Jennifer King Paints Her Way Out

The self-taught, Hong Kong-born Alameda oil painter favors Cézanne and van Gogh.


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Jennifer King's painting Orchard in Early Spring.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer King

Jennifer King, an entomologist by training, spent many years as a researcher being chased by dogs and bees through rotting orchards, hot and sweaty, while studying alternatives to pesticides. Those rough and exhausting days and her own introspection inform her work as an oil painter, so while her landscapes are vibrant, pulsing with life and burning with color, they are not simply beautiful per se. “There’s a lot of dissonance there,” she said. “There’s so much beauty there but also, as with everything, there’s also a lot of other that accompanies it.”

This Hong Kong-born Alamedan is a self-taught artist who learned by studying the work of Post-Impressionistic masters such as Paul Cézanne, to whom she was drawn when she first began painting 15 years ago and, especially, Vincent van Gogh, with whom she has an artistic “love affair,” his influence evident in her palette, composition, and signature swirls that dominate the tableau.

King likens her process to a relationship in which she develops along with the painting, and relationships take work. “When I’m outside and I’m painting, it’s gorgeous. I don’t feel trapped. But then you bring it into your world, and there’s something dark about it. And then you also create the way out at the same time,” she said. “There’s that hole in life that people can look down. Sometimes it’s hard to stop yourself from looking down into that hole. Which is why you have to have that way out.”

The process applies to her portraits and self-portraits as well, which are almost psychological profiles, examining perceived defects unflinchingly. “I don’t think people should apologize for their faults,” she said. “And accepting those aspects of ourselves that are ugly in some capacity isn’t a shameful thing to do. It’s the first step towards becoming who you want to be.”

More of the artist’s work can be seen at www.Facebook.com/JennifersMessy. Her studio, a cozy little cabin tucked away in the alley adjacent to Studio 23 Gallery, is open during Alameda’s art walk on the second Friday of every month. Contact her at JennifersMessyArt@gmail.com.

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