BY MARLA WOOD
National Academy of Design and were members of the renowned Art Students League of New York. They encouraged Jody and her siblings to explore visual arts from a young age though Jody was the only one of the three children who took to the brush.
Today Jody is a professional artist known for bold, expressive abstracts carved with a rich, intense palette. Her paintings are often large and have a three dimensional quality from the objects she applies to the boards and canvases. Her art is an extension of herself and deals with natural rhythms and energy.
Yet, Ahrens’ education began with classical techniques taught by her father who painted impressionistic landscapes with soft lines and occasional abstracted elements. Early on Jody’s father was a strong influence on her work and they would often paint on the same piece. “There came a time,” she says, “when you could not tell a difference between us. Our strokes were equally heavy handed and our palette matched, too.”
With such a strong parental influence, rebellion could have come in the form of rejecting the easel, but for Jody art never became a chore and to this day she considers it her greatest source of “fun, play and freedom.” This is a point of view developed by her parents. As a child, one of her greatest joys was going to the art supply store with her father where he would buy her anything she wanted - watercolor, pastels, pencils, even copper if she asked for it.
Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950’s Jody and her friends visited museums and art galleries where she was exposed to a broad range of styles. “We thought we were sophisticates and went on our own to galleries; twelve year-old sophisticates,” she laughs. “The first time I saw an abstract I fell in love. It was orange, which was not my color. My color was green, but I absolutely fell in love with it. And then when I went to school I started emerging with my current abstracted style.”
Chouinard Art Institute – now called the California Institute for the Arts. Though, she found that no classroom or teacher compared to her father’s instruction. It was in school that she finally found oils and developed her own voice as an artist.
“Oddly enough my parents introduced me to every medium except oils. Instead their paint tubes were one of my favorite toys when I was a girl. I loved the feel of the tubes, the smell of the paint. To this day, I have the paint box my Dad used in New York City.”
Once Jody picked up the medium she excelled rapidly booking her first one woman show within six months. She muses, “That’s where I needed to be and I knew it when I was 7 or 8 years old!”
Jody sees art as a form of communication, but with dialects that are understood by a specific audience. When asked to describe what her work means, she offers: “I don’t talk about abstract. If the artwork doesn’t talk to you when you first see it, then there is little to say. I can talk about the process, but that’s not the inspiration or the art of it. That’s just mechanical.”
Despite her education, Jody did not initially consider art as an occupation. She was raised to consider marriage and children first and received little in the way of career guidance. Yet, she has enjoyed a successful career selling her work in galleries across the western U.S. including San Francisco, L.A. and Denver. At one point Jody was the proprietor of her own gallery in Grand Junction, Colorado. As she tells it, it was a career that developed despite her upbringing or ideas of what defines an art career.
Today, Jody is also an accomplished business woman and CEO of Vital Earth and she says that she uses her artistic training in the corporate world all the time. In fact, she says being an artist gives her an edge in business.
Whereas, she describes, seeing the world in detail, as an artist does has trained her to think abstractly, to solve problems in the corporate world whether understanding her customer or communicating using creative solutions in advertising. Jody’s success is a great argument for arts education for all students.
About the Author: Wood is owner of the Blue Pig Gallery in Palisade, Colorado. She is being remunerated by the Wine Country Inn for her contributions to this blog.