Jen Perkins – Artist, Elemental Studio Dayton

On this episode, Rodney talks with artist Jen Perkins about her time as a punk rock drummer helped keep her creativity alive on her journey through the arts and how beneficial it is for artists to allow themselves the room to explore new ideas.

Show Notes

 [00:00:00] Hello everybody. Thank you for tuning in to the Rodney Veals inspired podcast. And today I am having a, what is going to be a fun and fabulous conversation with the one and only Jen Perkins, who is an artist, extraordinary collaborator. I a recent transplant to our region, but nonetheless, who is making an impact on the art scene here and has a lot of [00:01:00] thoughts and ideas and things to share.

Rodney Veal: She is fabulous. I think there’s no, that’s the only word I can describe. We have so much. Much fun. We had a conversation before and we, I loved it. I still think, Oh, well, all the good trouble that we can get into once this podcast is over. So without further ado, Jen Perkins. Welcome Jen.

That’s an introduction.

Jen Perkins: Spill the tea Rodney.

Rodney Veal: I will tell you, I know what this conversation is about. If we, if we must, we will go there. But Jen, I, I loved. I love the fact that someone recommended you for the podcast and it was Curtis Bowman. We’ll give a shout out to Curtis, who is a fabulous force of nature nature in her own right and says, you gotta have Jen on the podcast.

And so I had folks, I had a conversation with Jen that lasted two and a half hours and we just talked about everything under the sun and [00:02:00] she’s that fantastic and that fabulous. But what, what I loved is I w I want people to understand and know that. Your story and your journey, because you’re not a native Daytonian.

You’re not a native Ohioan.

Jen Perkins: Yes, I am. You are. I was born here. I was born at Good Sam.

Rodney Veal: Oh, that’s right. You were born in Good Sam. Yeah. But you left.

Jen Perkins: I did. I left, I left when I was like three and a half. Because my father had finished up at the, the theological seminary. He got his master’s in divinity and he was a, he was a minister.

So I’m a preacher’s daughter. Go figure. Right. Super typical, stereotypical. Yeah. But he entered into the military after a number of years of working for the church wasn’t challenging enough for him. So, and it didn’t pay enough either. So he ended up going into officer’s training school and, you know, I’m a military brat as well.

So I’m a gypsy. I’ve [00:03:00] moved around a lot, like a lot, a lot, my whole life. Some by, by, you know, circumstance with parents, but mostly a lot by choice. And so you saying that I’m recent here, not too recent. I’ve been here 10 years. So, which is really weird because it’s gone by so fast. So fast.

Rodney Veal: Oh, 10 years.

Yeah. I mean, but that’s a blink of an eye. It is a blink of an eye and that’s, so that traveling, I mean, that’s a whole thing that I’m always in because I, you know, as I, I think we had our conversation, I’m a native Daytonian. I left to go to college and I came back. And so here, so. What drew you, like, where were you in the world at the moment with the, what, when the decision was to come back to Dayton, what was the draw?

Jen Perkins: So I am a cartophile. I really love maps. Like I can just look at atlases for fun. I love geography.[00:04:00] And I was looking at like Facebook and my, my cousin was talking about where he worked in Columbus.

And so then I zoomed in on Columbus and I was looking around and then I thought, Oh, I wonder if I can see my old house where I used to live in Columbus. And so then I went and did the street view of that. Like I went to CCAD. So I, I was downtown in Columbus. So I’m like looking around, and oh yeah, there’s the old house, looking at the old neighborhoods and then I zoom back out, you know, because I’m like on Google Earth or, you know, Google Street Maps and all that, and then I looked over at Dayton, and then I saw, I looked at Dayton, and I’m like, oh, I wonder if I can find where I grew up as a little girl and then I went to, because I lived in the Dayton View Triangle.

right by the, right by the seminary and I lived on near Malvern and what was it called? Something Nida or Alameda. [00:05:00] I lived on Alameda. And, and anyways, I got on the street view and I looked at the street of where I lived as a child. And it was like this bomb blew up in my chest, like it was just like this, this thing, it hit me and because the street looked exactly the same as when I was a little girl, and all of a sudden, there was a voice in my head that was like a PBS announcer voice, kind of like a Morgan Freeman type voice.

And the voice said the salmon swim thousands of miles to return to their place of their birth to spawn.

Rodney Veal: That’s the phrase. Wow.

Jen Perkins: That’s what I heard. And I said, who’s that? Who’s, I mean, you know, it was my overmind or it was whatever it was, but I heard it and I’m like, okay. [00:06:00] And then I started looking at real estate because basically we had been in contract to buy a house in Portland. And things fell through with my husband’s job and everything.

And we were literally like at the appraisal, like we were right at the end and then just everything fell apart. So I was pretty bummed, but then I just, I just had that message. And I’m like, what is that? Like what? Moving back to Ohio. Like what? I started looking at Trulia and like real estate sites.

And I started looking at the houses. And the prices at that time, and I was gagging, like, I was just like, are you kidding? Like, these are beautiful houses for like 30, 40, 000. I couldn’t even wrap my mind around it. So I stalked the market for two years out from Portland, Oregon. And then my husband always was saying.

When we buy a house, we’re going to buy it for cash and we’re not going to have any house payments. And I’m like, [00:07:00] Oh, stop. Like you’re going to pull 200 grand out of your butt. Like get stopped. And that was like, get real. Like just, but anyways, I was just, I would listen to him and he would say this. And that was like his little mantra.

We’re going to buy a house for cash. We’re going to, and I was just like, okay. But I. You know thinking portland. No, it wasn’t portland. So we bought our house in five oaks Sight unseen I had people come here and scout it out for me And I literally went to the real estate place when I flew back. We had a one way ticket with both kids My husband was still in portland and wrote a check and the, and the people at the real estate office, they were like, Oh my God, this is like the easiest real estate transaction we’ve ever done.

And, and got the keys. Here we are

Rodney Veal: that’s a kind of, the word I want to use for it is like, it’s, it’s, it’s not, it’s not just guts, not gutsy. It’s [00:08:00] bold. That’s bold. Like I’m sure people listen to this guy. I would never, I, you know, I need to research it.

Oh no. I mean, you really went all in.

Jen Perkins: He, he was the long for the ride because he knew. That I was tired of moving and we were basically getting evicted, not by, you know, not by any bad means, but like our, our landlord in Portland, they were going to raise the rent. Oh, but we want our kids to live here and their friends, they want to all live here, you know, blah, blah, blah.

And so I was just, all I could think about was like, oh my God, we’re going to have to move somewhere. And then when we buy a house, we’re going to have to move again. And I was just kind of tired. And I had two small children. Like, literally, like A newborn ish and a four year old. Yeah. So I was like, no, I’m not playing this anymore.

And I don’t know what I, [00:09:00] I mean, like I, but like I said, I, I stalked the market for two years. I, so I was doing my research. I was doing my research.

This wasn’t just a flippant sort of like next day, but it’s, but it’s still a bold move,

but, but yeah, I found, you know, I got a real estate person because we were, you know, we were working with USAA because my husband was in the military and you know, I found an agent here and, you know, she hooked me up with the paperwork.

I made a bid on this house. It was a HUD repo. And I, I bid what they were asking. Cause I was like, it was already so low that I was like yeah, I’m not going to try to underbid that. So Yeah. And then I won the bid and here we are.

Rodney Veal: 10 years later, I love the fact. I love origin stories because I feel like that’s, it’s a, I think we talked about that because I live in right Dunbar and the house was a [00:10:00] dollar.

And so, you know, 26 years ago, 27 years ago, I best decision ever made. And this was, this is the best decision. This is,

Jen Perkins: yeah, this was the best decision that my husband and I. And my husband is also an artist that we could possibly make for ourselves as working artists and as parents I wanted my kids to have the security and to grow up in a house, like one house.

I have no concept of what that is like at all, not, not one. I think the longest I ever lived in a house growing up was like three years. That was, so I don’t know what it’s like to just live in a house. And the same house until you graduate and go to college. And then your parents still live in the house.

I have no concept of what that, what that’s like.

Rodney Veal: So I can’t, I, wow. I, I mean, I’m you’re, you’re like one of [00:11:00] the, I have a really good friend who actually lives in. Seattle, not Seattle Olympia, Washington. And it’s a very similar thing. Cause your husband was in the military and they traveled and they moved.

They finally found their forever home. That moment of like, I need permanence. We’re done. You’re you’ve retired for the military. Yeah, this is it. I need to sit down the

Jen Perkins: roots. I was 40, I was 40 years old and I’m like, I am buying a house. Boom. That’s it. End of story. I’m done.

Rodney Veal: I love it. I love it. Which is giving hope and encouragement to other people.

Make that decision and stick to it. Which is, which I think is, is, is it, I don’t, I’m going to, I’m not going to be an armchair psychologist or therapist, but I just feel like that’s your, just your MO. It’s like, okay, I got this idea. I’m running with it. And so, I mean, just that alone, it’s just like, that’s why I’m like, I fall in love with Jen because I love it.

And then we’re going to get a good trouble in the [00:12:00] community. So I have a question about, I want to, I, cause creative, cause this shows up this podcast about creativity. How did you get into this art realm? Because I think that that’s a very interesting, the, the, what started this idea of creativity and art making, because to be honest, I mean.

You didn’t set up roots. You were moving and traveling. Was the art the constant?

Jen Perkins: Always, always, always. I started drawing, like, as soon as I could start holding a pencil or a crayon. I have memories of being, like, before I was even in kindergarten, I was drawing behind, I was drawing on my wall in my bedroom, and I was drawing behind the drapes.

in the living room. And I would draw cephalopods, which are, which is what little kids draw. They draw a head with like, the arms and the legs sticking out of the head. That’s what little, that’s like a stage of development. And they all had top [00:13:00] hats. And sometimes they would have fangs because I was really intrigued by vampires.

But they were little cephalopods. And that’s what I remember drawing. And I love top hats probably cause, you know, I watched Sesame Street and, you know, the electric company and stuff like that. So, but I started drawing at a very, very young age and painting. And I was always, you know, encouraged, you know, I was always bought, you know, supplies and, you know, I did like Saturday morning enrichment classes.

And even in elementary school I was kind of taken aside. With my art teacher who actually Doug Feely or Filey, I don’t know how you pronounce his last name. I never know, but he was really good friends with my elementary art teacher. They were kind of in some of the same circles up in Toledo and Bowling Green and things like that.

Cause I lived with my grandparents for three years and he, he saw what I was doing and he knew it was like different from what other kids [00:14:00] were doing. And so he kind of, took me under his wing and when I was in second grade, I, when other kids had to do silent reading, I was allowed to go down to the art room and work on whatever I wanted to, which is what I, I always chose ceramics because that was one of the things that They usually didn’t have little kids do was work in clay, because it’s so, you know, messy and whatever, but I would make masks and pizzas and Easter baskets with eggs and, you know, I would make everything and then they would, they would fire them for me and I would glaze them and I would go down and work by myself.

kiNd of special privilege. And maybe it’s because they saw I was a very depressed kid for many years after my parents divorced. I think now, in hindsight, you know, I can look back and see that I was different, you know, I was not, I wasn’t like the, I wasn’t like the other little kids and so I think they just [00:15:00] kind of said, Hey, let’s, let’s do something a little special for her because, you know, it might help her at that time, so, but yeah, I started doing, I started doing ceramics and then, you know, I continued on with the ceramics and you Saturday morning enrichment classes at the University of Fenley and, you know, all through middle school, high school, you know, just, it’s always been art and then I applied my senior year and got a really nice scholarship to CCAD and went to Columbus College of Art and Design where I got my bachelor’s.

I think there were a few years when I was working professionally in the arts field. I was working at a, when I was in Portland I was Working in a porcelain company. And I was also working for a mural company and we would travel a lot to California. And we did a lot of huge commercial you know, really lots of commercial work, lots of restaurants and hotels and private residencies of, you know, very [00:16:00] wealthy people who had their second homes in like.

La Quinta and Palm Springs and Palm Desert and all that. So this was back during Clinton, okay?

Rodney Veal: So this is back in the nineties. Okay. I love, I love the fact that we’re having nineties references

Jen Perkins: Look, we’re talking right at the Y2K, you know, and the economy, like people still had.

disposable income. I mean, it was just a different situation back then. But when I was were actively working in these, you know, artistic fields I actually wasn’t doing my own art at that time because I was doing art for a living all day long for other people. But that’s when I started getting into music and

I started playing the drums at like 20, I don’t know, 26, 25 years old. I got a drum kit. I was in multiple bands. It was something that I had wanted to do from the time I was a little girl. Play the drums. But nobody, nobody [00:17:00] ever facilitated that with me. And then I used to hear from my mom, like, well, girls don’t play drums or can’t you just play the piano?

Or can’t you play the clarinet? I’m like, No!

Rodney Veal: You would have like drum rhythmic percussion is something.

Jen Perkins: Yeah. That’s my, that’s my thing. Yeah. Okay. Okay. But so I did that for many years. And I wasn’t, and so I was more active in the music scene than I was the art scene in Portland, which was a great place to be in the music scene.

I mean, like. Not gonna lie. My very first performance, I was on stage at the Satyricon, which is where Nirvana played for the very first time in Portland. And that was my first show. And I was up on the drummer’s stage. So it’s like the stage and then the drummer’s stage. And I was up I wasn’t prepared for that.

Rodney Veal: That’s a unique position. I don’t think people understand, like when the drummer is stages elevated above…

Jen Perkins: It was amazing. [00:18:00] It was amazing. I got off stage actually at the beginning of my very first show Like my my ride symbol part of my hardware fell off during when I was playing and I was like, oh my god, is my symbol gonna fall off when i’m playing but It managed to to stay on and and before the show I had like had a couple cups of coffee thinking I would need the extra energy And yeah, I did not need that.

So I get off, I get off the stage and take my drum kit apart, have half a beer. Took a half of draw off of a cigarette and then ran to the bathroom and puked my brains out right after it was like, it was so, it was really hard for, you know, it’s so punk rock.

Rodney Veal: I love that because well, you know what it is, is that it’s, it’s not just adrenaline, it’s adrenaline.

And this is another thing. I know what that is. And a lot of performers have that, that situation. Cause I, cause I, you know, I used to dance

Jen Perkins: [00:19:00] and I was like, you don’t know, you’re going to get it. You don’t know. I wasn’t prepared.

Rodney Veal: The first time I ever choreographed a ballet, I was in rehearsal. The first rehearsal I’m doing it, I was all nervous to tell him for preparation. As soon as they all left, I went into the bathroom and just projectile vomited into the toilet. I was like, yeah, because you’re like, Oh, what is this? Right? Like, like, should you do this?

If you’re this stressed by it and you realize it wasn’t stressed. No stress. It is your adrenaline was in overdrive because you found your thing.

Jen Perkins: Yes. Yeah. Yes, but that was, that was a surprise.

Rodney Veal: That high is a real high.

Jen Perkins: It never, it never happened again. Luckily I never repeated that again, but that was, you know, my very first time on the stage on a stage and Mike to the hill, because it was it was like new band night, you [00:20:00] know, new band night at Satyricon, you know, and that Satyricon is long gone.

That club, is

Rodney Veal: it long run? Is it long run? Yeah. Okay. Yeah. So I mean, did you ever think like, oh, you know, if I do the art, you know, you’re doing the personal, the porcelain company and the mural company. Did you ever think, you know what, let’s stick with this band. Let’s stick, let’s stick behind the drums.

Let’s really keep going. I mean, did you ever think that that was a pathway

Jen Perkins: versus I was, was, I was, I actually was, I actually talked to Carrie Brownstein and she was asking me about like, oh, can you. Would you be able to tour? I’ve got this band, they need a drummer, like offered to, you know, and because I ran into his Carrie Brownstein.

I was at the time I was working after the jobs with the art jobs dried out, it was after nine 11, that’s when the art jobs died off, it was done. And so I actually, I had to get a job and I worked at banana Republic for like a year, a couple of [00:21:00] years, actually. And Carrie Brownstein would come into the shop and I ended up giving her one of like the demos from the band I was in and, and then,

Rodney Veal: yeah.

Terry Brownstein. Yeah. And for people who don’t know that is one of the originators of Portlandia.

Jen Perkins: It will Sleater Kinney, Sleater Kinney, Sleater

Rodney Veal: Kinney. But

Jen Perkins: didn’t she, yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Rodney Veal: Okay. I was like a Sleater Kinney. Yeah. Which is another, well, Daytonians is like, that was about the same time as like the breeders and it’s sort of like, you know, we, these girl bands.

I was like, you know, I hate that phrase, girl. Riot girls, girls and all. Yeah. But,

Jen Perkins: but you know, yeah,

Rodney Veal: they were doing

Jen Perkins: cool. So this is. This is, this is pre, way pre Portlandia, okay? She was just doing band stuff then. But, but yeah And then she kind of offered, like, Oh, I have a friend, da da da, and At the time, I was in [00:22:00] school, I was working, And I did, did not take that leap of, no, that was not my, I didn’t do it.


Rodney Veal: did do it. I didn’t. It, I didn’t. It just, it just wasn’t on the bingo card of life. I mean, it

Jen Perkins: was not, no, it wasn’t. It wa i, it, it’s, it terrified me because I, I’m a person who needs some kind of stability, like with money or my school. I was in school and I was like, I can’t just. Take off, you know, so, but it was offered to me.

So that was like, Oh wow. I mean like that was one of those like, you know, sliding door choices. If I would have made that choice, whoo, I, I don’t know. I mean, yeah,

Rodney Veal: and you, you don’t do as artists. We don’t, we don’t do the what ifs that often. I think once we go through the door, we go through, we go through, we [00:23:00] just keep going for the next door, the next set of doors,

Jen Perkins: you know, that was the only, that was one of the only moments in the last.

And it’s so weird to say 23 years that, you know, that I’ve had, that is, that was so like, wow, you could have chosen this other path, but I didn’t and, and I’m happy that I did it. I’m, I’m okay. You know, I mean, I still have drums in the basement. I don’t play very much anymore. I love it, but it’s I don’t know.

It’s just, I think kids having children and just doing that thing. It just. I don’t want to be out past 10. I’ll just be honest. Like I don’t

Rodney Veal: who does at this age, let’s be very clear.

I find fascinating is that people have, that we’ve talked to on the podcast and just in life, they always had other things, other interests. And it was like, okay. I’m like, and I always would go, well, why did you choose this versus that? And they said, it just didn’t [00:24:00] feel right. It wasn’t what I really wanted to say or do, or that it didn’t present itself at the right time because you knew you had, you know, you were in school kids, you know,

Jen Perkins: well that I did not, I did not have kids at that time.

I wasn’t even with my partner at that time, but it just, the timing You know, wasn’t, it wasn’t right for me. And it was just, but it was, it was tantalizing, I’ll tell you.

Rodney Veal: It is tantalizing. It’s the temptation is real in that regard. And I mean, I, I think I just think about that because it’s like every person we’ve talked to has said there was this other thing and I’m like, oh, he’s surprised by, and music seems to be the, the, the.

It’s either mu, music or movement. They were like, they were movers. Like they were like, let’s, I danced. I’m like, wait, what? You didn’t modern dance. I mean, there was a playwright. There’s a playwright who was dancing and he, and Geraldine Blunden at DCDC loved [00:25:00] him. And he’s a playwright. I was like, you could have been a, he says, yeah, but.

I went this other way and I’m like, okay, okay. And it’s always me, music, movement, or visual art. I think that’s why I thought, I think that’s why we got, we got along really well, other than we share some things about astrology that I was like, yes. Which I thought was really cool, by the way. Let’s, let’s take a moment and then we’ll come back and then we’ll kind of just talk about the art making process.

 [00:26:00] All right. So we’re back with Jen Perkins and Jen, I mean, just the, the, the stories about music, I mean, just that journey, but I really want, I’ve kind of want to focus in on On this visual art journey,

Rodney Veal: Your relationship in this collaboration with the other artist came from the music.

Jen Perkins: So the third band that I had been in in Portland We were called VeloWave and two, well, the first woman that was like the main like songwriter, singer, she and her partner they got pregnant and that pretty much was like, okay, I guess we’re done now because, you know, we’re going to have a baby and they’re going to start a new path on life.

And [00:27:00] Maggie and I unbeknownst to both of us, we both went to the audition and she’s a bassist and she had been in a few bands in Austin, Texas, because she had moved to Portland from Austin.

And we met at a audition and then the woman that was wanting to do the band. She was very passionate, but she was really passionate about U2. I’m not a big fan. But she was, she loved their music and Maggie and I were not on that page at all, like whatsoever. So we were just kind of like, yeah, I don’t think this is going to be a fit for us.

And then I found out through spending time with her, you know, about her. Her art and her sculpting and what she and she was sculpting down, you know, limestone Texas limestone and she was carving and, you know, and at that point I was looking for a studio because I knew I had a series that I wanted to make because [00:28:00] I had gotten back into art at that point.

After 2001 when my art job stopped, that’s when I got back into painting again and creating because I wasn’t doing it for a living anymore. But yeah, we ended up getting a studio together.

And then she ended up like selling All this stuff and she was talking about like I want to go to tinos and I want to learn from the masters I want to learn marble carving. I want to go to greece. That’s where you got to go That’s where you got to go and i’m like go i’m like do it go and do it Sell your stock and go and she did

That’s history. Like that was the last, she hasn’t been back to the States. Since 2009, she has been over there.

Rodney Veal: She’s so she’s, she was, he’s all it. This is her

Jen Perkins: a hundred and 10 percent

Rodney Veal: like the thing

Jen Perkins: that is her. I mean, like talk about living the dream.

Rodney Veal: The both of you, you both stayed in touch. You guys were just, you were friends for like, it was this kind of bismuth sort of [00:29:00] like we’re friends.

Jen Perkins: Absolutely. I mean, there were a few years during babies, both of us babies that we, you know, once in a while we would Skype or something.

Rodney Veal: Once you have that initial joining together of like kindred spirit and friendship, it’s not about like constantly being in a friend’s face. It’s just the fact that you share a bond and it’s like the bonds never break. You just, you picked it up after, you know, you’re having kids, you’re living, you’re, you’re buying this cool house and, and, and, you know, and five and five oaks.

And then is that reconnection. So about seven years ago, you reconnected on this.

Jen Perkins: I want to say it was like at least seven. I, it could be a little bit longer. I, I don’t really remember it’s been so long.

Rodney Veal: Because you’re just friends. I mean, it’s just a friend. So what drove, what, what drove the idea of collaborating and creating this exhibition that’s up?[00:30:00]

Jen Perkins: This was like way before, you know, we were even thinking about the, you know, the grant wasn’t even in our mind or anything like that, but we were like, how can we, what can we do together? Like we should do something together. And she was always saying stuff like that.

And the only thing I’d ever collaborated on was obviously like murals, painting murals with my husband and doing like large commercial projects with him and, and on the computer and things like that. And, but this is a whole other ballgame because, you know, it’s for she does three dimensional marble sculptures.

I’m like, how, how are we, how are we supposed to blend this together, you know? But it wasn’t until she met Lou, which is her neighbor in the village. And he’s been there about seven years.

He’s an older man, like a kind of retiree. American expat. He’s a sculptor. And she saw his and then there’s a term that’s an Italian term, and I can’t remember what it is, but it’s when you do very forced perspective, very shallow [00:31:00] reliefs that are not very tall, but they have so much depth, and he carves them out of clay.

And then cast them out of plaster, and they’re just amazing. And then all of a sudden, like, she saw what he was doing, that he was painting them, and she was just like, oh my gosh! And both of us kinda had this aha moment, like Oh, wow. Like, we could do that. Like, we could do that. How do we blend the two of them together? So, that’s what we did. But seeing his work, I think was a huge catalyst to know that it is possible what we were kind of thinking in already, but just seeing it, I mean, it’s done in a different way.

Obviously, he doesn’t carve marble. He carves into very soft clay. He makes everything with soft clay. But the concept of, of casting it and doing the silicon mold and doing the mother mold and making the cast out of plaster. And then painting it, that was it.

Rodney Veal: [00:32:00] Talk about how you stepping outside of this collaboration, that’s, that was your world and your practice. You’re going from painting and murals and kind of in that sort of two dimensional world, and now you’re coming into this three dimensional world.

Was that the, like, is that, that, does that, did that feel like a natural progression?

Jen Perkins: Oh yeah. Well, it’s like revisiting an old friend, honestly, because my, my senior thesis in college was ceramic sculpture. Partly ceramic sculpture. It was ceramic sculpture and it was mixed media work. And so, of course, you know, working for that porcelain company, it was all two part molds we did. We did porcelain slip casting.

I had already started putting my, you know, my feet back in before we even solidified what that project that we’re doing is. And using wood and attaching wood to wood panels and, and, and really, you know, [00:33:00] making art for, especially for like Seeing impaired people to touch, like you could actually feel the painting, you know, and most people like don’t touch the paintings, but I’m just like, Hey, touch my painting, touch him.

Yeah. I, they’re meant to be touched.

Rodney Veal: I firmly believe in that. I feel like that there’s a, that tactile experience, there are other senses that can be engaged in the art making process and we should be so precious about it.

Jen Perkins: I’ve worked with Molly Brockman and, and her vision for having a, a, a, a vision impaired you know, art gallery. So I did a thing with them last year, I want to say, and I had a number of pieces there that I brought. So people that were vision impaired could feel and touch and, you know, The whole thing.

But they were, when they came and did a studio visit and I got to show Molly all of my pieces and she got to feel them all, like she was just blown away. She was so happy to be able to touch someone’s art, you know? And I’m like, yeah, that’s, that’s what you, that’s what I want people to do [00:34:00] is to touch it.

It’s, and especially even within caustic you know, occasionally you have to polish it, you know, to kind of. You know, it is, it is affected by humidity and things like that. So you really, you know, you want to give it a nice shine sometimes.

Rodney Veal: I love that intentionality of like saying, you know, there’s a segment of the population and That needs to be engaged into the art making and the creative realm.

I love the fact that we’re seeing, we could see each other as we’re talking to the podcast. And it’s like the body language is like, there’s a total relaxed, chill vibe, like folks. I make stuff that’s three dimensional, touch it. It has shape and form and have, have, have at it, which is kind of cool.

Do you still let people touch your art?

Jen Perkins: So when I have my, when I have my thing at the, at the library this Saturday, I am going to have things for people to touch. It’s gonna be marble It’s gonna be all the marble pieces that you can hold and touch and feel the carving And it’s all the naxian marble that I brought back Some of which I carved, some of which [00:35:00] Maggie carved like the small pieces that she could mail to me.

Now, the pieces that I made copies of, they’re massive. Okay. They’re massive. And they would cost an arm and a leg to ship them here, which is why we did what we did. And I mean, it was still pricey to ship the mold. You know, it was not cheap.

Rodney Veal: It was not cheap. Wow. And so that’s another thing about when you’re working in these kinds of like that, that kind of material that’s heavy and large scale, the costs.

I think people don’t understand you as artists have to figure all that in to show the work, if you want to show it outside of your region

Jen Perkins: that’s why, you know, even if these pieces were cast in ceramic, oh, they would be, they would be ungodly heavy, but plaster is so much lighter than clay.

So that’s what I [00:36:00] love about being able to do that. And, and the fact that I can get the paint. The both types of paint that I use on these pieces, I can get them to look like fired ceramics without, without having to do any of that. It’s like, it’s very satisfying because I don’t have a kiln. I don’t really want a kiln.

I mean, I do, I love clay, don’t get me wrong, but like, the waiting, the firing, the shrinkage, the, oh, is the glaze gonna run? Is the glaze gonna turn out? Do you have the glaze thick enough? There’s no control. For me, not an not, I need more control. So what I’m doing is like, oh, it’s good.

Rodney Veal: It’s good stuff.

It’s good. I, I, well, I, I love it. And it is, it’s, it’s fantastic stuff what you’re talking about. And I think that that’s, that’s a really important, and I think people like with ceramics, because Bing Davis works in ceramics and he’s doing these massive cylinders, and [00:37:00] I’m going, how do you know when it’s done?

How do you know? How do you, he goes. You, you, you, you trust there’s a, there’s a trust factor as a faith factor. It is what it is once it’s done, there’s no going back, but does the way you work, it’s, does it allow for you to kind of go, I like it, but I could change it. I mean, do you do that?

Jen Perkins: Oh yeah. I mean, like I can, yeah, I can still now, not with the form per se, the form, once it sets up and it’s hard, hard.

It makes it a little hard to carve into, but with the painting, that’s where I usually like, I have to force myself to stop, or I have to be like, I think I’m done, I think this is it, you know, I think I’ve reached, it just, for me, it’s like this, when I, when it looks the way I want it to look, then I know what it looks like, and I’m like, okay, this is it, and I can stop.

Like, and that’s a good feeling, but a lot of my paintings just my paintings in general because I work in multiples [00:38:00] and you know, I’ll have like probably have about 12 paintings just sitting around my studio in various states of when are you ever going to come work on me again, Jen? Like you have been neglecting us because I will, I will start things and I will get them like halfway.

And then, I don’t know if it’s because I have ADHD, probably, and I, and then I start on something new, and it’s just like, I keep, the ideas are coming so fast, that I just have to kind of do, and do, and do, and do, and do, and I get all of the pieces to some, to some stage, and then, eventually, and I do, and this is what Brian always makes fun of me for, because he, he totally, like, you never finish anything, and I’m like, I do finish something.

When I have a deadline. Yeah, I can do it. But you know, I just, they are all just there waiting for me to, to come give them love again. And, you know, now that [00:39:00] I’m done with this big series, I can do that. Like, and I’m really excited to be able to go back. And pick up where I left off with so many pieces.

It’s just, it’s going to be refreshing to be able to like, give them love again and be, and then take what I know now from what I experienced this last year.

Rodney Veal: It not just allows you to do it, you see it from a different angle or different perspective.

Perspective has now been altered.

Jen Perkins: When I came back from learning the relief sculpture, I started carving into my pieces like it was marble. Wow. Yeah. And I was like, Oh my God, look at this, look what I’m doing. And Brian’s like, wow. Like, you know, just showing him my stuff.

And he’s like, wow, that’s, I said, look at this mark making. I wouldn’t have done this mark making before, but because, because of just like, you know, you know, [00:40:00] tip, tip, tip, tip with the tools and I don’t know, it just kind of like turned on something in my brain and it, it. It made it so you know, I’m, I’m looking at everything differently.

And even though marble is, it’s not my thing and it won’t really ever be my thing. It’s just not, I love it. I appreciate it. but the whole process of creating the forms and being able to cast those forms and being able to add those forms back into my pieces, Oh, I’m a hundred percent, like I am on board.

Like, I can’t wait. I really can’t wait to start. You know, making my pieces more three dimensional with you know, objects that I create out of clay and do the whole silicone mold making and the whole thing, because I will be using clay to do that for sure.

Rodney Veal: I love it because you talk about your process as such a playful terms. And I love that. Do you consider, do you think about it that way? I mean, do you, I, I [00:41:00] play, I, when I’m making, I’m playing, I’m just like kidding.

It’s like, oh, yeah, yeah. What’s this? Why have I did this to paper? I’m, cause I work in paper and I love, I start touching paper all the time going. It’s like, I feel like that character from coming in and coming to America, this is Beautiful, what is it? And you just, I was always touching and kind of what can this paper be manipulated into?

Jen Perkins: I have been teaching myself or rather allowing myself over the last number of years. To play, to just play because I, and I, and I don’t know if it was all the training at CCAD and everyone was just like, it was just very like, they, they weren’t big fans of playing.

No, it was very, a very strict school, a very, very strict schooling when I was there, so I don’t think, I don’t know if it’s different now, but. Back in the 90s, it was [00:42:00] analog, hands on, Bauhaus, just everything had to be just so, and I don’t know, there wasn’t room for playing, and you were constantly afraid of, if you were to go outside of the box too much, the critiques, what would be said, and I don’t know.

Rodney Veal: The critiques are real.

Jen Perkins: It took me years to stop hearing the professor’s voices in my head, critiquing my stuff. Like it took years. I don’t remember when the voices stopped, but I, I got really serious for a number of years, especially getting back into the arts here in Dayton.

And, and, and really like pushing myself to you know, get my ideas out there. But I wasn’t playing. I was not playing. I was very serious. And I just saw a lot of people around me playing and, and it looked like they were playing. And I, I don’t know. I, I wasn’t there. I was maybe [00:43:00] depression stress.

I, I don’t know. But it’s like an evolution. It’s a conscious evolution for me and I’m really happy that I came out on the other side, you know what I mean? Right,

Rodney Veal: right, right. That phase is over. Yeah.

Jen Perkins: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you can look if you ever used to see that work. I mean, it’s very blatantly obvious.

Like I wasn’t in the best of places. It’s just, I don’t know, like I look at it now and I mean, I have it hanging in my house and it’s fine and I, and I like it but I, I don’t think I’ll ever, I don’t think I’ll revisit it again.

Rodney Veal: this playful phase that you’re in is so exciting because, because it, it just kind of comes through in a manifested interest in your kind of, in this conversation. And so that’s why I’m like, that excites me. Like, that’s why we had a two and a half hour conversation because I’m like, Jen’s, Jen’s excited.

I love it.

Jen Perkins: This is the first winter in most of the years that I’ve been here that I haven’t been [00:44:00] depressed. So it’s a win. It is, it is a total win. And I, it’s been, it’s been years. I mean, I’ve struggled with depression a lot. And it’s, I finally found a combination of supplements and things that really, really help.

And it’s just like a whole new. You know, it’s a whole new world for me and you know, doing things taking care of myself psychologically, mentally you know, setting boundaries with certain people that are not good for you. It’s been a learning process. And in the last, I mean, you know, it all started during COVID 2020, baby, 2020, that was the dark night of the soul.

Rodney Veal: And we still are dealing with the ramifications of that.

Jen Perkins: Yeah. And I think that’s fine. I think that’s fine,

Rodney Veal: But it’s also, we have to kind of, when we acknowledge it, know that that can’t totally define who and what we are because it was such a dark, I love that, that dark night of the soul, because it was, it was [00:45:00] a very, very dark, intense place and I don’t ever want us to go back there.

I mean, let’s be very clear. No, we’re done. It was like, ah, I, I’d rat no, no, we’re, we’re golden. And, but I do know that that also triggered in a lot of creative folks, a wave of ideas and thoughts. I, I kind of love, and I’m not kind of, I do, I love where I’m at, where I can. I get to observe people for lack of a better term, blossom and manifest thoughts and ideas that are like, I never saw that coming from you.

And it’s cool. I love it’s like, and I, I want to, I want to be the biggest cheerleader is like, keep going, keep going, go Jen. You know, like, because that’s, that’s what the arts community needs. And I think, and I think you’re, I think you’re, you’re, and the fact that you acknowledge the depression. You’re not, you’re not shying away from the, in a conversation.

Look, we, there are millions of Americans who are [00:46:00] affected by depression. I I’ve dealt with it and I still deal with it. And we, and we, and we all deal with it in a different way, but it’s, but we, we’re, we’re dealing with it. We, but I also think being honest about it, very, very honest that I go, the reason why I’m procrastinating is because the thought exhausts me.

Jen Perkins: I find myself in the past, even last year, I found myself missing opportunities to submit my art to places because of the depression, because it took, it was too much effort to sit in front of a computer And do all the work and, and, and, and put yourself out there and, you know, of course, fear of rejection and da, da, da, da, you know, it’s all of the crazy self talk, whatever but it’s, it’s amazing, like, when you can look back on that and say, okay, oh, I see what was going on.

 I understand what was going on. There are tells that we have to look for to prevent these episodes [00:47:00] from happening or, you know, Swimming for me getting back into swimming was like an absolute a hundred and ten turnaround, you know I I fell off the wagon during during COVID all the gyms were closed and our pool was closed and That was, that is my grounding, like, that’s my jam, like swimming.

That’s my favorite form of physical exercise.

Rodney Veal: If you could make art in a pool, you would do it.

Jen Perkins: I mean, or if I could like breathe underwater and have a tail and like live amongst the sea creatures.

Rodney Veal: It needed to be a different sort of release and that physicality of swimming and that meditative and calm. I walked, I mean, I just, that’s when the walking regimen started for me. I was like, Oh. You’re not, the reason why you was, you would have those, those moments is the fact that he didn’t have a release.

I was, I was teaching. I was [00:48:00] choreographing. That’s not the same. No, no, no, no, no. I needed something else. And that physical release. And it was, for me, it was walking. Mm-Hmm. And I, that changed, that just changed everything. So, yeah. Yeah. I think it’s for, for our listeners, is like, that’s the kind of, if that’s a takeaway, that’s a takeaway.

Like find something that will help release and it’s, it’s, it’s a synergy of the body and mind. You would never think a dancer would say that, but I needed something beyond dance.

Jen Perkins: I mean, we were at the studio all those years. I mean, we were during 2020 is when we moved upstairs in our building to the big, big studio.

Rodney Veal: I thought that was so cool that you moved into this larger space in the, and you’re in the the Dayton printmaking co op building, correct?

Okay. So for some people who are a local who listen to podcasts, which it is the space that you got, you just went, you, you went from a certain size space.

Jen Perkins: Yeah. Just, well, we were, we were bursting at the seams. We had that little corner [00:49:00] rotunda space, you know, and we were. Just there was no room to move anymore.

I mean, my husband was painting four foot by five foot canvases and I was doing giant multiples. And I’m like, you know, we were asking the landlord like, Hey, do you have any other spaces? We can’t, we can’t sustain this anymore. And and then anyways, like, and then Patrick decided they were, he was moving out.

It’s time to go home and be with the, we call it the critical parenting years. So he was joining Critical Parenting Years because we’ve been there. It, you know, for us it was eight full years of Critical Parenting Years where we made very little art. We were keeping our children alive. It wasn’t about us.

It was, you know, it was our, it was our children. And 110 percent about our kids. So, you know, there’s a lot of missing years in there, but I don’t, I don’t miss them. I mean, you know, I don’t miss it like for my, no, I have, my kids got a hundred percent of [00:50:00] my attention.

Rodney Veal: and that’s kind of a, that’s really important for artists.

Cause I think a lot of people don’t realize. The creativity is not going to leave you, you’re not like a shark where you have to keep swimming or you stop breathing, you know, like you, the creativity will happen. It’ll manifest itself when it needs to manifest itself because critical parenting years, same thing about.

Critical professional development. It was like, you know, like this other thing was taking over my life. And so I knew I was, I started off as a visual artist. And so I went back to it because of COVID. I went back to my roots and it was like, Oh, I can’t be in a studio with dancers and bodies and moving through space.

Well, let’s go back to that other form of creativity. It never left. It was there. It’s still there.

Jen Perkins: It’s like riding a bike. Once you know how to do it, you, you can put it away, then you can pick it up and you can get right back on. You might be a little wobbly at first, I was doing little bits here and there while my children were small, just very small pieces, and, you know, [00:51:00] at like, in our breakfast nook at the table, and I would set up my little encaustic station, and, I mean, I was making things, very little things because I had to, linda robertson was my teacher out in portland And I did like a full day workshop with her and that was it like and then that started me on my path and Because it was just one of the mediums that I did not learn in college. I learned a tempera in college I learned oil painting and Everything else under the sun,

Rodney Veal: That’s a thing that artists do. I mean, I, I think about I think about Amy deal. Amy deal went from a certain type of influence of graphic design to three dimensional structural pieces. I mean, I like Amy. Where she just says, I’m just going for it. I’m like, things that I didn’t learn to do or I I, things I never thought I could do.

You just kind of go for it. And I think Mm-Hmm. . Is that something you think that people don’t understand about artists and art making? Like we just go, I, I wanna try this thing and you, we go out and try to figure [00:52:00] out how to do this thing.

Jen Perkins: I’m not a one trick pony like I am. Like completely not a one trick pony. Even in college, I did not, I was not a strict painting major, I wasn’t a strict ceramic major, I was everything. Like, I had to do it all. I mean, in those two, in those two venues, like, mixed media, painting, drawing, collage, I was ama I have a lot of collage that I used to do. And and then the, the ceramic sculpture, but like, I don’t like being limited at all with what I, with what I want to experience or touch or feel or make it just seems very one faceted to me and that’s just not how I am.

And some people that’s their thing and that, and if it works for them, great. But I think there are a lot of artists out there that. Need to explore because it is part of our nature of being like inquisitive, you know

Rodney Veal: Being curious.

Jen Perkins: Yeah being curious. [00:53:00] Yeah.

Rodney Veal: I’ve always felt that way and I felt very strong about it and I, and I didn’t know that that was what I was missing until I got to grad school for dance when they told me like, why is your work not representative of your interest in other things?

And I looked at them, I’m like, I just never really considered it, which is why I’m coming to grad school. I want to pull, I want to explore all of these things. And so I think this is really important. And I think it’s important for the audiences as well. Don’t just be like, I only love. Or I only love dance.

I just, some people love it all. Go, go explore and see and experience it all because it will inform you even. I just feel like it’s like, to your point about the one trick pony, it’s like, why are you not going to go see other artists? Why are you not going to go see other art forms? I, that confuses me. I will never understand that in a million years.


 yOu have to be true to your nature as to what your creative process is.

And I think that that’s, I’ve [00:54:00] yet. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve yet to, and this may sound shady, I’ve yet to meet any artists. Doing this podcast or during the show that did not have that sort of, I’m not a one trick pony.

Let me try all of these things. Let me, let me go and explore. It’s about the evolution. It’s about evolution within the creativity. So that means it does. You don’t know. Like, Oh, I got an excitement and enthusiasm. They have manifests itself in the conversation, which is far more interesting to me than somebody that says I only paint and oils.

Okay, I don’t know what to do with that, but sure, great, good for you,

Jen Perkins: there are artists out there that are kind of, they do, I don’t know. I mean, you go to the museums, right? You go to the museums and you see all the famous artists and.

They did the one thing, you know, and they did it really well and it’s great. But I, I guess that’s why I really love looking at like the [00:55:00] Dadaist and like the earliest, the people who were really, really branching out and doing all kinds of Other things along with they’re painting

Rodney Veal: yeah. That’s, that’s, those are the artists. I feel like even though, you know, you know, in our PC days, yeah. Yeah. Picasso was problematic, but he also worked, he touched every, it was like, the dude just did everything. And I just feel like, okay, you know, you know, that’s the same thing with the dadaist and the surrealist artists who work multidisciplinary, which is what you do.

You’re working multidisciplinary. That’s where the special sauce is even for, for audiences. I mean, I really do think that that’s what we don’t talk about it enough. Like, why do you think the audiences are drawn to certain artists? Because they’re like, because they, they, it’s the. They know that this isn’t the, Oh, this is not definitively who they are.

This is just a part of them and it’s a joy discovering the multi facets and parts of them.

We always do this [00:56:00] as we come to the close of the podcast. If you had to give one word of advice, who’s a, to, to someone who is considering going on this kind of multifaceted journey of creativity and art making, what would be your advice to them?

Jen Perkins: Be true to yourself and what you love, and don’t think about what other people are going to think about your work. Just do it.

Rodney Veal: Mic drop.

Jen Perkins: That’s about all I can say about that, you know?

Rodney Veal: Yeah. And, but that’s, that’s so true. And you are the living and embodiment of that, and it’s just so cool to have a conversation with you about it, which we’ll have conversations off the outside of the podcast, by the way. Of course, you know, you know that’s Oh, oh yeah.

Oh, you know, these conversations are coming , well, as we, it’s gonna let’s have our tea. So Jen, this has been fantastic. Thank you for being on the podcast and being so awesome.

Jen Perkins: Thank you. [00:57:00] Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. It’s been a lot of fun.