Photo Credit: Ash Thompson for SAIC Magazine and Artnet

Jenny Kendler (b. 1980, New York City) is an interdisciplinary artist, environmental activist, naturalist & wild forager who lives in Chicago and various forests. She hold multiple identities as a Jewish queer woman, feminist and a single-parent.

Since 2014 she has been the first Artist-in-Residence with Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Kendler sits on the Board of artist residency ACRE and the Board Fundraising Committee of international climate change organization 350.org. She is also a founding member of Artists Commit, an artist-led initiative to cultivate climate-consciousness in the artworld.

Kendler holds a MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2006) and a BFA from The Maryland Institute College of Art (2002, summa cum laude).

Her work has been exhibited at museums and biennials including the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (Washington, DC), Storm King Art Center (New Windsor, NY), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), the AKG Museum (Buffalo, NY), The MSU Broad Museum (Michigan), the Pulitzer Arts Foundation (St. Louis), the California Academy of Sciences (San Francisco), iMOCA (Indianapolis), the DePaul Art Museum (Chicago), the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (India), the Yeosu International Art Festival biennial (Korea), the inaugural Chicago Biennial, and the 3rd Terrain Biennial (Arizona).

Her work has also been included in group exhibitions at The Neubauer Collegium (Chicago), Exit Art (NYC), The Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art (San Francisco), La Box at les Écoles Nationale Supérieures D’art (France), Claremorris Gallery (Ireland), Public Pool (Detroit), and will be included in an upcoming exhibition at London's Hayward Gallery alongside Otobong Nkonga and Hito Steyerl, among others.

Kendler has been commissioned to create environmentally-engaged public art projects locations such as Governors Island (NYC, opening spring 2024), The Eden Project in Cornwall, UK, Philadelphia's Fairmount Park, the Louisville Riverwalk, a remote desert in Arizona and a tropical forest in Costa Rica—and in Chicago at Millennium Park for the Art Institute of Chicago, at the Lincoln Park Conservatory's for Experimental Sound Studio, for The Arts Club of Chicago an on the the 606 elevated trail for the Chicago Park District.

She has been invited to speak about her environmentally-engaged practice at universities, institutions and symposiums including the Smithsonian NMNH, The University of Chicago, Wexner Center for the Arts (Columbus, OH), SxSW Eco (Austin, TX), the Goethe-Institut (Chicago), the Botanical Speculations Symposium (SAIC) and she delivered the closing lecture at the Shapiro Research Symposium (SAIC).

Alongside an interdisciplinary team, she was awarded a major Humanities Without Walls grant for her community-engagement project Garden for a Changing Climate.

She was also the co-creator, with Molly Schafer, of The Endangered Species Print Project, which from 2009-2018 worked with over 20 artists to create limited-edition artworks which raised funds for critically endangered species. The project was widely exhibited and was featured in Orion Magazine's 35th anniversary issue. ESPP raised over $15,000 for conservation.

Kendler's work has been covered in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Artnet, Art in America, Hyperallergic, The Chicago Tribune, The American Scholar, Juxtapoz, OnEarth Magazine, Chicago Magazine, ArtSlant, in a special Earth Day feature for Mashable—and she has been interviewed by NPR, BBC Radio and by Chicago's ABC7 News, among others. Kendler and her work have appeared on the cover of The Public (Buffalo), The Courier-Journal (Louisville), and on the cover of the Chicago Reader three times—in 2014 accompanying a 6-page feature article.

Her artwork and writing has also been featured in a number of published books, including An Ecotopian Lexicon, Sustainable Solutions from Oxford University Press and Why Look at Plants? by Dr. Giovanni Aloi.

Kendler was also named one of Chicago's Top 50 Artists by Newcity in their biennial list in 2018 and 2020. From the 2020 profile:

"Jenny Kendler has mastered the art of leveraging elements from the nonhuman natural world—be it amber, kudzu or a whale’s ear bone—into pieces that draw us to examine the nuances of our surroundings. Kendler’s work is as pervasive as nature itself. Her project “1000 Flags/1000 Waters,” in which blue flags are dispatched to communities advocating for clean water, was featured in the MCA’s exhibition “Water After All.” A selection of sculptures on threatened bird species will be shown at Vienna’s Dom Museum, and “Music for Elephants,” a score played on an ivory-keyed piano that counts the number of elephants poached for their tusks, will be featured in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Her first museum solo exhibition opens at the MSU Broad Museum in January 2021 and includes a piece that highlights how the structure of venomous sea snail’s shell directly contradicts the theory of intelligent design. As an activist, Kendler takes her works to the streets through movements like Extinction Rebellion, where she incorporates communal art activities into environmentalist nonviolent direct actions. In this moment where the call for social justice is high, she is pushing to articulate the connections between the social and the environmental in support of a unifying movement toward justice."

In addition to her artistic and activist practice, Kendler also runs the artist website platform OtherPeoplesPixels, and created the The OPPfund, which gives grants to arts, environmental and social justice organizations and the MAKER Grant which awards two socially or environmentally engaged artists annually.


Watch Kendler's virtual program for her project Music for Elephants at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History here.

Watch Kendler's artist talk for the Visiting Artist series at the College of DuPage here.

Watch a short documentary by On the Real Film about 'The Playhead of Dawn' here.