Saturday, January 12, 2013

Conversation: Jennifer Kosharek

She arrived at Kahwa S. Cafe looking a little like one of her Gretchens, wearing a blue flowered peasant shirt, dark skirt, and striped stockings. Around her neck a pink ribbon with a cut-out of a hand grenade hanging from it, a symbol of the yarn and crochet 'bombers', the equivalent of graffiti artists in those media. It was Jennifer Kosharek, Art Taco 2012 Arts Person of The Year. 

She was born on an Air Force Base in Michigan, but her family lived in Milwaukee. After a vacation in Florida, her family decided to leave Brew City and move to Florida before starting kindergarten in Florida.

[AT] "What is your earliest connection to art that you can remember?"

[JK] " I remember drawing in the summer with my cousins...early on in elementary school. Every drawing I did had a different sun in it. I was into drawing, and won my first art contest in fifth grade. It was at Maximo Elementary, they had a "Draw your own House" contest, and I won first prize."

[AT] "Tell me about High School"

[JK] "I went to the Pinellas Center for the Arts at Gibbs and I was a full-time artist. We had three hours a day of arts class. I was a good student, and played sports. It was important to me to be well-rounded, to be good at a lot of things. I kept sketchbooks, did art shows. In high school I showed at Temple Beth-El, the Museum of Fine Arts in Tampa."

She went to college at Ambassador University in Texas and earned a degree in English. With only one semester left, she went to Amman Jordan (through an AU link) where she taught mentally handicapped students for nearly a year. She turned 21 and married in 1996, after finishing her degree.

A move to Little Rock for 3.5 years followed. She taught English to severely emotionally disturbed children,  returning to St. Pete upon becoming pregnant with her first child. She was painting at the time, mostly Koi Fish.

[AT] "Did you show in Arkansas?"

[JK] "There was a show in a coffee shop, and I had a couple of pieces, and I brought them in, and I had this Koi, and said. "Someone is going to buy this piece, and I want $450.00 for it. He didn't trust me, but he put it in the show and somebody bought it." 

Like most women artists, she juggled the realities of child-raising with her art. She got work into Cherie Doughty's Gallery (Where Brava now sits).

[JK] "Every artist who was at Cherie's is at the 600 block Woo, Chad and Philip from Blue Lucy, Calan Ree, Hugo Porcaro...everyone who was with her is now doing pretty well."

Cherie's closed. Jennifer had work in ArtOn Central, but it also closed. She had a show at the Morean titled Trinkets from Heaven. Lots of work sold, and that enabled the start of Eve N Odd Gallery two years ago.

[JK] "Running a business, working, was new to me"

 While she says she "floundered" through it, the gallery and its shows soon  gained a strong sense of identity and became a significant presence in the city. Two years later it is one of our premier galleries.Hers is a refreshingly frank approach:

[JK]"I'm just trying to make things happen for my good friends" & "I always try to position myself with the best quality artists".

Jennifer is a well-known and respected mail and Fluxus artist, with work in the collections of a few major museums.

[AT] "How did the mail art begin?"

[JK] "I was going through my papers from high school, and I had done some mail art back then. There was a ton of names on that documentation, names and addresses, from a show called "Miss America". I put in 30 hrs of research into mail art, Ray Johnson. I immediately started getting heavily involved, sending out hundreds of pieces. Mail art kind of became my life"

One recurring character in Jennifer's art is "Gretchen", a female figure that looks remotely like a descendant from Russian nesting dolls.

"I wanted an image that I would be known around the world for. That's how Gretchen was born."

Gretchen has evolved steadily since her introduction. 

 Jennifer works in doll-making, paint, drawing, photography and spray paint. She did the Burning Cake installation at First Night 2012.

 She continues to make mail art and host international mail art shows and Fluxus performances in her gallery.

Jennifer is a doer and participant. She says: "What I believe in is hard work", and it is only partly true. Equally evident is are intelligence and eagerness to try new things. Her latest effort is in fund-raising to get the Wig Villa wall covered with a mural. Expect a splash of color there soon.

                                 "If I won the Lottery, all I would do would be mail art"

Jennifer Kosharek

 --- Luis

Ps. I am including this on behalf of Jennifer. Please show her all the love you can. Thank you.



  1. What a great interview with Jennifer. She is very talented and I'm glad that someone took the time to promote her.

  2. Great interview. I've known Jennifer since our days at Cherie's and think her Eve N Odd Gallery brings something unique to St. Pete. She's introduced a lot of folks to things like mail art, fluxus, visual poetry, etc. She's really passionate, open-minded and explorative when it comes to the art she brings to her gallery and that's what I love about it. Her own work has a lot of heart and simply has always drawn me in. I own one painting that makes me smile at least once a week. It has Gretchen balanced on a rather turbulent sea with a rocky boat in the background. She has this tiny grin that makes me think she's not only going to be okay, but she's going to be better off in spite of the bullshit. There's something punk rock about that which I relate to and acts as a personal reminder.

  3. Jennifer and Eve N Odd Gallery are FANTASTIC!!!! I love her work, I love the way she curates her gallery and the quirky, unusual exhibits she hosts. This woman is full of talent and willing to do the work, I hope she sees a huge amount of growth and success in this new year!