“My work became a way to express my belief that all people, regardless of social or economic level, race or origin, should have a safe place to live, a place to call home, so I started the Homes for Everyone project.“
When and where were you born?
Queens, New York
Where do you currently live and work?
I now live in Hattiesburg, Mississippi not far from the Gulf Coast. I am a Professor of Art & Design at The University of Southern Mississippi, teaching sculpture and technical skills. I also have my own professional studio where I make my sculpture.
How long have you been practicing your craft?
All my life really. My mom says I was born with a pencil in hand. Professionally it has been about 30 years that I have run and maintained a studio of some sorts.
What inspires you?
Optimism and hard work inspires me. Especially the optimism and hard work that arise out of tragedy and pain. People are at their best when they have overcome a great sadness or a negative moment. A difficult situation often requires a huge amount of courage or creativity to surpass. I find that by tapping into this moment I am able to capture a rare kind of clarity in my work.
How would you describe your style
I often pull from my own life. The series shown here came from an experience I had when I almost lost my own home during the housing crisis in the US. I was completely caught off guard and sank into a deep depression. I could not understand how a hard working person could almost lose everything. My work became a way to express my belief that all people, regardless of social or economic level, race or origin, should have a safe place to live, a place to call home, so I started the Homes for Everyone project. I figured I would make a representative home for all the people everywhere who did not have one. The sad part is that no matter how hard I work I will never accomplish my goal, there are that many millions homeless in the world. The important part is that I keep working at it, never giving up.
What has been a defining moment in your career?
When I was about 11, my folks brought me to the Art Students League in NYC and I begged them to let me take adult level figure drawing classes, as I knew the kids classes would never work for me. The ASL folks reluctantly agreed. Later that term I won my first award in a League juried show for one of my nude figures. Being applauded in class by all these exceptional artists who were much older than me was a defining moment. It was not the applause but the respect and recognition that did it for me.
What are your future plans?
I will never stop making art. I have several bodies of work and my plans are to keep working on all of them. I also want to have some shows internationally; a big goal and hard to do with three dimensional work, especially with shipping costs.
Can you leave us with some parting words or advice?
Work really hard, all your life should revolve around looking at, engaging in, and making art. It should surround you. Have a working studio, anywhere will work until you can make something permanent happen.
All images copyright Jen Torres. All rights reserved.