Bayport-based mixed-media artist Roya Jenner is using her talents to inspire others. Meet her at the Patchogue Arts Council’s Museum of Contemporary Art’s (MoCA) vendor night on October 16.
Roya Jenner’s art studio at her Bayport home is her oasis. It’s where the mixed-media self-described “artivist” creates pieces that unite texture, symbols, icons, and color with powerful messages. Pieces that win awards, capture the attention of curators and viewers, and reflect her passion on topics such as mental health, racial equality, and LGBTQ+ rights. But reaching this point hasn’t always been easy. We sat down with Jenner and spoke with her about her background, her art, and how she hopes her works will inspire others to love themselves, persevere, and find their own inner strengths.
Santiago de Cuba. Photo courtesy of Roya Jenner.
How would you describe yourself and your art?
I see myself as an “artivist,” feeling the call to depict injustice, expose oppression, fight for LGBTQ+ rights, and normalize mental health. I choose to depict these topics because they relate to me personally.
I like for my pieces to have a single image impact, with thoughtfully placed words or symbols telling more of the story. Using texture, contrasts of metallic, shine, matte finishes and more in my pieces gives them more impact and dimension. I want onlookers to wonder ‘how did she do that?’ or ‘what a great concept, I never saw it that way before.’
Tell us a little about your background
As a child, I loved to draw. We lived in western Massachusetts. And although I deeply loved art, I went to college with a major in electrical engineering. The pressures of Persian culture to succeed scared me from applying to art schools. My parents worried I wouldn’t be able to support myself. But after one year of electrical engineering I knew it wasn’t for me.
So I took a gap year and knew deep down that my dream career had to be in art. In 1993 I moved to Long Island to be with my now husband, John.
I attended Suffolk Community College Riverhead campus for graphic arts and it was like magic. I was so happy. I went on to receive my bachelors in Communication Arts with honors from LIU Post. Two weeks before graduating, I landed my first designer job at a well-known publishing house in Garden City. Since then I’ve been on creative teams promoting popular TV networks, consulted for businesses and non-profits while raising our daughter, and most recently designed for the largest independent marketing firm in the U.S.
Gigi. Photo courtesy of Roya Jenner.
Why did you leave your corporate career?
I realized something was still missing. I couldn’t help but long for the days where I worked with my hands. I was ready for my voice to be heard.
My solo art career began in February of 2020 and already I have been in five exhibitions. Recently I won a logo design contest for the popular Paint the Great South Bay annual event curated by the Patchogue Arts Council.
But then health issues changed your trajectory a bit.
MRIs showed terrible neck degeneration was causing me pain and numbness down my arms. At the same time I was diagnosed with major anxiety and depression.
Kasra. Photo courtesy of Roya Jenner.
Talk a little about how both your family and health have impacted your art.
As a Persian kid growing up in America during the ‘80s and ‘90s, I saw how my American friends lived and began to compare it to my life and the Persian male-dominated culture. I also saw first-hand how foreigners were treated in the U.S. I personally can relate to feminism, the BLM movement, the oppression of Latinos, and the horrific racial attacks against Asians because I, too, come from a different background and felt like an outcast at times.
My own struggles with mental health and the pain I have suffered are also always with me. I have a lot to work from and much more to work through on the canvas, hopefully communicating to others ‘I’ve been where you are. You’ll make it through too’ or even just ‘I’m listening.. I hear you.’
Tell us about your most recent accolade or installation.
A team collaboration between Rob Miller, Maya Kawachi, Mark Propper, and myself completed a large art installation called miniMoCA, a miniature 4-foot wide by 18-inch high art gallery that sits firmly atop two posts in the Patchogue sculpture garden.
Roya Jenner's art studio. Photo courtesy of Roya Jenner.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I want my art to grab the viewer's attention, even if they are across a room and the art on the opposite wall. I also want the viewer to see what it is like to be in another's shoes and feel empathy. I hope my work sheds a truthful light on current problems in society that others can relate to and feel empowered.
Meet the artist at MoCA L.I.ghts 2021
Visit Roya Jenner at the Patchogue Arts Council’s Museum of Contemporary Art’s (MoCA) vendor night. She will be sharing a booth with the artist Christophe Lima on Saturday, October 16, from 3 - 9 p.m. during MoCA L.I.ghts on Terry Street. To learn more about Jenner, her work, and upcoming exhibitions, visit StudioRoya.com.
The Birdcage. Photo courtesy of Roya Jenner.
The Authentic Woman. Photo courtesy of Roya Jenner.