A visit to the studio of Bay Ridge artist Jenna Morello is a study in the art of the heart. A theme for a large part of her recent life as an artist, it makes its appearance throughout her journey across medium and process. Her studio is alive and beating with a multitude of hearts in a staggering number of different media, a tour of her life as told in anatomically-correct human organs.
Her exploration with hearts began with a watercolor, sold long ago, and has progressed through prints and woodcuts to experiments with resin, initially only in two dimensions and most recently in three. Working in 3D has opened up an entire new world of possibilities.
So just how did she make the jump from 2D into 3D? It started with a search for inspiration that ended when she spied a model of a heart on her doctor’s desk.
“He knows me by now”, she laughs, as she recounts how she asked to borrow his model to sketch. Her father, a graphic designer and one of her foremost artistic mentors, also helped to fine tune her creations along the way. He told her that her wooden bases just weren’t cutting it.
“He told me they looked like moulding from Home Depot,” she states and continues, “Well yes, Dad, only you would know that.” But she also knows to follow his wise advice, so she took the time to create a design and make a custom mold. Now she casts each heart’s base, finishing them in smooth blacks and whites. More trial and error taught her that using natural, porous materials, like wood also has its challenges: too much trapped air, leading to bubbles in all the wrong places.
Along with the failed attempts, there have been many successes: cast boats becoming miniature ships in a bottle, small nails used as the spikes of a cactus, a plastic spoon turned into an arrow. With drips of powered pigment and layers of colors each new discovery is added to her repertoire.
She talks about the process to create the ship in a bottle.
“I tried a bunch of different ways to make the ship, when I used wood it kept bubbling…I cast one but it was too small, but I finally made a cast resin one that works.” She opens her mold to show how she is able to set the ship and pour the additional layers of resin.
Color in each piece can be uniform throughout or added in multiple patterns and shades depending on the tools she uses. Part science, part art, part talent, part ingenuity and part sheer luck, a heart doesn’t reveal itself until she has carefully ground and sanded each one, removing casting lines and adding additional character here and there. She finishes up with a clear coat that brings out the shine and the mysteries that lie within.