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Artist Jennifer Moon drives around LA for inspiration

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Artist Jennifer Moon driving around Santa Monica
James Kim/KPCC
Artist Jennifer Moon driving around Santa Monica

The Los Angeles-based artist won the fan vote at the Hammer Museum's "Made in L.A. 2014" show and her secret to success was found behind the wheel of her car.

Jennifer Moon was one of the breakout artists at this year's "Made in L.A. 2014" biennial at the Hammer Museum. The artist won the exhibition’s Public Recognition Award — the only one voted on by the public. 

But Moon is no stranger to the art world. Her first solo exhibition took place in 1996 and she exhibited frequently until 2002. Then she dropped off the face of the art planet.

When asked about her absence, Moon says with a laugh: “I used to be angry in general, and then I became a drug addict. I had a boyfriend and we were both heroin addicts. And then towards the end of my run we started smoking crack. That combination of the crack and the heroin made the money go really fast, so we started to rob people who were getting money out of ATM machines.”

Moon was convicted of attempted armed robbery in 2008 and was sentenced to 18 months in a correctional facility. At first, Moon says she spiraled into self-doubt: “I was really upset, asking questions like, ‘Why did this happen to me? Why why why?’ All these questions, and things like, ‘If only I didn’t do that. Or if that happened.’ I was creating suffering for myself.”

Things began to change, Moon says, when she started thinking differently. “Once I accepted that this was the reality of my situation — and while I don’t like it there’s definitely nothing I can do to change it — things started opening up for me. I think that’s when ideas come in.”

Upon her release from prison in 2009, Moon needed a new way to find artistic ideas, and she found it in a surprisingly mundane place: driving to work. As she explains, driving is “very meditative. And my job is in Big Bear, so I often drive out to Big Bear.  Well, actually, not that often, maybe once a month or something, but I really enjoy the ride."

Moon usually drives out to Big Bear around 5 a.m. It was during one of those drives that she had what she calls a "very dreamlike experience. It’s a very smooth drive, and there’s not very much going on, so it felt very ... I don’t know how to explain it, it’s like some weird, transcendent, dreamlike state. It almost felt like I was half-conscious or something.”

The project she came up with on that drive was “The Book of Eros,” which chronicled all the people Moon had ever had sex with, had a crush on, or obsessed over. It was just one part of her contribution to “Made in L.A.,” which also included love letters and documents from her time in prison.

And through driving, Moon was inspired to create her next project, titled, "Will You Still Love Me: Learning To Love Yourself, It Is The Greatest Love Of All," where she will install webcams in her home and car and project the videos and sounds in a public space. Viewers will be able to watch her daily life unfold without filters. Her solo exhibition is a part of the Equitable Vitrines project where her work will be displayed in an office at the Equitable Life building in Koreatown. 

Moon knows driving isn't the only way for inspiration to strike. “When I’m driving and things come to me, it’s definitely not forced," she says. "The times when I try to force it, it usually doesn’t happen. Really, my only job as an artist is to remain as open as possible and as aware as possible, so for ideas to enter me I have to be open. That’s the only thing I really need to focus on.”

Moon’s solo exhibition, "Will You Still Love Me: Learning To Love Yourself, It Is The Greatest Love Of All," opens at the Equitable Life building in Koreatown on December 19.

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