Among the senior thesis exhibits currently displayed in the Stedman Gallery is a triptych of photographs taken at Walt Disney World. Only these aren’t the typical, joy-filled images often found in photo albums or splashed across Facebook.
Rather, the photos have been posterized – a technique which reduces the tones of an image to fewer, more distinct tones – lending a surreal, dream-like quality to them, explains the photographer and artist Jennifer Jakimiak, who will graduate from Rutgers–Camden on May 22 with a bachelor’s degree in art and a concentration in photography.
“The resulting images aren’t what I would normally associate with Walt Disney World,” says the Haddon Township resident. “They have been transformed to look more eerie than joyful, like colorful – yet creepy – surveillance clips.”
While the work, “Nothing is Ever as it Seems,” offers a unique view of the iconic park, it has also caught the eye of the Stedman Gallery’s curators. The Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts has named Jakimiak as the recipient of the 2014 Stedman Art Purchase Award for outstanding achievement in visual arts. Thanks to an anonymous donor, her work will now be a permanent part of Rutgers–Camden’s art collection.
“I’m truly honored that my work will forever be a part of this collection,” says Jakimiak, who “loves all things Disney” and took the original photos on her vacation in March 2013. “I’ve had a lot of great memories at Rutgers, but winning the Stedman Art Purchase Award definitely takes the cake.”
According to Jakimiak, while her concentration is in photography, she is by no means limited to the medium. “My work is forever changing, constantly evolving,” she says, noting that she enjoys painting, building models, mixed-media work, and photojournalism.
Influenced by the work of artist Chuck Close, Jakimiak has been fascinated with “turning nothing into something,” taking found objects and arranging them into an image or portrait. A nod to Close’s pixelated approach, she will zoom far into a photograph until the image becomes distorted and appears as nothing more than individual blocks of color. From that vantage point, she says, any object can serve as a pixel. “It’s just a matter of finding enough ‘nothings’ to create a ‘something,’” she says.
Jakimiak used this technique to create a portrait of her grandfather out of nearly 2,000 pennies. She also displayed a Chuck Close-inspired painting of her cousin at The Philadelphia Orchestra’s College Night Art Exhibit, held in March at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia. In addition, she showcased a photo essay in the Student Works Gallery at Rutgers–Camden.
As Jakimiak explains, the inspiration for her work is often influenced by her intense passions for sports, animals, music, and, of course, Disney. Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler has been a particularly inspirational and dominant figure in her works, as evidenced in her image, “Worship,” also on display in the senior thesis exhibition. The image is a conceptual portrait of Jakimiak holding a photograph of Steven Tyler’s mouth over her mouth.
Much like in her award-winning triptych, Jakimiak typically employs a storytelling, photojournalism, or documentary approach to her work. “My vision always seems to be focused from outside of the scene as someone looking on, rather than someone participating or being actively involved in the scene,” she explains, adding, “Sometimes I have a hard time expressing myself, especially in front of a lot of people. I enjoy the storytelling approach because it allows me to display personal stories, emotions, passions, or beliefs to an audience that I otherwise wouldn’t have shared.”
Looking back, Jakimiak recalls that art was just a hobby when she was a child, but has now grown into an all-out obsession. She affirms that every class at Rutgers–Camden, whether it was a major or general-education requirement, has helped her to grow as an artist. Upon graduating, she plans to pursue a full-time position in an arts-related field or attend graduate school in the area.