Artist Profile: Jennifer Costello


Written By Barbara Lindstrom
Featured image: Jennifer Costello, Galatea Fine Arts opening, March 1, 2019. Photo: Don Schaefer

A visit to Jennifer Costello’s studio in Boston’s SoWa district began with her enigmatic poster on the second floor landing of 460 Harrison Ave. It gave notice that works full of intimacy might be just around the corner. The door to suite #202 was open and a portrait resting on an easel immediately came into view, with its sense of a silent, wise witness. Against the jumble of the city streets below and the daylight fading into the night skyline, the conversation with the artist began.

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Poster on 2nd floor landing, 460 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA

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Unity: One World, oil on wood and canvas, 2019

Jennifer describes the work for her show, Reset, at Galatea Fine Art, in this way: “Painting is my personal reset button. I get lost inside myself and get clean from the inside-out. Give me back my strength, remove my self-doubt by wiping away my tears and ending the goodbyes. My spirit has always been a glass half full. What happened? Is ‘Life’ just some sort of indescribable ongoing entertainment? If so, let’s just keep writing our stories of home, work, the environment through clear, honest childlike eyes. These eyes—always alert, bolstering strength, revitalizing my being.”

The words “clear, honest childlike eyes” carried all the more meaning since Jennifer’s son, Jonathan, was in the studio with her. A couple of Jonathan’s prized possessions rested on the table near the windows. There was a metal box featuring Diego, ‘Let’s go on a Dinosaur Mission!’ and a collection of strange critters, “Hatchimals,” who ‘hatch’ from ‘eggs’ that are peeled away from an outer lining. The fantasy creatures had such agency for Jonathan. He was fiercely proud of them, almost just as proud as he was of his mother and her work. He pointed out a small, framed abstract painting of flowers that he said was his favorite. “It belongs to me!” he told me. There was an unmistakable sense of fervor and abundance in the studio that evening, of Jennifer and her son’s shared world of exhilaration and imagination.

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“Diego, Let’s go on a Dinosaur Mission!” (top image)

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Jeunesse, oil on canvas, 2019

The paintings in Jennifer’s Galatea show are intimate and personal. Two years in the making. She blends fragments and details from the history of her life. There is a strong appreciation of a narrative, the story unfolding.

“Are they self-portraits?” I asked Jennifer about the women who look out at us.

“No,” she replied. Yet her Japanese-American heritage is a significant part of her family’s history and her world. Her palette is stunningly rich and vibrant. I checkedwith Jennifer about how many paint colors she had used for the Resetseries. We find that Jennifer’s father was an environmental engineer and the six colors of water mixable oils — Naples Yellow Hue, Payne’s Grey, Raw Sienna, Titanium White, Green Earth and Cadmium Orange — remind her of him. The paintings offer “a constant continuum using colors found in nature to celebrate my father,” Jennifer added. Indeed, each color seems to speak for itself. Jennifer points out the strong yellow hair color in one of the paintings. She recalls that this was a hair color she used to have at one time. Her choice of color relates directly to her biography.

In many of the pieces, numbers and letters are inverted or only partially present, as if Jennifer is channeling a deeper meaning for us to discover. Jennifer reveals that each number or letter plays a significant role: a birthday, the birth of her son, a special point in her history.

Jennifer knows a lot about mounting shows. Her MFA and a career working at the prestigious Galerie d’Orsay gallery in Boston mean she can hold her own in any fine art discussion. For her Galatea Fine Art show, Jennifer offers a subtlety of language and whispers of an interior life – a chance for a most intimate dialogue. Hers is a gift from a place of honesty and intensity, a mix of exploration and declaration. Above all, we sense an enormous generosity of spirit.

Jennifer Costello, RESET  is currently up at Galatea Fine Art through March 31st. Visit Galatea Fine Art at 460 Harrison Avenue B-6. Boston, MA 02118, 617-542-1500. Gallery Hours Wednesday-Sunday 12-5 and by appointment.

For more information on Jennifer, visit her website

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