Watercolorist To Watch Jenny Medved Unveils Latest Series

Arts & Culture


Sarasota artist Jenny Medved unveils her latest series of watercolors with the exhibit Indigenous People, opening today in the Patricia Thompson Gallery of Ringling College of Art and Design. Named one of the year’s ten watercolorists to watch by Watercolor Artist Magazine, Medved’s singular style rings through in this exploration of the modern-day practitioners of traditional Polynesian and Native American cultures. Presented in a series of ten portraits, Indigenous People opens tonight with a public reception from 5-7pm with the artist and select subjects in attendance.

Arranged in two groups on opposite walls of the gallery, to the left Medved presents four portraits of participants from the Sarasota Native American Indian Festival, ranging from images more customary—an old man with weathered face half painted blue, animal pelt draped as a cowl over the crown of his skull—to casual, a young girl in Native American dress with red, white and blue boots. “But it’s not just about the Native Americans,” says Medved, though part of the impetus for Indigenous People was the artist’s discovery of her own Cherokee and Chickasaw heritage—a kinship she’d felt but never before confirmed. “It’s about the whole culture of indigenous people who are connected to the Earth and how they relate to each other,” she says.

Turning her artist’s eye to the Polynesian culture, Medved finishes the series with six vibrant depictions of hula dancers, world champion Polynesian dancers from Tahiti and the next generation—a small bare-chested child in grass skirts staring defiantly out of the canvas with upturned palms. No matter the subject, Medved renders each with exquisite exactitude, the crisp lines and fine detail capturing the world behind their eyes and lending a weighty presence to every face—no mean feat in the world of watercolor. “You have to have a very special ability to do that,” says artist Tim Jaeger, co-founder of the artists collective SartQ, which claims Medved as a member. “Watercolor is not an easy medium, not forgiving.”

Medved chalks most of it up to hours of practice, and the closest thing she has to a secret method would be a preference for the dry brush technique, which calls for less water when using watercolors and grants better control, which is important. She presents her portraits divorced from background or context, allowing viewers the freedom to attach their own memories or meaning, but that which is presented must be accurate. “I want to show everyone that these cultures are still alive and still part of everyday life,” she says. “And it’s beautiful.”

Indigenous People opens tonight with a reception at 5pm in the Patricia Thompson Gallery at Ringling College and runs through January 27.

Pictured: "Kahalepouli Kawaimapuna" by Jenny Medved. Image courtesy of the artist.

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