Jared Owens is an abstract conceptual artist currently based in Charleston, SC. A New York native, Owens’s art career began as a self-taught portrait artist ten years ago in federal prison. Because of the monotony of portraiture, Owens turned to the less confined, organic nature of non-objective art and he currently works in a variety of media including acrylic, oil, and reclaimed materials. Owens’s vibrant, layered style shape-shifts and transcends the notion that abstract art cannot be political or socially conscious. In a case of art imitating life, much of Owens’s material focuses on dismantling the idea that that which society disregards can never have worth. Recent exhibits include the “Marking Time: Prison Arts and Activism” conference at Rutgers, New Brunswick in 2014 and the Spoleto Arts Festival 2015 at Mitchell Hill Gallery in Charleston. His paintings have appeared in an episode of Bravo TV’s “Southern Charm” and will be featured in the upcoming indie film from Paper Moon Pictures, Woman at the Gate.
“I taught myself how to paint in a cell. My professors were art critics, encyclopedias, art magazines, and other prisoners. I would sit for hours studying images of art. I wanted to know how pieces were made, what and where the materials came from. Most importantly, I wanted to know about the artist that made them—the circumstances they produced their art in, the political climate—whatever I thought might have influenced the content and execution of their work.
My art career started ten years ago in federal prison. My first collectors were other prisoners who were interested in paintings of their family members. I tired of portraiture, feeling that this repetitive Sodoku-puzzle process would only add to the monotony that is prison life. Much to the disappointment of my portrait collectors, I started to experiment with painting non-objectively. I am behind in the number of paintings I could have completed by now by a couple of hundred. I say this because I am painting in ways I could only dream of on the inside—how I wish I had had a razor to scrape paint from a surface, or a real palette knife instead of a plastic one, or Internet access to further my research, and so on. Now, as a returned citizen, unconfined bhttp://theartmag.com/the-arts/jared-owens/y such obstacles, my work feels unleashed.In terms of content, I don’t premeditate any imagery that appears in my work. I am process-oriented, and because it takes so many layers for a piece to emerge, I rarely remember where I started the conversation with the work. I let my paintings indicate whether or not they wish to be gestural, composition-heavy, or something altogether different. Sometimes figures come out of nowhere and I leave them. Some pieces vex me, so I set them aside and revisit them later. It is important to me that the viewer thinks three or four different artists painted them. I don’t like to be pigeonholed stylistically or otherwise.”