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G-Sync: Sometimes, I Am a Fawn

Artist Jenn Schaub

Artists often wear multiple hats in our community -- sometimes so many that within the colorful array is a talent so beautiful you wonder why it hasn't become a full-time occupation. 

Jenn Schaub is an area artist who spends long hours at her day job at downtown Grand Rapids' Dwelling Place, working to stabilize and advance the community of artists who live on the Avenue for the Arts. But Schaub is also an artist herself.

On Thursday, May 2 at The DAAC, Schaub will present Restoring Spring, a one-night-only exhibition of a brand new series of linoleum prints.

This is the first time in years that we have seen an entire body of Schaub’s work presented in the context it was created. In the past, and as with most artists whose lives become busy, Schaub's artistic offerings have been limited to group shows here and there in our city.  

When Restoring Spring appears, it will bring with it a strong narrative rich with personal history, folklore, and Schaub's desire to embody the work with a humanity that evokes emotions many can readily access.  

Those who know Schaub well will be familiar with the personal narrative that inspired this collection of images. The show chronicles the migration from an urban dweller to a homeowner, and the struggles of her romantic relationship during this period. It is gratifying to see that seeking a place to call your own is a universal struggle, rich with delicate complexities.

We know that most relationships shift and change perspective as they become something new with time and space. In Schaub's work, we see roles beginning to shift as negotiations and symbolic meanings buried within tiny gestures begin to inform the work with a deeper meaning.

There are items that make their way from Schaub's home (and their intended use) to be repurposed here and there, conveying a texture or shifting of the element to bring balance or imbalance, depending on the new use.

"The patterns or roles embedded in the work cover three distinct timeframes of my life where many roles and duties in my relationship emerge and retreat (and sometimes reemerge again)," says Schaub.

By the time we get to the third act, the boyfriend has departed in every way he has been presented. What we are left with is a woman on her own with this house structure playing in strongly as an ominous weight instead of a place to craft together. Once again, even in this third act, Schaub is assigning roles to herself that might have been shared in the past.

Schaub often portrays herself, like others, in many forms -- some subtle, some not so much. In one image, I ask her about the fawn, an animal known for its fragility that eventually grows into a creature known for its ability to move quickly and leap to great heights. I could not think of a more fitting example to portray her spirit. Her former boyfriend, among other characters and objects, also begin a metamorphosis. We rarely remain static in the fast running waters of life.

As the viewer, we often become obsessed with the details -- the inks, and the choice of paper -- but lose sight of the fact that a single print's block can take upwards of 20 hours to create. This is the beauty of printmaking... it can become its own form of therapy.

When you think about the time Schaub must spend in the service of her art, it is no wonder that these works truly move the viewer to wonderment with their scope and depth. I often wonder if places like Grand Valley State University, who have collected other artists who have captured our landscape, should scoop up a set of prints because this work is truly of our time and captures something Alten never could have imagined in his time period. (And I hope GVSU knows how serious I am in this request.)

"This narrative I have presented here intersects with each of us," says Schaub. "And this is where the shared journey of our lives through art can take on the heights of folklore."

Schaub reminds me that human relationships are complex and messy. She is a very strong, insightful, and thoughtful person. Schaub is also modern woman standing in this river of time, along with so many today who are also trying to define their roles as the sand shifts below their feet.  

Recognition of the powerful emotional imagery in Schaub's work is not gender specific. Viewers will recognize her personal struggle, played out over the miles of time to get to this show, is the very struggle we, male or female, might intersect with at any moment in modern life.  

This present anxiety is thrilling because Schaub's work taps into the narrative of other artists who have dared to put the focus back on themselves.  

In an attempt to draw a fast line, it is not hard to think of Frida Kahlo, whose work is an inspiration to Schaub. Kahlo, a Mexican-born artist, spent time traveling our world, even to our state of Michigan with her on-again, off-again partner, painter Diego Rivera.

Clearly, Schaub and Kahlo both struggled with some of the very same universal relationship themes.
Schaub writes in her statement that, "It takes time to fall apart, it takes time to understand our own stories, and ultimately, it takes time to heal." She is very clear that her process has the power to reveal and to shed light on a direction. 

Schaub has been many things to so many people in our region and in this show, she reveals another beautiful layer that we do not get to see very often. She is a person who has given much over the years in the service of advancing others, and much like that tiny house she drags over her shoulder in one piece in this show, she has been there for us, pulling our arts scene into the future.

Schaub is rare. She has only one night to present Restoring Spring, which means you only have one chance to connect with these images. To miss this opportunity to get to know about her work and her life would truly be a missed connection.

Time is fleeting and our lives move quickly. We all struggle, reflect, and process. And sometimes, you and I are that young fawn.

The Future Needs All of Us

Tommy Allen
Lifestyle Editor

For a series of events that will change your community but also your spirit with spirits (and for a good cause), please click here to read G-Sync Events.

Restoring Spring is a one-night-only presentation of Schaub’s new body of work. Please visit her Facebook event page for details on The DAAC’s Thursday, May 2 exhibition.
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