Artist: Jennifer Basile
“I don’t think you can teach creativity”- Jennifer Basile, talking about being both an artist and a teacher.
Molly Schantz is a Sophomore at the Honors College of Florida International University. She is majoring in Political Science on the Pre-Law track. After she graduates from FIU, she would like to go to law school and eventually practice environmental law. She has always believed that travel and cultural experience is the best way to get an education and being in a class where she can learn about topics outside of her major while also being outside a classroom is her ideal honors class. Molly is currently enrolled in the Honors College Art Society Conflict course and will be graduating in the spring of 2022.
Jennifer Basile is a teacher, artist, and printmaker based here in Miami, FL. She was born and raised in Long Island, NY but moved to Miami with her family right before she started college. She comes from a long lineage of Italians, but has lived in the United States her whole life. Basile attended Broward Community College prior to attending the University of Miami where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts. She attended Southern Illinois University for where she received her Master of Fine Arts. She began printmaking at the University of Miami and made it her focus in graduate school. After graduate school, she moved back to Miami and began doing part time teaching at different schools, including her alma mater at the University of Miami. She also began teaching part time at Miami Dade College Kendall Campus which is where she currently teaches today. She has been teaching full time as a Painting and Figure Drawing professor at Miami Dade College for 18 years. Basile said she was able to get this position because she had spent all her time in graduate school in her elective courses learning painting and other mediums of art in order to keep her options open for her career, even though her main focus as an artist is printmaking. Many of her influences and inspirations that have gotten her to where she is today are her own professors.
Basile’s life experiences and influences have definitely gotten her to where she is now and inspired her to do what she does, but one of the biggest hurdles that she has had to climb over is being a woman in the art world. This struggle is what pushed her to succeed in the art of printmaking. In my interview with Jennifer, she mentioned how in undergrad she was doing mostly painting with all different kinds of professors from all different backgrounds and she liked having a variety of teachers, both male and female and with different artistic backgrounds. One of her professors, Lise Drost, told Basile that she “paints like a printmaker” which really first sparked her interest in printmaking as a focus. Basile began to fall in love with the “methodical and arduous process” of printmaking as she began taking classes under and working with Professor Drost. She describes printmaking as a very empowering form of art because it is gutsy and there really is no going back and sketching or fixing mistakes, you just go for it. As a woman, this practice and process was even more empowering because of how laborious printmaking can be. It can be discouraging to be passionate about a field that doesn’t open the same doors for women as it does men, but Basile found a true love for printmaking and never wanted to turn back. During her first few years doing part-time teaching, Basile also had gotten an artist residency with the Bakehouse Art Complex. She had a studio there where she was able to make large scale prints, which made her stand out from many other printmakers at the time. While at the Bakehouse, Bernice Steinbaum came to her studio one day and was so incredibly supportive of her art, that she commissioned Basile to make some pieces for her own home collection. This was one of those experiences that kicked off Basile’s career in the Miami art world. Luisa Lignarolo and Sergio Cernuda, the owners of LnS Gallery, were friends with Bernice and discovered Basile’s work right before the opened their gallery. Ever since their opening, Basile has been featured at the gallery and maintained a great relationship with the owners and been able to network with many other local artists, such as John Bailly. While these personal experiences have gotten Jennifer to where she is career-wise, the subject of her works remain fluid and don’t necessarily reflect a certain time or experience in her life.
Basile defines herself as a contemporary artist simply because she is creating art in the contemporary world. As I mentioned before, she keeps the subject of her art fluid, especially since printmaking is such a unique form of art and is based on just doing more than planning. As an artist, she is really inspired by Japanese printmaking. She specifically mentioned Hiroshige and Hokusai, Both are famous Japanese printmakers from the 19th century- which just shows how printmaking has lasted the test of time. She always admired these artists, but her own work doesn’t reflect the style of Japanese printmaking. She is also inspired somewhat by the Baroque art movement. She relates this to her Italian heritage and said the “drama is very appealing” in Baroque pieces. The importance of light in art also became popular in the Baroque period and light is crucial to printmaking, but none of her pieces reflect Baroque-style paintings. Printmaking is all about making unique pieces that evolve with the artist that is creating them, rather than reflecting the time period or artistic movement.
Subject of Artwork
“I’ve never been a statement artist”, said Basile about her subject of prints. She has always appreciated the aesthetic value of art over the political or social statement trying to be made. She tips her hat to artists that can make pieces with a subtle statement or message while remaining aesthetically pleasing and challenging the viewer to find the meaning, but she doesn’t base her pieces off of deeper meanings. She is relatively consistent with her prints being of landscapes or things found in the natural world. She doesn’t let that limit her subjects, but it is just what she prefers to make. She is an environmentalist as heart and loves spending time outdoors. Some of her work may have a subtle message about the environment, but instead of making the statement that we are destroying the environment, she uses her prints as a way to create documentation of the environment as it is in the present. Her form of “research” is going on elongated hikes or ventures slightly off the beaten path and capturing photos of the landscape. Documentary in art often creates a yearning for preservation in the viewer.
Formal Elements of Artwork
In discussing her creative process, Jennifer said one of the most important parts is the initial research or experience that she has with her subject of a piece. Immersing herself in the landscape or environment and capturing hundreds of photos and getting a better understanding of what she is going to emulate in a print is very valuable. Documenting her subjects through photos allows to her recreate the spacial elements. She doesn’t regularly do sketches or preliminary drawings and is more spontaneous with her process. Light is the most important forma element to be aware of when making relief prints and she uses photography to grasp the lighting of her subjects. She mentioned that the Baroque period of art history is an inspiration of hers because of the vast evolution of adding light and shadows to artwork and creating depth.
When it comes to teaching, there are basic techniques that need to be learned in order to successfully make prints. She allows her students to be creative and fluid in their own subjects and creative process, but emphasizes the technicalities of prints and challenges them to try new things once they have mastered a skill.
Jennifer Basile has had her work consistently shown at the LnS gallery for the last 3 years, but has done some individual traveling shows as well as a fellowship program out in California. She did a solo exhibition in Richmond, VA at the Iridian Gallery. It is an LGBTQ+ gallery that was doing a show featuring artists from the LGBTQ+ community, but wanted to move away from showing art that made statements about the community and instead just highlight artists from the community. While she was there, she got to work with students from VCU and speak to different classes about her work and printmaking. Basile also did a fellowship with the Kala Art Institute in Berkley, CA. She was there for 4 months making art and showing at the institute. She is currently trying to venture out in her career and is applying to different residencies and shows around the country.
I really enjoyed working with Jennifer Basile. She is super down to earth and blunt with the way she talks about art and I really appreciate that. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to spend much time with her in person due to COVID-19, our zoom meeting was very helpful and I learned a lot. For a class trip earlier in the semester, I did have the opportunity to visit her studio at Miami Dade College and make some prints. I definitely do not consider myself an artist, but that was such a fun experience and I enjoyed learning from her and allowing myself to get creative and try something new. I think printmaking is an underrated form of art and I have a lot of respect for the work that Basile and other printmakers around the world create.
- “About.” Jennifer Basile, http://www.jenniferbasile.com/about.
- “JENNIFER_BASILE.” LnSGallery.com, 25 Mar. 2020, lnsgallery.com/jennifer_basile/.
- “HOME.” LnSGallery.com, 13 Apr. 2020, lnsgallery.com/.