hill country observerThe independent newspaper of eastern New York, southwestern Vermont and the Berkshires


Arts & Culture February-March 2018


In teaching, a chance to learn

Artist finds inspiration through roles at museum, college


Jenny Hutchinson works on a project last year at her studio in the Shirt Factory building in Glens Falls. Hutchinson is education director at The Hyde Collection museum but sees her real work as her art. Courtesy photo


Contributing writer


By day, visitors to The Hyde Collection museum might find its education director, Jenny Hutchinson, leading a group of schoolchildren or moving smartly from the end of one focused tour to another.

But in quiet moments, one might also find Hutchinson in one of the Hyde’s world-class galleries, soaking in the beauty and creative force of the artwork.

For Hutchinson at her core is not just a lover of art, but an accomplished artist in her own right – one whose talent is emerging on the regional scene.

She’s in the right place to balance her professional life with what she likes to call “the real work of my art.”

“My work at the Hyde and the ability to educate others is an extremely influential part of the creative process,” Hutchinson said as she paused recently in one of the museum’s galleries. “I love thinking about art, and through my work and through teaching, I am able to share that interest and passion with others.”

Hutchinson added that her job helps her “think more critically about my art and about life in general.”

Because of the nature of her duties as the Hyde’s education director, Hutchinson said she is able “to keep researching and learning new things all the time.”

Hutchinson was born in Bangor, Maine, but came to Queensbury at age 4. She is the first fine artist in her family to have formal training in art, but she said her family has a rich heritage of people who worked with their hands. Both of her parents grew up on farms in northern Maine.
“My mother, while she would never call herself an artist, has always sewed and most recently makes these fabric-pieced artworks” as portraits of family members, Hutchinson said. “She once took a watercolor workshop I was hosting and picked up a pencil and began drawing a plant from life. It was extremely accurate and beautiful, and she never had a formal drawing lesson in her life.”

Hutchinson described how she spent much of her youth accompanying her paternal grandparents to different craft shows. Her grandfather was a woodworker, and her grandmother had her own quilting business.

“I loved going to visit, because we would spend time in my grandmother’s workroom creating crafts,” Hutchinson said. “My father picked up woodworking from his father like my mother picked up her sewing abilities and talents from her parents.”

Hutchinson said this background played a role in her becoming an artist: Though it may sound like a cliche, she “was born with it.” She said she never had a moment in which she “realized or made a conscious decision to be an artist.”

“As a toddler, I had my own coloring table and was already particular about my colors and creating artworks even within my color-book pages,” Hutchinson recalled. “I often sat quietly and on my own, with my head down, drawing. I even gave all my crayons names and even assigned them personalities. They were my first friends.”

Two passions, one path
Hutchinson developed two great passions as she was growing up. Torn between sports and art, she pursued both for as long as she could -- both at Queensbury High School, from which she graduated in 2002, and later at SUNY Plattsburgh. There, she earned a bachelor of fine arts in painting and drawing in 2007 and also competed successfully in intercollegiate track and field as a pole-vaulter.

“In college, I met two very influential life mentors, my track coach Brett Willmott and painting and drawing professor Peter Russom,” Hutchinson said.

Russom, she said, knows “when to let you work alone, when he needs to push you, and will do anything to help you.

“He’s predicted a lot of my creative future,” she added, including “the school I went to for my masters, how long I was at my first art career job, and where I would end up and work now.”
Her career path found Hutchinson working as a gallery curator and marketing coordinator at the Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council and teaching basic design and introductory drawing as an adjunct instructor at SUNY Adirondack.

Russom, who has taught at SUNY Plattsburgh since 1994, said he remembers Hutchinson as a multifaceted talent driven to succeed in every area of her life.

“Jenny Hutchinson is a rare person in many ways,” Russom said. “As an undergraduate, she excelled in both academics and athletics.”

These qualities, he added, were recognized when Hutchinson received the prestigious SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in 2007. This State University of New York system in a typical year bestows this honor on only a couple hundred of its more than 600,000 students.
As a young painter, Russom said, Hutchinson was “dynamic in her studio practice and equally dedicated to developing a strong work ethic.”

Russom recalled how he and Hutchinson would often discuss topics from her art history courses and contemporary art criticism, as well as her own painting.

“Her mind was quick to analyze and solve aesthetic issues,” Russom said. “Jenny was uniquely articulate in speaking about how she had come to a deeper understanding of her art. Her paintings accelerated in growth both formally and conceptually each semester and became quite sophisticated in a relatively short period of time.”

After her years studying with Russom, Hutchinson went on to earn her master’s degree in fine arts at Clemson University in 2009.

Since then, Russom said, Hutchinson has continued to hone her color palette and expressive technique.

“I have always thought that her willingness to compete, as she had as a successful athlete, has been central to her sustaining a life in art,” Russom said. “I am exceptionally proud of her -- for much more than her substantial professional accomplishments. Jenny is simply an exceptionally kind and generous person.”


Matching medium and mission
Hutchinson specializes in oil painting and life drawing. She has worked interchangeably between drawing and painting mediums, in what she described as “everything from graphite, pastel, charcoal, watercolor and acrylic paint.”

“Working in mixed medium allows me to pursue different surface treatments and suggest different appearances of space,” Hutchinson said. “The very definition of a two-dimensional artwork is an illusion of form and space, which I explore as a topic.”
She said she also is focused on the “intricacies and inherent abilities of

my tools.”
“The medium needs to match the type of mark or shape I need to make,” she explained.
Hutchinson said she has focused especially on oil painting because she considers herself “a technician of color,” which she finds is a major component and a signature theme of her work.
Her work has gradually been gaining traction in exhibitions around the region.

Tony Iadicicco, executive director of the Albany Center Arts Gallery, has collaborated with Hutchinson on a number of exhibits. He said she was one of the early artists the gallery worked with when organizing the first of several Albany-area pop-up shows in 2014 – in partnership with Mazzone Hospitality, and at the Times Union Home Expo.

“These were shows where fine food and fine art came together,” Iadicicco said. “Jenny exhibited smaller yet beautiful figurative drawings which showed emotions, power, color and movement. Her work creates an intimacy that you can get close to.”

Iadicicco said Hutchinson’s larger figurative paintings follow the same emotional imperatives.
“Jenny’s work, those emotions in the faces she creates, stop you in your path,” Iadicicco said. “To see that somebody is using a paintbrush or a palette knife to achieve the blend and the body in motion -- again, with that kind of color and vibrancy -- shows all the work that has been done. It has so much power inside of each piece.”

A need to create

Since 2009, Hutchinson’s works have been on view at nearly two dozen regional exhibitions, including those mentioned by Iadicicco, and have garnered four awards in addition to the several academic awards and fellowships she has earned along the way.

The exposure has created a demand for her art to be shown. Hutchinson is now creating new works for three 2018 exhibitions so far: a solo show titled “Dimensions of Space” that opens in mid-April at the Courthouse Community Center in Salem; another solo show in July at the Lake George Arts Project; and a small group show in August at the Shirt Factory Gallery in Glens Falls.

The public interest and her own creative output have allowed Hutchinson, 33, to take stock of the core values that have brought her this far in her “real work.”

The young woman who was voted “Future Picasso” by her Queensbury High classmates in 2002 shed some light on that prescient peer evaluation.

“I need to make art like humans need water to survive,” Hutchinson said. “I get really down and depressed if I go long periods of time without the studio. And there’s a trade there too, because I can also get too consumed by the studio and need a break from there too.”

Hutchinson said she draws constant inspiration from her students at SUNY Adirondack and from visitors to The Hyde Collection.

She said she’s learned that art really does have the capacity to change lives. Art, she explained, is not just what sits in a museum or is painted on a surface, but rather something inevitably wired into human DNA.

“Without creative will or expression, we do not have innovation or discovery, because there would be no means of searching, evaluating, or the ability to even ask a question and seek an answer,” Hutchinson said. “No matter your skill level, education, race, or cultural heritage, biologically we are predisposed to have a place within art and creativity, because we have five senses and brains to process the signals, no matter the output.”


For more information on the art of Jenny Hutchinson, visit jennyhutch.com.