Friday, November 21, 2003

Comments on the Men Series

Dear Cory,
On a snowy Friday, the 21st of November, I viewed with fascination your exhibit at the Yellowstone Art Museum. As I gazed at the paintings, I recalled the struggles it took for you to be here, now, in this place of honor. I savored the meanings in your work and felt also a great contentment at seeing your name painted on the wall. Congratulations! It was heartening for me to see the growth that had occurred in you. Your portrayal of men, far from being a bashing, contained an empathy of transcendence. Even in the darkest ones, I saw the wisdom gained from the sorrow. I'm so very proud of you. Again, well done, Cory.
With deep regard,
R. Burns

Friday, November 14, 2003

The Billings Gazette, Billings Montana

Life takes form in art
by Jaci Webb
Of the Gazette Staff

(photo: James Woodcock. Cory Jaeger's display of "Men" is up at the Yellowstone Art Museum. )

Billings artist Cory Jaeger is painting the story of her life, one canvas at a time.

"Men", her 12-piece show at the Yellowstone Art Museum, captures moments and men in Jaeger's life from sixth-grade crushes to her "groupie" years to more adult relationships. Every canvas holds a message and a question.

One piece, "Dandelion Kings" shows two leering sixth-grade boys hanging onto a fence on the school playground. The piece appears pretty straight-forward--two young men competing for attention--but a closer look reveals the razor blades painted into the background.

Jaeger says she wanted to show the innocence of youth but not overlook its cruelties.

"The general idea was to look candidly at the men in my life," Jaeger said. "I just wanted to tell my story in paintings. I don't want to be a victim or a woman who blames men."

"I guess the overriding thing is that, at this point in my life, I have seen how much I let men define me. Why did I let these people shape who I was?"

On the eve of her show last week, Jaeger walked through the upstairs gallery at the YAM showing a visitor her surreal acrylic paintings. Jaeger has shown her work throughout the United States, including a recent show in Vermont and shows in California and Idaho, but seldom has she had the opportunity to see her show once it is hung.

Jaeger said it was a powerful moment for her, seeing her display of such personal images.

Jaeger, now 37, entered college as a single mom at the age of 24. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology with a minor in art. Her intention was to use her art as therapy for her clients. Instead, Jaeger is creating art as therapy for herself.

"I didn't think at first that I wanted these out in the public arena," Jaeger said of the show.

She has worked as a professional artist for seven years, but only in the last year or so did she switch from creating pastel portraits of women to using acrylic paints to create the rich, surreal portraits of men.

"Some of the paintings took up to six months to make because I had to teach myself how to do it," Jaeger said. "I literally took these paintings to bed with me. I'd prop one up next to the bed, looking to see what needs more work."

Jaeger also represents other professional artists by composing descriptions of their work for galleries.

Her pastels sold at a rate of about one a month, but Jaeger knows her new series, which she calls bittersweet, may not sit as well with her established customers. She also wonders whether she can part with some of them.

Among her series of three Michaels in the YAM show, is a haunting portrait of her late husband, who died young of a brain aneurysm about the time their marriage was falling apart. The portrait of him was the way he looked at their final meeting, when he rested his hand on a wall and told her, "I want you to know that you were always a wonderful mother."

Jaeger says she looks back at that conversation and his words that day and believes that he knew the end was coming. She painted that portrait and most of the others strictly from memory.

One of the more humorous pieces is "Turtleneck Boys" in which a row of headless torsos in turtlenecks sits at tables with wine glasses before them while waiting for their dates.

"This is talking about certain types of men," Jaeger said. "He's always dressed in a black turtleneck. It's about a type of man rather than a specific person."

Perhaps the most jarring among the pieces is a pony-tailed artist whose painting of a woman has knife slashes in it. He is flanked by a guillotine and below him is a woman's body. The work, titled "The Marquis Always Used Blades to Paint Me," conveys the idea of women as victims.

Jaeger said she hopes the piece and the rest of her show can work as a springboard to help men and women understand how relationships shape who we are.