Art Exhibit Review: Jennifer Packer

By: Danielle Lane  |  November 18, 2021

By Danielle Lane, Managing Editor

In Jennifer Packer’s exhibit at The Whitney Museum she uses sharp color and vivid imagery to depict intimate portraits of loved ones and floral tableaus. Packer uses both observation and memory to create her art, painting her loved ones not only the way she sees them literally, but the way she sees them emotionally. Her depiction of flowers is as beautiful as they are meaningful due to the fact that her work has an underlying political meaning.

In one painting, Packer uses a mix of yellows and greens with darker blacks and blue shades to depict her emotions regarding the death of Sandra Bland. Bland was a black woman who died in police custody in 2015. She was found hanging by a noose in her jail cell after being arrested at a traffic stop.  Her death was investigated as a murder and sparked outrage amoungst the Black Lives Matter community as another brutal killing of a black person at the hands of the police. Packer used the creation of the painting to help work through the emotions she was feeling and cope after the senseless death of Ms. Bland. Beau Rutland, an art curator, described the piece as “an offering, a memorial, a tender protest.”

In her portraits of friends and family, Ms. Packer almost exclusively paints black individuals. She paints the people she loves clearly and yet slightly they are obscured, using monochromatic paints and blurred boundaries to recreate her loved ones on canvas in a way that both invites the viewer in and keeps them at arm’s length. Due to the unnatural colors and sharp images, the subject of the paintings seem to be just out of reach. No matter how hard or how long you look, you’ll never be able to quite understand what you’re looking at.

The exhibit, entitled The Eye Is Not Satisfied With Seeing, is the largest showing of Packer’s work.  Spanning over thirty pieces, Packer described her desire to paint this series as “a completely political one. We belong here. We deserve to be seen and acknowledged in real time. We deserve to be heard and to be imaged with shameless generosity and accuracy.”

The Eye Is Not Satisfied With Seeing will remain at the Whitney Museum until April 22, 2022.  I highly recommend everyone go experience Ms. Packer’s moving works.