By Murray Schneider
If you missed Glen Park artist Jean Conner’s show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art last year, you can still see the Sussex Street artist’s most recent artwork, currently on exhibit Smith Andersen Editions gallery in Palo Alto.
No stranger to having her work displayed, Jean Conner, who has lived in Glen Park since 1974, had three collages at the museum. It is a follow-up to her SFMOMA exhibit, Conner’s collage “The Storm Petrel,” a paper collage measuring 19 inches by 25 inches can be seen for two more weeks.
Conner’s creation joins 13 other artists, including former City supervisor and mayoral candidate Matt Gonzalez, in a show entitled “The Hogarth Project.” The show runs through March 2.
“The Hogarth Project,” is a tribute to eighteenth century painter and printer William Hogarth. It’s the brainchild of Paula Kirkeby, the owner of Smith Andersen Editions and a 50-year friend of Jean Conner and Conner’s late husband, Bruce Conner, himself a critically acclaimed and sought after artist whose work transcended multiple mediums.
Paula Kirkeby explained the origins of “The Hogarth Project.” “My husband and I owned 50 Hogarth prints,” Kirkeby said. “My idea was to give one to 14 different artists whose work I admire, then have each lift from it what was wanted and create a collage of his or her own choosing.”
The result is memorable, a display of 14 artists working in eclectic mediums such as acrylic, watercolor, paper, oil and photo. The gallery exhibit is a serial storyboard, paying each artist’s respect to William Hogarth (1697-1764), the father of satiric and sequential art who fashioned a career satirizing the foibles of the human condition.
Jean Conner took Paula Kirkeby at her word, snagging Hogarth’s “The Harlot’s Progress,” appropriating a Horgarthian scene that depicts Moll Hackabout hoodwinking her “protector” while a paying client tip-toes from her boudoir.
Conner couldn’t bring herself to dissect “The Harlot’s Progress,” but she surrounded the Georgian engraver’s images with her own compilation of imported impressions, including very visibly and appropriately a lady’s scarlet slipper.
Kirkeby has no doubt which of the 14 collages finishes first as a front-runner homage to the eighteenth century master.
“Jean’s collage is the best piece in the show,” Kirkeby said. “I’ve shown Matt’s work and invited him to participate and his piece has already sold, but Jean’s collage, well, it would take years to sit with it and watch everything that she’s depicted.”
Jean Conner began working on “The Storm Petrel” on and off in December 2012, taking one month to complete it, using scissors to cut posters, postcards, postage stamps and lithographs that embroider the borders of Hogarth’s original work.
“I let the viewer determine the significance of each image,” said Conner, envisioning her role as a presenter not as an interpreter.
Only two months before, in September 2012, Conner’s work had also been included among 19 other women artists at the Smith Andersen Editions show “Gender Specific: Take It or Leave It.”
“All of these Hogarth collages are political,” said Kirkeby about the 14 renditions now mounted on her gallery walls, worthy of a social critic such as the eighteenth century engraver.
Always modest, Jean Conner summed up her Santa Clara county experience: “It was a fun project and it was nice to be included.”
One can learn more about The Hogarth Project by logging on to www.smithandersen.com. Smith Andersen Editions is located at 440 Pepper Avenue in Palo Alto.