The art of Jennifer Rubin Garey, of Lower Makefield, isn’t something you’ll find displayed at the local coffee shop. Her sculptures, which depict the various struggles of women, are big and usually installed in outdoor spaces or exhibitions.
From Sept. 10 through Jan. 7, 2024, one of her pieces can be seen in the 56th annual Art of the State exhibition, a juried showcase at The State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg. Rubin Garey is among 86 artists selected as finalists from the 559 entrants.
“It’s an honor,” she said. “Any kind of museum exhibition is always a great privilege to be in, to have so many different people get to see your work. And this is art for the entire state, so that’s always really exciting.”
The piece selected to appear in Art of the State is Embryo, which Rubin Garey never submitted for a show because she felt it didn’t photograph well. Made of metal, resin and fabric, including a doily, Embryo was created by Rubin Garey in 2019, just a few years after the birth of her daughter, now 8.
“They [kids] change your life in every way. It’s hard to remain yourself as an artist with children in your life, and so it transformed my art in different ways,” she said. “I think it’s just an enjoyable play on textures and really pushing them to their limits.”
Rubin Garey, who honed her craft at Florida State University and the University of Hawaii, and worked at Bucks County Community College for over four years, has been creating art professionally for 20 years.
For much of her career, she has produced pieces depicting the female form and, often, society expectations forced upon women.
A number of pieces, including a corset and foot positioned as if it’s wearing a high heel, showcase stereotypes about appearance, and how something that’s meant to look beautiful is actually unnatural. Another sculpture, a small Venus of Willendorf-style figure that Rubin Garey altered to resemble a plumb bob, symbolizes a woman’s quest to find her true center.
On an annual basis, Rubin Garey is able to complete one or two sculptures due to the details and sheer size of them. Therefore, she works to ensure they’re meaningful.
“A lot of concepts behind my work are the struggles of being female, whether it is your weight, body size, what it is to become a mother,” she said. “It has grown and changed as I get older, so we’ll see what’s to come next.”
While Rubin Garey has clear ideas about what her work means to her, she welcomes the idea that viewers may see it differently as they relate it to their own lives.
“I don’t care if people understand my work. It doesn’t matter. They can see whatever they want to see in it. As long as they enjoy it, whether it’s visually or it gets a rise in some way out of them, I’m happy,” she said. “I’m not looking to make political statements or get people on my side. It’s making art that is visually pleasing or distinctive in some way, but they don’t have to understand the concepts.”
Currently, Rubin Garey is working on a pregnant figure, which she described as “large, cast iron and heavy.” This was casted at the Sculpture Trails Outdoor Museum, of which she serves as board vice president, and taken home to finish.
When it comes time to display the piece somewhere, she’ll have the help of her husband, also a sculptor. Needless to say, their home is chock-full of supplies (including a whopping 25 hammers and three chainsaws). Additionally, their daughter is beginning to take an interest in her parents’ work, and has a small work table in their studio. Rubin Garey admitted that she and her husband don’t collaborate on pieces since they have very different visions, but often display their work together to save a car ride.
At the moment, Rubin Garey is waiting to hear if she won any prizes for Embryo. Winners, selected by awards juror Jeremiah William McCarthy, chief curator, Westmoreland Museum of American Art, will be posted to The State Museum of Pennsylvania’s Facebook and Twitter.
Other Bucks County finalists in the Art of the State exhibition include Chuck Fischer, Michael Frank, Kimberlee Nentwig and Judith Sutton.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org