When Jennifer Caviola sentimentally claims that painting is in her blood, she says it’s because of her grandmother Olga.
A painter herself, she was the one who taught Caviola brushwork using watercolors on rice paper when she was nine years old. Caviola transitioned to acrylics on canvas and wood panel later but stayed studio mates with her grandmother for many years, and is still keeping her paintings on her walls and her paintbrushes in her drawer.
… connection can really heal. My experience with addiction has made me a believer in that notion because it’s been something that has helped keep me sober.Jennifer Caviola
In your artist statement, you say that your work, “contributes to the conversation of universal recovery from generational trauma.” What is your generational trauma? How has your work helped you recover from it?
Jennifer Caviola: I make these paintings from the most grounded and open place I can access in myself at any given time, and one of the results of me putting it out there in that capacity is that when people come across the work, they can recognize parts of their own inner world in there as well. That can create a connection. In recovery, I was taught that connection can really heal. My experience with addiction has made me a believer in that notion, because it’s been something that has helped keep me sober all these (eight) years, and so making work capable of facilitating connection for others suddenly became a really meaningful way I could contribute something.
What inspired you to create street art? How does it contrast to your paintings on traditional surfaces?
Jennifer Caviola: Being in New York inspired me to become a street artist for a bit from 2008 to 2015. I went by the name “Cake” and I would run around Brooklyn and Manhattan and wheatpaste paintings onto any surface I could find. My favorite thing to do was to paste emotive figurative paintings onto “abandoned” surfaces: surfaces that were old, run-down, broken, forgotten. There was something about that combination—broken and beautiful—that really ignited me.
This earnest affection for her painted image really touched me and reassured me that it was also a reflection of the love I was giving her, that she could then offer it out herself.Jennifer Caviola
In your recent work, you incorporate images of yourself with your daughter. Do you and your daughter discuss your work? Does she understand that they are portraits of you and her?
Jennifer Caviola: I’ve been surprised by my toddler daughter’s response to seeing herself in the paintings. She intuitively always knew that the child in the work was her, and so she would point and say “that’s me, that’s Willa,” and often she would try and hug the panels as they hung on the wall to show affection for them. This earnest affection for her painted image really touched me and reassured me that it was also a reflection of the love I was giving her, that she could then offer it out herself.
What do snakes symbolize in your work?
Jennifer Caviola: The short answer is that the snakes symbolize “the other” in life. Their meaning and their roles change from painting to painting, which made them very malleable antagonists to the central figure in each work.