Jenny Kendler (b. 1980, New York City) is an interdisciplinary artist, environmental activist, naturalist & wild forager who lives in Chicago and various forests. She is currently the first Artist-in-Residence with Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Kendler helps run artist residency ACRE and art/research/activism initiative Deep Time Chicago. Alongside an interdisciplinary team, she was recently awarded a major grant for her community-engagement project Garden for a Changing Climate.
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 Storm King Art Center (New Windsor, NY), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (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 gallery exhibitions at Exit Art (NYC), La Box at les Écoles Nationale Supérieures D’art (France), Claremorris Gallery (Ireland), Root Division (San Francisco), Kristi Engle (Los Angeles), Public Pool (Detroit), and in Chicago at Columbia College, Johalla Projects, and Gallery 400 among others.
She has been commissioned to create interactive, environmentally-engaged public art projects locations such as Chicago's Millennium Park for the Art Institute of Chicago, The Lincoln Park Conservatory fern room for Experimental Sound Studio, The Arts Club of Chicago (in collaboration with her partner Brian Kirkbride), the 606 elevated trail, Philadelphia's Fairmount Park, the Louisville Riverwalk, a remote desert in Arizona and a tropical forest in Costa Rica.
She has been invited to speak about her environmentally-engaged practice at many universities, institutions and symposiums including at the Wexner Center for the Arts (Columbus, OH), SxSW Eco (Austin, TX), the Goethe-Institut (Chicago), Northwestern University (Chicago), the Botanical Speculations Symposium (SAIC) and delivered the closing lecture at the Shapiro Research Symposium (SAIC).
Kendler is co-founder (with her partner Brian Kirkbride) of the artist website platform OtherPeoplesPixels, and created the The OPPfund, which gives grants to arts, environmental and social justice organizations, and awards the MAKER Grant each year to two socially or environmentally engaged artists in partnership with Chicago Artists' Coalition.
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 art prints which raised funds for critically endangered species. The project was exhibited at spaces like the Notebaert Nature Museum, galleries, film festivals and was covered in Orion Magazine's 35th anniversary issue. ESPP raised over $15,000 for conservation.
Her work has been covered in The New Yorker, The New York Times, 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 on NPR 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, most recently accompanying a 6-page feature article. Her artwork and writing has also been featured in a number of published books, including Loanwords to Live With: An Ecotopian Lexicon, Sustainable Solutions from Oxford University Press and Why Look at Plants? by Dr. Giovanni Aloi. The Center for Biological Diversity's Endangered Species Condom Project, for which she created artwork, was profiled in The New York Times and featured on a billboard in Times Square.
Kendler was also named one of Chicago's top 50 artists by Newcity. From the profile: "In a world of changing climates, Jenny Kendler’s work depicting plants and animals manages to convey the urgency of environmental activism without ceding an inch of beauty. Her “Bewilder (Deimatic Eyespot Camouflage)” poses museum visitors with temporary tattoos mimicking the spotted wing patterns of butterflies and moths, covering them in a natural camouflage that bewilders advanced facial recognition technology, not to mention the naked eye. This year’s “Birds Watching,” a forty-foot sculpture installed at the Storm King Art Center in New Windsor, New York, reflects the gazes of a hundred bird species threatened by climate change. Next year, Kendler will install the piece on the 606 trail to gaze at passersby toting disposable coffee cups and plastic water bottles. Kendler has served on the boards at threewalls and ACRE, and has a long list of residencies past and forthcoming, including at the Banff Research in Culture and as the first resident artist of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Her 2018 Gallery 400 “Garden For A Changing Climate” exhibition mobilized a portable garden to explore the environment of a future Chicago throughout its diverse neighborhoods."
Watch Kendler's artist talk for the Visiting Artist series at the College of DuPage here.
Watch a short documentary on 'The Playhead of Dawn' here.
Photo credit: Clayton Hauck for The Chicago Reader