"Major changes blew in with the coming of the new millenium. In 2001, I was invited to debut my first solo show at Toucan Gallery in Billings, Montana. Entitled 'Pressed Beneath a Heavy Sky', this exhibition rocked my world. All the work was sold, there were tears, hugs, and emotional stories from viewers, national funding from the Barbara Deming Fund Memorial, and a great deal of media and gallery exposure. The works were extremely vulnerable memories of my lonely girlhood summers with extended family on barren North Dakota farms. Free-lance teaching, lectures, shipping work to three galleries in the state, as well as sending out portfolios to national venues, filled my days to the brim and convinced me that yes, indeed, I was a working artist.
It was also around that time that some lovely individual, who insisted on being anonymous, provided me with a number of gift certificates for art supplies. The gift certificates were for significant amounts of money and simply signed 'An angel'. I was tremendously moved by this generosity, not only because it was so obviously helpful, but because, after seventeen years as a single mom, well-accustomed to having 'to do it all' whether I wanted to or not, I had forgotten how it felt to have someone look out for me. Overwhelmed and overjoyed, I told the story to everyone I encountered, thanking them profusely in the hopes that I would see a fleeting emotion across a face which would reveal my benefactor. This act of generosity was enormous, not only in showing support and helping me out financially, but it also changed the direction of my work. The timing was surely a 'God thing', because this funding came right when I was looking for a new medium to explore. I bought a few tubes of acrylic paints and some canvas, and dipping that brush in that pool of color seemed to open up something new in me; the first stroke felt like learning how to fly.
Working with the freshness of the paint was leading to fresh ideas. I started to wake up in the mornings with elusive glimpses of another series. I had recently seen the work of famous portrait artist Alice Neel, and was impressed by how well she managed to catch the essence of her subjects by emphasizing expression over physical features, to capture a personality more than just a face. It seemed like she didn't just paint the person she saw; she also painted how she felt about the person she saw. And that was what I wanted to do, in my own way. Suddenly, I was starting to see artworks done from this perspective, depicting the men who had shaped my life. I wanted to create my auto-biography, so to speak, through all of my love affairs, from my first crush in sixth grade to my last fiance.
I must have struck a nerve. These works were very well-received, in fact, so much so that a handful of works were exhibited before the series was completed. The work was considered 'controversial', and at one point the museum venue was considering an age requirement for viewing. Two major articles were written about the work, and the series was a highlighted exhibition in the local paper. Shortly after this, I had a 10 year retrospective show at Artspace, where most of the older works were sold.
In 2004, after many failed 'runaway bride' attempts, I finally met the one and only man who could get me to stick around. We married, packed up a moving truck, and moved to Pennsylvania for greater career opportunities and to be near extended family. The photo at left shows me at the 'front door' of the creaking Victorian mansion in which we lived. The huge house had been carved into apartments, and we lived on the uppermost floor, in the former servants quarters. There was no real heat in the place and we kept most of our belongings packed, but the views from our windows were of mammoth trees and a town spilling down the hills that looked exactly like a Grandma Moses."
One of the primary regrets I have from my days when I was represented by commercial galleries is that I rarely got an opportunity to meet my patrons. If you own a Jaeger artwork and would like to send pictures or add your name as a collector, I would greatly appreciate it—and I would love to meet you! I may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All work is copyrighted under Cory Jaeger-Kenat. Any use, without permission from the artist, is strictly prohibited.