Today we’d like to introduce you to Jenna Muscarella.
Hi Jenna, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I have always been involved with art. I took drawing classes at a young age. I am constantly creating, making, doing, and exploring. Art has never stopped. I obsessively used my family camcorder. I often followed my dog and sister around pretending to be The Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, with my 9-year-old pitiful impression of an Australian accent. My creativity consistently flowed into more movie productions, magazine publications (only read by my sister and mother), filling countless pages of sketchbooks, and a trip to the principal’s office in 2nd grade to run a bookmark-making business out of my crayon box. My name is Jenna Muscarella, and I am an artist.
In high school, I actively searched for art opportunities– studying for a summer at the Art Institute of Chicago, taking on roles as the design editor for various publications, and creating my works. In 2007, my father was on tour to Iraq with the US NAVY. Soon enough, he received a -Jenna creation- a video “life update” about my senior year in high school. His consistent absence has always been a hard time in my life. He instilled, fostered, and supported my art when I was young. I carried and cherished this stability in lack of his presence. I was often turning to art to heal. I studied at the University of Kansas, receiving a Bachelor of Art Education. I focused solely on how I could “make a living” as an artist.
In 2015, my best friend Hannah got married. I wanted to create a special gift for her (as I often make gifts for my family and friends). Then, that bright white light bulb lit my brain up. I secretly asked her mother to send a photo of her wedding dress. On a Reeves, cold-pressed paper, I painted a memorialized artwork highlighting her wedding dress, encased in a shining mirrored picture frame. The bends and folds of the fabric, organic linework and the meaning behind the piece made sense to my art mind. This was my style and passion. So, I decided to start a new business venture. I began painting, framing, and selling wedding dress pictures. I looked no further for any wedding or anniversary; I needed a gift! It was perfect. Every bride cried happy tears upon opening their cherished gift. Every bride was awesome. It is so special to each recipient because often after the wedding concludes, the dress is never taken out of the preservation box. This is a sentimental Object of Nostalgia- a reminder of love.
After working in public schools a few years, I naturally became a bit burnt out. I was constantly searching for that enriching art experience and tossing back and forth about what I could do next with art. I always had the mindset that I must become a professor or something else that would pay the bills. Then in 2018, I was asked to become a studio artist at K SPACE studios in Corpus Christi, TX. This was the moment that shifted my motivation. I saw that I could focus on my artwork, publicize, and achieve the enriched art experience I had been searching for. I spent a short amount of time in this space, but it was something that changed my life. I saw through the eyes of other working artists; their techniques, experiences, inspiration from the actual space of the studios, and countless pieces of advice. I learned so much from being a part of this group. The studios are on an old Kress department store’s third floor. Once you finally climb up the last stair and open the door to the studios, it is like magic. You can feel the history of all the artists who once worked there. They have something special going on there, and I will be forever grateful for being part of the group and having those experiences. In 2019, I moved back to my hometown of Alton, IL. I continued doing large works and expanding my artistic drive. I am still searching for another K SPACE experience.
Since moving back to the Alton, IL, and Greater St. Louis area, I dove into involving myself with art in every way possible. I took a job as the part-time education coordinator at Jacoby Arts Center in Alton, IL. That came full circle. In high school, I took many art classes at Jacoby. I also accepted an elementary Art Teacher position at Wood River – Hartford school district in Illinois. I love teaching. I love spreading art knowledge and cultivating creativity. I find that my passion often lights a passion in others I teach. It’s contagious, but I needed that short break to reset. And it worked. I jumped right back into the world of education—all this while. I had been selling many wedding dress paintings. A local business in Godfrey, IL, White Birch, graciously allowed me to display and advertise my wedding dress artwork. This was a perfect fit because they have tons of wedding registries. Stacy Keshner, the owner, helps couples pick through beautiful items that are physically set out on a table for customers to purchase, along with my custom wedding dress painting information.
The wedding dress paintings have been a consistent hit. I have gradually grown my memento wedding dress painting business with returning customers, referrals, internet/social media presence, and me explaining my creations to anyone who will listen. Then, MEMENTO happened. This is now the name of my business, Memento Paintings. I started painting commission houses, pets, and memory items through the years. Though I still create many wedding dresses, I am now focusing on my Objects of Nostalgia. Memories are my constant theme. The objects, color, and style differences between the pieces, but the theme is permanent. Through each experience we have, our memories range from positive to displeasing, often keeping relic reminders.
Since I was young, I have kept sentimental objects in boxes and trunks. This will follow me forever. Now, I moved my memories to sturdy wooden cigar boxes. This started when my father returned home from his tour to Iraq. He brought me back a beautifully intricate Cuesta Rey cigar box. I keep any reminders of him in this box. My father has been absent from my life for 12 years now. Though it is painful, I am unable to discard the objects. I started collecting cigar boxes for different memory periods or special people. Memories drive my work. I want to know others’ stories, memories, and the special objects that mean much in their lives. I want to start the conversation of memories. So in January 2022, I created a series of canvas paintings of my cigar box subjects, which opened at The Conservatory in Alton, IL. The second part of the series explores the physical objects inside each box. I often show and sell this work at festivals, art fairs, and gallery exhibitions. My business keeps growing, which I am very thankful for. Currently, I am a resident artist at Soulard Art Gallery. I sell my Objects of Nostalgia paintings at the gallery and display advertisements for custom work. You can find my artwork at Jacoby Arts Center in Alton, IL, Soulard Art Gallery, Instagram @memento_paintings & Facebook @mementopaintings, and my website www.mementopaintings.com.
We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
In my last year of college, my co-signer for my parent-plus loan for tuition was not available to help anymore. I had to quickly apply for any grant, scholarship, or financial aid to support the conclusion of my degree. It took a lot of investigating and research, but I made it happen. I took extra hours at a part-time job to get through the rest of my schooling.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am a painter. I use acrylic/acrylic inks and oil paint on canvas, plexiglass, wood, and more. My work focuses on memories and “Objects of Nostalgia.” This is a phrase that represents my work as a whole. I call each memorialized object. I paint an “Object of Nostalgia.” I am obsessed with lines. I use a variation of thick, thin, and anything in between. In grade school, I would stare at the cursive alphabet on the wall and draw each curve with my eye. I doodled on my notebook pages with lettering style after lettering style. I took a Chinese Calligraphy course in college to further my line obsession; I owe much of my evolution of mark-making to this course. I carry those sharp character hand movements and the “initial mark” philosophy into my work. Once a mark is made, it is left alone unaltered. Every piece I create focuses on organic linework. I love outlining with black lines.
I am most proud of my work, “Memorybox of Bullshit.” This is a 6ft x 4 ft canvas painting depicting a yellow Cuesta Rey cigar box. The detail is immense, the colors are vibrant, and the size is engulfing. What this box means to me is powerful. It represents the biggest struggle in my life. It is the first “Object of Nostalgia” I painted, igniting my passion for my memento paintings.
How do you define success?
Success is completing a painting. Once I lay that last mark down, I know the artwork has the chance to be something big. It can now be on display. It can affect others emotionally, aesthetically, or pensively. The moment of its finality means that my story and ideas will soon be shared and display my raw soul and heart. It frees my weight and layers. When my artwork reaches its intended audience, success is hearing the title spoken on the lips of others. It is the discussion of the colors, lines, and objects. And, of course, it is the purchase of the painting. The ultimate moment you know you spoke to someone and made them feel something.
- $150.00 (11×14 wedding dress painting- no frame)
- $220.00 (11×14 // 16×20 wedding dress painting with frame, matting, installed hanging hardware and wiring)
- $250.00 (11×14 canvas custom memento painting with installed hanging hardware and wiring attached)
- $350.00 (16×20 canvas custom memento painting with hanging hardware and wiring attached)
- Creative work for sale, email firstname.lastname@example.org for inquiry or visit website: mementopaintings.com
- Website: mementopaintings.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/memento_paintings/?hl=en
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mementopaintings