Louisville artist Jenna White has 10,600 Instagram followers and a college degree in the arts, and yet the reason she’s getting her first solo art exhibition is that her office had paper it couldn’t recycle.
The local artist works as a graphic designer at Scoppechio, and when her agency received a bunch of paper samples that couldn’t be recycled, she decided she’d find a use for them. What she used the paper for has now become an exhibit titled “Paper Cuts” — now hanging at Revelry Boutique Gallery through July 15 — showcasing her collages of famous singers, rappers and other musicians.
“They were going to throw away literally three trash bins of paper,” White tells Insider. “And I was like, ‘If you don’t mind, I’ll take these home and just do something with them.’ I didn’t know what — I just knew I didn’t want to throw it all away because it’s really, really good stuff.”
So she took it all to her studio workspace, laid it out and thought about what she wanted to do with it. She settled on collages based on her favorite music. She minored in music in college, so she felt this was a good way to pull her passions of art and music together. She even developed a special method to pick who she would make the subject of her collages.
“The way I chose who I was going to collage was literally going through playlists of my favorite artists, my favorite music, and listening to their albums,” she explains.
The music that gets represented in her works spans several genres, including rappers like Biggie Smalls, Drake and Tupac, rock starts like David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, and even reggae stars like Bob Marley (which White says was her most unique work in the gallery).
Creating the art was a lengthy process, and it was something she didn’t think she’d ever do again after she finished the first one, which was a portrait of the American singer-songwriter Erykah Badu.
“I did Erykah Badu and I told my boyfriend, ‘I will never do another one of these again. This was insane.’ That one took me weeks and weeks and weeks,” says White. “But then I got really good praise on Instagram and from friends, so I thought, ‘OK, I’ll do one more.’ And then I did a few more, and it turned into a show, and I did a bunch more.”
The Badu piece was what got her this opportunity, as Mo McKnight Howe, owner of Revelry, says she went to White’s Instagram to look at her work and was amazed by that piece in particular.
“She posted a photo of a new medium she was trying — paper,” Howe tells Insider. “It was an image of Erykah Badu and it was incredible. I contacted her about showing it at the gallery, and she then decided to build a whole show around it based on the rave reviews. We were thrilled to have a solo show and plan to continue displaying her work at Revelry.”
While this is White’s first solo exhibit, she’s been into the arts for as long as she can remember.
“I’ve always been a really creative kid. When I was little — I mean, my mom has framed artwork from like second grade,” she says. “It kind of runs in the family. My dad’s an artist, so I’ve always been really creative, and then I went to college for what I thought I was going to be: an illustrator.”
White says that while in college at the University of Louisville, she took a variety of art classes, which included printmaking, paper-making and bookmaking. She recalls that when she took paper-making, it helped her understand paper as a medium and not just a surface.
This could have helped a lot in her work that’s displayed in the show because collaging wasn’t something she was used to.
“This is the first time I’ve ever done paper collaging,” White says. “I normally do — like on my Instagram, I blew up doing special Sharpie drawings, then I kind of started to get into different types of materials I could work with, and I started experimenting with Post-Its and cardboard. And then when I got my hands on all this paper, that’s when all of this just came about.”
White’s art was unveiled on Saturday and will be on display through July 15. Check out additional photos from “Paper Cuts” below.