Posted on: April 23, 2023 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Rita Jennings shows one of her pieces, a family portrait, in the Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery.

By Abby Hobbs, JRN 111 Student

Her vibrant work often features playful and colorful backgrounds that are sure to catch the eye. Behind the whimsy, however, lies a personal narrative that has shaped both her life and art.

Meet Rita Jennings, a 22-year-old student majoring in Studio Fine Arts. With three years at Moraine under her belt so far, she plans to transfer to the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design for a BFA in New Studio Practice. 

Art has been a part of Jennings’ life since childhood. The hobby has flourished into a passion since she began college, becoming both a priority and relaxant in her life.

“After I finish my undergrad, I’m planning on being a working artist,” she shares. “What type of art I will be doing is still up for grabs.”

For her, art is not just a pastime. It also functions as a source of stress relief. Art allows her to slow down and focus, tuning out distractions from the world around her.

“For me, creating artwork is a passion and something that I really love, and I want the viewer to enjoy it too,” she says. “That’s one thing I love about art: it’s so expressive. That’s a great way to calm me down.” 

Photo by Niki Kowal
This Rita Jennings piece, titled ‘Self Portrait,’ is an oil on canvas that won Best in Show during Moraine’s juried student art exhibition.

With an interest in both painting and printmaking, Jennings’ art has evolved over the years. She experiments with a range of mediums and techniques from watercolor to digital art. But no matter the medium, she always strives to infuse her work with a touch of the personal.

“I like to make people smile, and I think humor is a great way to do that,” Jennings explains. “Plus, it’s a way to take some of the heaviness out of the subjects I tackle.”

While this passion leads her to different mediums and styles, the contribution to her therapeutic journey grows. She recommends that other students interested in art do the same.

“Students should take an art course that is outside their discipline,” she said. “I think it’s beneficial to try a different medium. It can expose you to a new one that you could end up really liking: like me with printmaking and painting.”

But, of course, with this journey comes hard work. With a rewarding process in both personal and physical achievements, she knows that it all pays off. On April 13, Jennings received three awards at the Juried Student Art Exhibition held on campus.

“I really wanted to put my stuff out there and get an exhibition under my belt,” she said.

Jennings received Best in Show for “Self Portrait,” oil on canvas; the Purchase Award for “Family Portrait,” oil on canvas; and a first place award for her artwork titled “This is Not Propaganda (Version 2),” on silkscreen print.

“It was a nice surprise to receive the awards,” she said humbly. “This was something I wasn’t expecting.”

Projects like “This is Not Propaganda (Version 2)” take dedication, but the rewards are great, she says.

“A lot of time and work went into making the print,” she said. “But I learned so much in the process; it was calming. I have so many iterations of this piece, so it’s really nice that it made it into the show.”

Her process of creation is about growth and exploration, not perfection. For this young artist, success stems from being able to see her own progress in the development of her craft. When inspired, she tends to react to the inspiration, forming her art around it. 

That’s one thing I love about art: it’s so expressive. That’s a great way to calm me down.”

MV student artist Rita Jennings

On a recent trip to New York, she took note of the trash surrounding the area she was in. With a creative twist, she was eventually inspired to make paintings about the trash itself.

“I constantly find inspiration from the world around me,” Jennings said. “It’s a therapeutic experience that makes me happy.”

It’s not uncommon for artists to struggle with feelings of insecurity and stress, and with a lifelong interest in art, Jennings knows how daunting those feelings can be.

However, she encourages others to embrace those insecurities, using them as fuel to push themselves to new heights. Reflecting on her journey so far, she feels content, knowing that submitting work to shows was a good decision, no matter how intimidating. 

Encouraging other students who share her passion is a top priority for her. The experience and exposure gained can be a brilliant outlet to reach those “new heights.” 

“It’s really hard to put your stuff out there, but it’s really important to do it,” Jennings urges. “Art keeps me connected with other people. Now, I have a community that I can share my passion with.”