Watercolor painter Jenny Medved uses art to connect with heritage.
When Jenny Medved first began painting Native American subjects, the watercolor artist knew she had found something that spoke to her.
The Ringling College graduate traces her own family roots back to Native American tribes in northern Georgia, but she first started exploring the theme in her art three years ago. While working on the first painting, “Bird Song,” named after her own great, great grandmother, she says she felt a deeper connection than she had with other work.
“By the time I finished the painting, I had no memory of actually working on it,” she says. “I was just completely absorbed by it. I could tell a difference; I was painting what my heart was really driven to.”
The painting spurred her interest, and she began to explore Native American and Polynesian cultures through her watercolor paintings. The collection eventually became her exhibit “Indigenous People,” which is on display through Jan. 27, at the Patricia Thompson Gallery at Ringling College.
We spoke with Medved about the paintings, her love for watercolor and how she uses art to connect with heritage.
"I STARTED OUT by going to the Native American festival in town and eventually the Ho’ike Hawaii Hula Competition in Orlando. It was powerful to see that, and I wanted to translate my feelings about it into my paintings.
"THE COMPETITION is where I’ve made a lot of connections. There are dancers from all over the world. There’s a huge community. When I walked in, I remember feeling like I was walking into a family reunion.
“I TAKE A LOT OF PHOTOGRAPHS for the foundation of my work. The cool thing about painting is that you get to create a kind of timestamp of a moment. I don’t do a lot of editing; I want the paintings to be very true to who these people are. I want them to be proud of the work.
"I STUDIED ILLUSTRATION, then in grad school, I studied figure painting. In school, I mostly did oil painting. But sophomore year, I started to play around with watercolor. It’s still my favorite. I love it — it’s scary and exciting at the same time. The paint does what it wants, and there’s very little room to fix it if you make a mistake.
"IN EXPLORING THESE CULTURES, the more I dig in, the deeper connection I get. I learn more about my family history, and it’s intriguing. When I’m not painting them, I feel very distant and detached from my work.
"I'M GOING BACK to the competition this July. The first time, I felt like I was walking into a family reunion. Now I feel like I’ve become part of that family, and I feel really blessed.”