Born in Brooklyn, New York. Lives and works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands since 1992.
Since the start of her artistic career in 1988, Jennifer Protas has always shown a strong interest in the long process of creating new contexts and meanings by putting heterogeneous elements together.
Almost every material around her is potentially an ingredient for an artpiece. This counts for her sculptural pieces as well as for the two-dimensional worlds.
The different elements are often presented in layers, a process that Protas used in earlier sculptural works. These consisted of glass tanks, containing thin layers of soil, organic detritus, printed matter and other garbage that caused organic processes which subsequently created a new reality. In the top layers of these tanks she often planted grass seed and ‘weeds’. On top of others, miniature worlds were built consisting of vague places and structures in a state of disarray or neglect. In her recent photoworks something similar happens: through the plexi-glass and the layers of clear acetate and photo-paper one looks ‘inside’ the piece, both in a physical as well as in a psychological sense.
In these two dimensional works, Protas begins to investigate her own memory, how it works and how memory and knowledge in general are recalled, (re-) invented and categorized. A series started in 1999, their elements range from ‘failed’ photographs and images appropriated from magazines to Protas’ own photography and reprints of 19th Century botanical engravings found at flea markets and antique shops. In her choice of images Protas prefers subjects of a scientific and architectural nature, and these themes bind the heterogeneous elements closely together. Original images are combined with transparent prints of other images and this process of layering different realities creates poetic as well as disturbing new meanings. Protas puts different worlds together forcing them to coexist in a delicate balance: every image maintains its own identity but at the same time seems intensely influenced or contaminated by the other.
It is this ‘contamination of images’ and the interplay of their meanings that allows Protas to raise essential aesthetic, environmental, scientific and spiritual issues in a strong and highly personal way.