Jenee mateer

Jenee Mateer,   You Are What You Eat (watermelon)

Jenee Mateer, You Are What You Eat (watermelon)

CURRENT EXHIBITION  The Earth is Intimate

on view April 1 - May 13, 2017.

Learn more about this exhibition here.

The Sky is lemon lime

Jenee Mateer, Orange Peal, 2014, archival pigment print on fine art paper, 43 x 45 inches

Statement - The Sky Is Lemon Lime

As humans we are bound to some extent by earth, water and sky.  We can’t escape the horizon even while it continues to shift.  The details change but our limits remain.  The only real freedom we have is the one created in our minds.  One might argue that all is illusion even while what we hear, taste, touch, smell and see is ‘real’.  In the gap between illusion and reality, between recognition and surprise, sensation is created eliciting a visceral response…and then we try to name it. 

This body of work is a continuation of the Break Boundary series where I started to push the boundary between photography and painting, between the natural and the unnatural.  These are a series of manipulated landscapes, mostly trees bordering lakes in New York and Michigan and a salt pond in Delaware.  The tops of the trees reminded me of washes of watercolor on paper. So I started experimenting with using the computer to create a palette of color that is both part of the ‘natural’ image and not, using layers and blending to push the latent color of the images to the extreme.

Ten years ago I showed my photo collages to a group of students and one of them became angry and said, “That’s not photography”.  I was surprised because it had never occurred to me that they weren’t photographs.  I have come to the conclusion that perhaps all of my work is to some degree about pushing boundaries.  But this series is not only – about pushing the boundaries of language and discipline – it is also about altering the landscape, re-mapping the terrain and choosing a new path. It’s about the subtle shift we experience both psychologically and emotionally in relation to our environment as our perception of where we are and who we are changes over time.  

- Jenee Mateer

Jenee Mateer, Vermillion, 2014, archival pigment print on fine art paper, 43 x 45 inches

break boundary

Jenee Mateer, Opalescence, 2011, archival pigment print on fine art paper, ed. 1/5, 40 x 40 inches archivally framed

Statement - Break Boundary

I have always had a great affinity for the water.  The sound of it calms and grounds me but I worry because every year the beach seems less like the place I knew as a child.  By slow degrees, we are changing the ecological balance, the chemical composition of our oceans.  Oil spills are just one small part of the problem. Global warming too is changing the weather and the way that water flows. I worry. Water sustains us; it makes our planet a friendly place to live.

‘Break boundary’ is a term I discovered reading Marshal McLuhan’s book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964).  Coined by Kenneth Boulding, the term "break boundary" refers to the transformative point at which a system is irrevocably changed.  I think about the water in relation to this term and I also think about it in relation to photography, specifically, the language of photography in relation to the language of painting. 

New technologies that allow for the manipulation of the image have changed forever the way we understand the photograph as a document of ‘truth’.  Certain celebrated photographic images of our time (I am thinking specifically of the photographs of Jeff Wall, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Andreas Gursky) are not those that capture a single moment but rather those that are composed of many moments to suggest a single moment.  They make us aware of the medium itself and they are interesting because they play with our understanding of the structure and language of the medium.  They are composed much more like paintings and they make us aware that time has become, to a greater extent, a tool of the photographer rather than a fixed variable.  

In a similar way, abstract painting also made us aware of the structure and the language of the medium of painting.  I have always been drawn to the work of Mark Rothko.  His paintings suggest windows through which to enter another dimension.  His resonating squares of color suggest a boundary between here and there, inside and outside. These photographs, on the one hand, very simply reflect my love for the water but they also reflect the influence that painting has had on my understanding of photography.  They play with the boundary between earth and sky and the boundary between photography and painting to suggest my belief that the language used to define and understand these two mediums has evolved, and that the emergence of a new language is upon us.  

visceral spectrum

Statement - Visceral Spectrum

Cycles of nature, patterns of behavior, interaction… like snails, we carry our homes with us as internalized structures. Inside is an infinite space where we are at once a part of everything and simultaneously alone. Outside, the world resonates with the chords of our internal mechanisms. Our brain waves register pulsations of light and color.  From rhythmic patterns of noise we pull our thoughts.  Visceral color surrounds us.  We absorb, just as objects absorb and reflect light. We register hot and cold and all steps in between as changes in season and place. Home is a place of quiet or disquiet, where the opposing forces of fear and joy, good and evil, life and death reveal themselves and do battle in shifting patterns of sunlight traversing wall and floor. 

I think when I moved back to Baltimore four years ago, I was very homesick for my RI house.  It was the first we’d ever owned, my son was born there and we had slaved to re-do it to our liking. I had always photographed the beautiful bits of our house as it transitioned from an empty shell to a place we called ‘home’. I continued to shoot when we moved to MD, both the old house in stages as we moved things out and the new house in stages as we moved thing in.  As I began to think about how I carry ‘home’ with me and about the way human energy transforms a space, I started to photograph other family and friends homes as well.

This work is a meditation on home, inhabitance, spirit of place…on energy patterns formed like a slow beaming up, the materialization that occurs with the transference of physical presence from one structure to the next. These images also speak to our inescapable physicality, our need for sustenance, and our undeniable drive as humans to perpetuate and reproduce energy and life.


Jenee Mateer is a photographer and video artist who was born in 1965 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She received her B.A. in English/Modern Studies from the University of Virginia in 1987 and her M.F.A. from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1996. In 2007, she joined the faculty of Towson University, where she is currently the Chair of the Department of Art + Design, Art History, Art Education and Associate Professor of Photo Imaging. Her work has been exhibited in numerous venues, including the Art Hamptons Art Fair, Biggs Museum of American Art, Delaware Center for Contemporary Art, Jordan Faye Contemporary in Baltimore, Los Angeles Center for Digital Arts, Masur Museum of Art, Newport Museum, Rhode Island Foundation, San Francisco Art Market, Scope International Art Fair in Miami, and Texas Contemporary Art Fair in Houston. She is the author of The Animals (2012), her essays and photographs have appeared in the 1st International Photography Annual (2012),The Photo Review, Masters of Photography, and Philosophy of Photography, and her photographs are in numerous private collections, including China Trust Bank and the Cordish Family Collection.