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Jen Smith

Duty Calls, 2010

gouache on paper
55.88 x 38.1cm
About Jen Smith
Jen Smith is an artist, musician, zine editor and activist. Smith was heavily involved in the Riot Grrrl scene in Washington DC in the early 1990s, where she played in numerous punk bands and developed multiple feminist zines. Smith is actually credited with being the inspiration behind the term 'riot grrrl’, originally from a writing to her friend Allison Wolfe in 1991 that said “We need to start a girl RIOT” which catalysed the development of the movement. In her art practice, Smith works mostly with textiles, bringing together patchworks of linen, cotton, denim and silk. Continuing the activist strain, Smith will then sew political slogans or tongue and cheek phrases on top of these fabric collages, such as ‘We Make the Rules’, ‘Lonely Old Loser’, or ‘Lovers Often Languish’. By embodying that playful, disruptive character of her earlier zines and punk lyrics, these works trouble the comforting associations of quilting, and relocate its domestic associations into a discursive political arena. Smith’s candid use of juxtaposition links her work to artists such as Barbara Kruger and the posters of the Guerrilla Girls, while the merging of textiles with punk sensibility carves a distinct lane for Smith to experiment in. In many ways, her work uncovers the immense care and communion within activist circles.