Jennifer Schultz was born in 1968 in Minneapolis MN, USA. After an itinerate early childhood, she settled at age 11 in suburban Minneapolis with her mother, stepfather and siblings. She believes this early experience of moving yearly, dealing constantly with changing surroundings and new schools, was particularly important. “My first real artistic inspiration grew from intense experience of place. I didn’t grow up with a feeling of having a ‘home town’; but my mother and stepfather both came from small rural towns in southern Minnesota, and their experiences of the city where we lived always seemed to reference that rural past. My mother’s childhood was somewhat itinerate as well, since my grandmother divorced and remarried several times, and thus often moved the family for the purpose of finding work or starting over. That feeling of being uprooted was always sad and uncomfortable for me, an introverted child. Later I realized how much time I spent as a child trying to come to terms with each new landscape I inhabited – through physical, solitary exploration.”
In the transitional years between high school and college Schultz spent a considerable amount of time exploring the largely-industrial Minneapolis riverfront; this led to later employment as an historic site interpreter for the Minnesota Historical Society. “I really didn’t know what my artwork was about until I began spending all my time at St. Anthony Falls, in downtown Minneapolis. I fell in love, there, not with a person, but with a place – a breathtaking landscape of both urban and natural beauty, the birthplace of a city, with all the layers of history and culture and injustice and triumph a person, an artist in love, could ever hope to explore.” A pivotal mentorship evolved at this time with artist Georgette Sosin, an established sculptor and painter; whose personal faith, and a background in natural history, science and medicine, made her an excellent resource for a young artist trying to straddle multiple realms of thought at once. “I became obsessed with detail, with the microscopic forms and processes of the natural world; and at the same time, with Native American spirituality, specifically that of the Dakota Indians, which figured importantly in the history of St. Anthony Falls.” Additional studies in history, archeology, cosmology and civil engineering informed Schultz’ pen and ink drawings during this period. Pen and ink remained a preferred form for several years afterward, replacing watercolors and pastels with a more precise, exacting method of description.
In 1997 Schultz moved to Athens GA, where her fiancé was studying for his PhD in Geography. While there she continued to work in pen and ink, developing a visual lexicon rooted in native American and African cosmology, as well as mysticism, combined with the symbolic language of geology, meteorology, and physical sciences. The tension between Art and Science as bridged by Spirituality would generate continued exploration for several more years, but this ultimately was subsumed by work as a curator and arts writer while in Athens.
In 2000, Schultz’ Clayton Street Gallery began exhibiting works by regional fiber and fabric artists, a reflection of Schultz’ growing interest in the forms. “Something about sewing, about which I knew NOTHING, was fascinating. I think I was attracted to all those tiny stitches, all the effort that went into something tactile. Unlike the pen and ink drawings, which were quite hermetic by nature, a complicated quilt pattern required an exactitude which could be utterly hidden within the experience of the object, the quilt: a beautiful, colorful, fluffy, comfortingly domestic object. Fabric was lush and physical, unlike my drawings in so many ways; but very like as well, in their precise construction.” The growing inclination towards fiber led to another rewarding mentorship, this time with artist/quilter Pattiy Torno.
Torno comes from the fashion design world via Parsons School of Design, and for a time owned her own clothing manufacturing business in New York City, before retiring young to a life of quiltmaking and landlording. Her commissioned quilts sell for thousands of dollars apiece. After hiring Torno as a curator and juror for multiple gallery projects, Schultz asked the artist to teach her to sew. And that was the beginning of an enduring passion for expression through cloth, paper, needle and thread.