By Gina Malone
Jennifer Bueno began looking at satellite images when home with her young children, an “escapist desire,” she called it. “I think it was a way to feel like I was ‘getting out.’ Not that I wanted to leave; it was just that you get a bit stir-crazy when you have little ones and aren’t able to travel much.”
At first, she says, she was drawn to the colors that she saw in the images. Then she noticed more. “I loved looking for human presence,” she says, “and was overwhelmed when seeing sections of different types of environmental impact by humans on sites like NASA Earth Observatory.”
A glass artist, she began to incorporate what she was seeing into her work. “I use a variety of craft and traditional materials and techniques in my work,” she says. “I like the contrast between the traditional materials and techniques such as watercolor and oils mixed with blown glass and the high-tech satellite images.” Glass, with its ability to hold light, is the perfect material for reproducing the vibrant, glowing satellite images, she says.
She traces her fascination with glass to her childhood on SC’s Lake Keowee. “Growing up at the time, there wasn’t nearly as much development as there is now and it was more like a wild, untouched place,” she says. Being in the greenness of the water near their dock made an impression on her. “It was otherworldly and I know that’s where my attraction to glass comes from,” she says.
She took private art lessons from fourth grade all the way through high school, traditional lessons in pencil, charcoal, pastels, watercolor and oil. After high school, she attended Rhode Island School of Design, working in a production glass studio in New Orleans after graduation. An opportunity to attend Pilchuck Glass School near Seattle led to meeting her husband Thor, also a glass artist. They attended New York’s Alfred University together, each earning a MFA in glass. Around the same time, Bueno also earned a MFA in sculpture from Bard College in New York.
In 2004, the couple was selected for the resident artist program at Penland School of Craft, and loved the area so much they decided to stay on afterward. They have two children: Odin, 12, and Hazel, 9.
Husband and wife often collaborate with their art, making installations of blown glass that resemble river stones or mercury glass. With these pieces, he does most of the glassblowing and she does the design work, making the compositions and creating the layouts.
Bueno thinks of her own artwork as “a landscape painting from the viewpoint of a satellite,” and she starts her search for inspiration on the internet. “Sometimes I select an image based on its shape and color, but sometimes it’s for the subject matter,” she says. “For example, a particular event that I find compelling, like a wildfire or an algae bloom. In all of my pictures, though, I look for evidence of human presence, whether it be cities and roads or air pollution or retreating glaciers.”
A sense of being disoriented when she first discovered the satellite images led her to seek out these human elements, both the evidence of everyday habitation of the earth and the more dramatic effects of humans reshaping the environment. “Viewing the earth from above creates an odd sense of knowing,” she says. “We are taken out of the picture to observe our home from a distance. Glass is the perfect material to portray this ineffable feeling. It has an ethereal beauty, yet can be formed into shapes that evoke our own biology. It is visually fluid, seeming to be in the process of appearing or disappearing, yet it is tangible.”
To learn more, visit JenniferBuenoStudio.com or Instagram @ JenniferBuenoStudio. Bueno’s work may be found at Momentum Gallery in Asheville, where In The Landscape And Of The Landscape + The Vernacular will run through April 27.