Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jenny Campbell

Jenny Campbell is hard at work creating a suite of costumes for the Mermaid Parade, an annual event in Coney Island, NY. She has a lot of time on her hands these days to make the costumes exactly how she wants them.

After spending twenty years as a photo archivist and digital imaging technician at the Walters Art Gallery, Campbell was laid off in February. To hear her talk about it, it sounds less like a job loss and more like a death in the family.

"It really broke my heart because I thought I knew the collection better than anyone. It was my baby. I can't say "collection" anymore without tearing up, and I often have dreams of walking through the galleries," she says. The loss has effected her so profoundly, she doesn't think she can ever go back to the museum.

To make matters worse, Campbell had bought a house three weeks before she was laid off. The house sits in Hamilton on a quiet block off Moravia Road. Her living room is cluttered, though remarkably put together considering she's only lived there a few months. It's clear that Campbell wasted no time making the house her own. Now she sits here and wonders if she'll be able to keep it.

"I see it as the cosmic energy saying 'nope, you're not supposed to have this kind of life'," she laughs. "If at middle age, you're buying your first house, maybe it was never meant to be".

And so now Campbell is considering the 'artist lifestyle'. She's an inventive costume maker, and has created a line of painted-screen dresses, a variation on the classic Baltimore art-form (see image below). She just got back from a trip to New Orleans where she hopes to find a market for her work. In the mean time, she's trying to keep her spirits up in the face of difficult times.

"I make it a specific point to jump out of bed every day, make the bed, and open the blinds immediately," she says. "I know I'll land on my feet, I just don't know where".

See more of Jenny's work here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2006171&id=1526732235&l=059b519193


  1. I’ve been reading through your post and wanted you to know how touched I am by each person’s story. Thank you for bringing all of these examples of perseverance to light!

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