of the Arts and a MacArthur Fellow. She is internationally recognized for her large-scale multimedia installations, public projects and performance collaborations. She represented the United States in the Venice Biennial and São Paulo Biennial, and has exhibited extensively around the world with recent major commissions at the University of Chicago, the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University, and the World Trade Center subway station in New York.

Cortez is a cultural critic and visual artist who is a professor at California State University, Northridge. Her work is the FUTURES exhibition at the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building in Washington, D.C., through July 2022. She was the 2021 Longenecker-Roth Artist in Residence at UC San Diego. Cortez was the winner of the inaugural Frieze LIFEWTR Sculpture Prize and the California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists.

Read more about The California Studio.

— Jeffrey Day, content strategist in the College of Letters and Science


Primary Category