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A single mother with three kids. A professional painter. An assistant professor. A filmmaker.
This is the UMD professor Jen Dietrich.

“It’s a challenge, finding time,? she says.

While she is raising her three children Emma, 15; Sam, 14; and Sally, 11, on her own, she also has multiple jobs. First of all, she has a career as a professional painter.

“Most of my work has to do with icons of American culture,? she says.

Her paintings are impressionistic and she works primarily with oil, but also with acrylic and collage components. She has painted a lot of landscapes, and she has also developed a whole series of barns.

“I was born in Wisconsin, Dairy Land Country, and I started a series on barns, treating them like cathedrals,? she says. “One of my relatives barn was abandoned, it was falling apart, an no one was building them anymore. So I was trying to give them that prestige of an icon, like a church.?

Right now she is working on a series on baseball for a show at the art institute in Duluth.

“That has been very exciting, cause I’m a sports fanatic. I’ve never blended those two, but baseball is so quintessentially American and the images that are coming through have been fun to play with.?

Dietrich also has a full time job as an assistant professor at UMD, where she is teaching future art teachers.

“I like the exchange with the students, the interaction. More of the students, and less of me by the end of the semester, that’s my goal.?

As if those jobs weren’t enough, she has also started a career as a filmmaker. She has teamed up with UMD colleague Sarah Bauer and the two are working on a documentary film on the New York painter Philip Pearlstein, whose paintings can currently be seen at the Tweed Museum.

Despite the fact that she is living a busy life, Dietrich does not look tired at all. Her skin looks healthy and rosy. There is no sign of dark shadows under her eyes. She is glowing with energy. On the surface, she seems calm and relaxed, but you can tell that underneath that, an untiring passion is burning, driving her to curiosity and creativity.

While it is difficult to find the time to do all of the things in her life, Dietrich somehow finds a way.

“I am a fanatic,? she says. “I steal time.?

To make a habit of things is the key, according to Dietrich.

“I try to visit my studio everyday, I think as artist nowadays you have to do that,? she says.
But it takes more than just self-discipline to keep her going.

“It has to be more than that, otherwise it just lays flat,? she says. “You have to be passionate, whatever it is that keeps that passion alive.?

She speaks in a deep and calm, but yet energetic voice. Her gaze is alert, behind her black-rimmed glasses, and her hands are gesturing, as she speaks.

It’s her interactions with people, especially students, that keeps Dietrich’s passion for painting alive.

“Dialogue, talking to people,? she says. “I’m always throwing back to my students, show them a clip and ask them what they think, it’s just great feedback. It’s exciting to see it click for them.?

However, Dietrich does not just sit around and wait for the divine inspiration to knock her of her feet. In fact, she would like to dismiss that idea.

“I don’t think artists can depend on their emotional state of mind to get them to go do their stuff,? she says. “But that’s not what people want. They want the superstar. They want the alcoholic or the crazy artist.?

She says that she thinks that art students need, and deserve, to get to know about functional artists. That it is important that they get to see that you don’t have to cut your ear off or be a drug addict to become a recognized artist.

It was partly because she wanted to bring that idea to life that Dietrich and Bauer started to work on the documentary film on Philip Pearlstein.

“He’s like a grandfather,? she says. “He is a very soft spoken, quiet personality, and you wouldn’t think of him as someone that has so much recognition that he has.?
She is planning on using the film in her teaching, and she is already showing her students clips.

“I think it’s important in teaching art, to show films of artists that are functional, someone you can be inspired to become like. In some ways I wish I could break the mythical image of the artist, and show that you can be married to the same woman, go to the same job, and have this exotic life.?