Jen Smith



Because my catering business takes up a lot of my time, I tend to make artwork on a per project basis. I will have an idea or show and then make the work. I love sculpture but I hate the clutter of objects. Working in fabric has allowed me to make relatively large works that still imply intimacy. Works in fabric are easy to maintain and store. My pieces can be laundered and ironed and patched. They can be edited. They can comfort.

For the five pieces that comprised the show LOL, I took the popular, distancing acronym, often used in texting, and turned it into an embodied encounter. Begun as a non-competitive word game between myself and a former lover, five different LOL phrases were made to express a range of feelings associated with intimacy. Not a joke – though funny, nonsensical and poignant – complex feelings are made into blankets for a bed: the site of lovers’ laughter, optimism, longing, fucking, fuck-ups, failings. The result of long hours of handiwork, the quilts are the opposite of the expediency of a text message. They intend to mirror the effort of loving.

For This Body Is Free, I made an installation of floor to ceiling patchwork cloth – made from bolts of new fabric and old clothing. Anxious that I might never make work for a public again, I wanted to cut away at this large scale piece, referred to as the Mother Cloth, rework the fabric into everyday useful pieces and give them away. I determined to give them to people who have inspired and supported me through our personal relationships. Giving away both the objects (and with it, hopefully the anxiety of public exhibition and “future”), I wanted the work to transform artistic labor into a gesture of gratitude.

I am a feminist, artist, musician, and small business owner. Credited with coining the term “Riot Grrrl,” I have played music halls, street protests, and squats. I have made posters, zines, albums, performances, videos, banners, blankets, clothes, and food in collaboration with and for my community for 25 years. My formal artwork continues to draw from these influences. I hope that when people see my work they experience something that is familiar and intimate – but also political and provocative – an object that is familiar but asks questions. I received a BA in American Studies from University of Maryland, College Park, and a MFA from University of California, Irvine.




BA, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
MFA, University of California, Irvine

Solo Shows:
This Body Is Free, Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles, CA
LOL, Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles, CA
A Ritual To Invite Magic, Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles, CA
We Make The Rules, Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles, CA
Oh My Glory!, Adobe Bookstore, San Francisco, CA
From Here On Out, Needles and Pens, San Francisco, CA
Always, The Lexington, San Francisco, CA

Selected Group Exhibitions:

Group Show in partnership with Commonwealth and Council, Tina Kim Gallery, New York, NY
Demolition Woman, Guggenheim Gallery at the Chapman University, Orange County (catalog)
Parallel Play, Artist Curated Projects at Silvershed, New York, NY
Monster Mongers and Sellers of Other Strange Satellites, LAX Art, Los Angeles, CA
Number Two, UAG Gallery, Irvine, CA
Small Things End, Great Things Endure, New Langston Arts, San Francisco, CA
Flex Your Textiles, John Connelly Presents, New York, NY
Orientation, (collaboration with Amanda Eicher and Chris Nagler), Motel, Portland, OR
Our Progress, Needles and Pens, San Francisco, CA
Hope and Healing in Times of War
, SomArts, San Francisco, CA
Unexpected Developments, CCA Playspace, San Francisco, CA
PEER PLEASURE 1, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA
The Zine Unbound: Kults, Warewolves and Sarcastic Hippies, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA              Radical Read-Ins, Printed Matter, New York, NY
Paper! Awesome! Pigman Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Gravedigger’s Ball, New Langton Arts, San Francisco, CA                      
The Family Show, Cinders, Brooklyn, NY
LTTR Explosion at Art in General
, New York, NY
SF Drawing Show, New Image Art, Los Angeles, CA
LTTR, New Image Art, Los Angeles, CA
Man I Feel Like A Woman, Space 1026, Philadelphia, PA
Anti-Capitalist Fashion Show, San Francisco, CA 

1999-2004  The Quails
2003             The Song Is Love, Mr. Lady Records.
2001             Atmosphere, Inconvenient Records.
2000             We Are the Quails, Inconvenient Records.

2001             Bay Guardian Goldie Award for Music

1995-1997 Cha Cha Caberet
Recordings:1995             Cha Cha Cabaret, K Records.

2008             Guest Lecturer, Artist Talk for “Art and Activism since 1960,” UC Santa Cruz
2003             “Political Music,” Rock and Roll Camp for Girls, Portland, OR

Published Articles:
“Doin’ It for the Ladies—Youth Feminism: Cultural Productions, Cultural Activism,” Third Wave Agenda: Being Feminist, Doing Feminism. Leslie Heywood and Jennifer Drake, editors. University of Minnesota, 1997.