Cj Hendry might not be a conventional artist by definition, but she’s paved her own way into the art world and she persists in doing things her own way – and it’s working.
Unlike artists who have their start honing their skills through endless classes and critiques in art school, making it into a gallery, or fighting for commissions, Hendry, Australian-born now living and working in New York City, found her path another way. In 2012, Hendry was living in her hometown of Brisbane working towards a finance degree. She’d previously dropped out of architecture school but still wasn’t sold on finance. That was when she took to Instagram to showcase her drawing process. She gave herself a year to see what would happen if she put her all into drawing.
On November 16th that year she posted a close-up shot of her working on a pen on paper drawing with the caption: ‘Starting the background.’ She used her feed to show her followers her process, materials, and finished products and people took to her. Her hyper-realistic drawings of everything from Louboutin’s to bones, crumpled up Pantone samples boxing gloves, make her now 350,000 followers salivate. Hendry recently estimated that she’s poured about 50,000 hours into honing her technique.
Having used Instagram as a platform to promote and sell her works she’s often referred to as an ‘Instagram artist.’ The New York Times has questioned if she’s vying for validation from the art world. Yet, she doesn’t seem to be looking for any acceptance and while, yes, she’s an Instagram artist in that she’s utilized social media to her benefit, her work and incredible technical skill can’t be reduced to simply that. Moreover, her transparency through Instagram makes her accessible – you don’t need a PhD in Fine Arts to enjoy, appreciate, and interact with her works. Perhaps it’s better if you don’t?
In 2013, she sold her first work through Instagram. A 40- by 60- inch pen and paper drawing of RM William boots went to a collector who messaged her on Instagram asking for the price of the drawing. Without much knowledge on how to price her work, which can take anywhere from weeks to months to complete one drawing, she asked for $10,000. ‘The collector bought it straight away,’ she told HYPEBEAST in an interview and things kept going that way. Now, she has a following of collectors. All the money she gets from her works, she cycles back into her practice, projects, and into the solo exhibitions that she creates once or twice a year.
Her works might be seen as a critique on their subjects but she doesn’t. She instead sees her pen and colours pencil drawings of luxury items as a celebration of consumerism and materialism. She’s known for crumpling up flat objects, like the drawings of Warhol’s famous Polaroids (which left her with a copyright infringement issue and gave away her drawings that were printed on shirts as not to profit off them) not to destroy them, but to add more depth, which translates in a more interesting way to her 2D renderings.
In 2018, her exhibition, named ‘MONOCHROME’, drew in visitors to see the ‘house’ she created inside a 10,000-square-foot space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Each room featured her drawings of the Pantone labels, grouped by colour, surrounded by a room of things in that colour. Yesterday, her newest exhibition, ‘RORSCHACH’ opened in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Hendry drew inspiration from the Rorschach inkblot test but, using coloured pencil, added the looks of high-gloss paint and tantalizing colour. They’re exhibited amongst a custom-made white bounce made meant to evoke the inside of a mental hospital. These works will go on sale on April 15th and entrance to the exhibition is $10 at the door.
‘It’s a fascinating combination of sinister and playful,’ said Hendry of ‘RORSCHACH,’ which runs through April 21st. ‘People are going to see something different every time.’