Jena Ataras: Nervous, but Curious!
"Lets go bowling" by Jena Ataras
Jena Ataras, a Portland-based artist, might be geographically tethered to the city, but her spirit wanders through broader terrains. The Post-Trump era served as a backdrop for her art, challenging her to unravel the complex socio-political fabric of the country. Within the chaos and bleakness, Jena finds joy in the realms of her imagination.
Historically, Ataras has been unwavering in her dedication to highlighting the nuanced undertones of society. Her 2012 work, "How to Raise a Dead Black Boy", adeptly melded the analytical with the artistic. Her non-engineering background didn't deter her from crafting a narrative centered on self-accountability in certain Black communities using flowcharts. It's a powerful call to introspection while simultaneously seeking empathy from those beyond the community.
However, it's in her project titled "Nervous, but Curious! Series" that her artistic vision truly comes to life. Born from her shifting perception of safety and belonging in the U.S., especially as a Brown-American, this series paints the simultaneous yearning to connect with the world and the lurking fear of it.
Where had all this hate sprung from?
“Awkward Dinner Date” by Jena Ataras
Growing up, Jena's household pulsated with laughter, stories, and lessons from every corner of the globe. The lively soirees hosted by her parents, both academicians in Sociology and Psychology, instilled in her a profound love for human connections and the rich tapestry of global cultures. Their gatherings were not just about merriment; they were melting pots where people, despite their myriad backgrounds, indulged in the universal language of humor, savoring delightful cuisines and spirits.
Yet, following the tumultuous political climate, Jena found herself plunged into a profound depression, her world tinted with paranoia unfamiliar to her vibrant past. But the innate desire to connect, to understand, and to love remained unshaken. Jena posed a question to herself: where had all this hate sprung from? How does a curious artist, bursting with the eagerness to explore the world, navigate spaces when they're equally petrified of that very world?
This introspection birthed her "Nervous, but Curious! Series," a visual exploration of these sentiments. The artworks within this series depict figures that shield their identities, allowing them to observe the world without being seen or judged. They embark on mundane adventures, like bowling or blind dates, with their faces hidden, symbolizing the dichotomy of yearning for connections while being wary of societal judgments.
At a mere glance, “Awkward Dinner Date” might seem like a representation of a contemporary dining scenario. However, a deeper look unravels the layered narrative of societal expectations juxtaposed with suppressed desires. The characters, garbed in formal wear, starkly contrast with their flower-laden helmets. These helmets, symbolic of a wild, unrestrained nature, clash with their conformist attire. Set against the urban neon backdrop of the "Din" sign, the artwork elucidates the dichotomy of modern societal existence.
“Good Dog” by Jena Ataras
“Good Dog” beautifully captures the solitude of introspection. The central character, her identity concealed by a flora-filled dome, exudes contemplation, perhaps even a sense of isolation. This sentiment is heightened by the image of the anthropomorphized canine. Jena, through these visuals, emphasizes the perpetual conflict between societal norms and inherent wildness. It essentially raises the question: How often do we shelve our intrinsic nature to blend seamlessly into societal frameworks?
What truly stands out in Jena's artworks is her impeccable sense of color and composition. Her palettes are both vibrant and deliberate, creating an atmosphere that's visually rich and emotionally resonant. It's evident that she doesn't merely use color for aesthetic appeal but as a language in itself, adding depth and layers to her narratives.
Jena's bravery shines through in her ability to transform her personal anxieties into satirical, smart, and compelling artworks. She navigates the challenging terrains of socio-political commentary with dexterity and wit, turning introspective vulnerabilities into potent social critiques.
Jena's versatility extends beyond traditional art forms. She channels her distinct voice and vivid hues into "The Fruit Punch Show," a medium that champions inclusivity and celebrates the quirkiest and most colorful facets of humanity. As she continues to push boundaries and redefine artistic norms, we eagerly anticipate her upcoming project, “Metamorphosis”.