Jenny: A local artist by any name

Asheville-based painter Jenny is a self-taught artist of 12 years. Photo by Sarah Whelan

Irene Pickens is a longtime employee of the City of Asheville as well as a hostess at Fatz Café. But what many people don’t know is that she is also known as Jenny, a self-taught artist of nearly 12 years.

Asheville has always been home to this single mother of two who finds a sense of comfort within the art-filled atmosphere. Her previous job history ranges from braiding hair and decorating cookies to designing logos for several businesses. Jenny loved each job, but hopes that one day she will be able to support herself solely by selling artwork: “Eventually my dream is to go to work in my pajamas on my patio and drink coffee,” she says.

A part of Jenny’s personality is incorporated into every work of art she creates. The expression on each face tells a story of something she has been through. Each skin tone is painted with warmth and surrounded by complementing earth tones. Her artwork has a soul of its own. From the body language to the jaw lines, there is a continual theme of strength and solidity through all of Jenny’s paintings. The eyes especially pull the viewer in like the climax of a book.

“I think it’s all about me not having my mother,” says Jenny. She recalls how she used to walk through crowds looking into women’s eyes to see if that person could be her mother who had left when she was five.

Except for a time when she painted all of the Grateful Dead album covers with oils for a Deadhead friend in high school, all of Jenny’s works are acrylic on canvas. “I keep going back to acrylics,” she says. She has also crafted a series of “Hat Ladies” out of clay, an idea that originated with a vacation to Charleston, S.C.

“Just like a singer sings with their feelings I express myself with my hands,” Pickens says.

Even the smallest detail is important to this artist. Jenny claims she is not good with words or writing poetry, so she uses artwork as her way of communication. Jenny hopes that her work has the potential to inspire the viewers.

Jenny’s paintings are available through Fine Art America.

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About Sarah Whelan
Avid news enthusiast. Photojournalist interested in community outreach. Freelancer for Mountain Xpress. Follow me @WhelanSarah_

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