Weir artist focuses on the ‘real’ not ‘ideal’

WILTON — In a portrait by Jenny Graham-Hougah, a little boy wearing a ship captain’s outfit is grasping a toy telescope looking askance out a window at the coast of Maine. “That painting was a commentary on global warming,” she says.

Classified as a contemporary realist painter, Graham-Hougah likes to add a little extra something to her works to convey some kind of feeling or message.

For the month of March, she will get the chance to express herself as the artist-in-residence at Weir Farm on the Wilton/Ridgefield border.

Working in oil or acrylic, Graham-Hougah creates portraits, landscapes and interiors focusing on objects and the spaces they inhabit. “In uncertain times, I find comfort in representing the world realistically,” she told Hearst Connecticut Media.

Her realist work is straightforward, where the objects she paints are portrayed as “real” and not the “ideal.”

Her interior scenes and still-lifes reveal glimpses of the people that inhabit them, and the interior lives they lead. In a series of 25 portraits she depicts not only her son, but other members of her family as well. “My messages vary, depending on what is going on in my life,” she said.

Graham-Hougah, 37, is inspired by her upbringing in West Deptford in southern New Jersey. She holds a BA in art history from Rutgers, and still lives in the Garden State.

With a love of national parks, she jumped at the opportunity to take part in Weir Farm’s artist-in-residence program. “When I travel, I like to check out national parks. Weir Farm is close enough for me to visit with my family on weekends, but far enough away for me to think about my art,” she said.

During her time at Weir, she has created five works so far, including a plein air painting and a painting of the kitchen of her studio looking outside the window.

She often includes floral arrangements in her art pieces, and glimpses of furniture that represent the type of person living in the home.

But her journey as an artist is still evolving. “I see myself developing in different ways and different mediums, video art, for example,” she said.

She’s fascinated with artificial intelligence and how people “consume” media. “It changes the way I think about the art world in general. I’m still creating natural work but the process is just as important as the final product,” she said.

Weir Farm's Artist-in-Residence program (AIR) selects 10 artists to live and work at Weir Farm each year. To date, over 200 artists from throughout the U.S., as well as Tunisia, Germany, Australia, India and the Netherlands have participated in the AIR program. Visual artists apply for one month residencies in all media and diverse artistic points of view from traditional to experimental.