Celebrating Struggle in Paint: Interview with Jenna McNair

Struggles confronts the everyday obstacles that I encounter, inspired by stand-up comedy. Exploring comedy and its role as a healing tool, I find self-deprecating humor to be the most effective weapon to gain control over my struggles. Much like a comedian on stage, I celebrate my endless struggles in oil paint. I offer a therapeutic aspect in each of my paintings, as interrupting thought patterns through comedic relief and acceptance has helped me throughout my own life.

Jenna McNair is a graduate from Southern Illinois University of Carbondale, with a specialization in Painting. She now resides in St. Louis, MO exhibiting her work in local and regional galleries.


Tell us about your "Struggles" series and how you arrived at your current work. How has your art evolved over the years?

"Struggles" is a series I started in 2014 to confront the obstacles that I face on a daily basis. I wanted to start the discussion of these barriers that I typically ignore to create the process of healing.

Whether it is a lack of self control or fighting with body image, my artwork evolves proportionately to my sense of self. The anxiety and obsession that comes with my daily struggles will continue to manifest through my art.


We admire your willingness to be open and expose your struggles through your art, even if it's in a humorous way. Why do you think it's important for artists to be transparent about their experiences in society?

I've made so many personal revelations as a result of others sharing their unique perspectives. When the world feels unforgiving, seeing through someone else's lens can give you so much insight into how the world operates for others and the many ways to navigate it.


How do you come up with each scene? Tell us about your references and inspirations.

Each scene captures a brief moment in my mind that is an exaggeration of an experience that I've had. I'm inspired by the healing that comedy provides us, and it's ability to challenge
ourselves to look inward. Through self-deprecating humor, I am reminded that my flaws, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities are shared and are what make me human.


Tell us something important that we should know about your paintings.

In a lot of my paintings, I use repetition and warped perspective. Both are present during the struggles that my paintings represent, and are also tools frequently used in comedy.


What other artists do you look at and admire?

When studying painters, I always come back to Lucian Freud and Edgar Degas above all others. I admire Freud's willingness to celebrate every flaw and blemish on the human form and the
ethereal way in which Degas uses light to blanket his subjects.


What is something you are proud of in your art career so far?
Connecting with people through experience is something that drives me. I often receive emails with stories of personal struggles. I'm very proud of those people who have started the healing process and had the courage to share their story.