These Powerful Paintings of the Female Figure Are Shaking Up Chicago’s Art Scene

Self-taught artist Jenny Vyas captures viewers with sensuality, but keeps them engaged through an explosive use of color and gaze.

“Felis Leo”
(Jenny Vyas)

If euphoria had a human form, she’d look a lot like the woman Chicago-based artist Jenny Vyas has depicted in Acquit. A sensual female figure rocks backwards with hair in the wind and eyes closed, grasping on to what looks like a cross between an astronaut and crystal ball.

(Jenny Vyas)

This is precisely the type of ambiguity Vyas has courted across her career, painting the obscure space where ecstasy and anguish intertwine.

Jenny Vyas
(David Sabat Photography)

The self-taught South Asian talent has been shaking up the Chicago art scene since 2013, when she left her 15+ year career working in eCommerce with the likes of Harpo Studios on the heels of heartbreak. The sage emotional warriorship that drives Vyas’s work often captures viewers with its powerful sensuality, but keeps them through its explosive use of color and gaze, sensitivity writhing through sheer body language. 

(Jenny Vyas)

Vyas recently celebrated the opening of her third solo show, Awaken, at Pilsen Yards on Chicago’s South Side. Presented in partnership with Artist Replete and Muslim American Leadership Association (MALA), opening night nearly topped 600 guests. On view through the end of October and available online here, AWAKEN debuts Vyas’s 15 most recent—and most intense—artworks to date. 

Guests at AWAKEN opening

To honor opening night, Vyas stepped away from the crowds of her supporters to give a heartfelt talk about the inner-journeys underpinning this particular body of work. She shared the floor with world-renowned violinist Damien Escobar, who chartered a flight from NYC to Chicago just to perform an intimate set for the evening. 

(Jenny Vyas)

Since rising from the trenches of heartbreak to pursue her calling as an artist, Vyas has devoted her entire practice to developing her present style: an ever-shifting balance of figuration and abstraction that tangle and blur as if by optical illusion.

(Jenny Vyas)

She compares this technique to her own inner-development, a balance between control and surrender. Figuration requires discipline, but abstraction proves more intuitive—actively experimenting while heeding the paint’s independent will at the same time. 

(Jenny Vyas)

Art serves first and foremost as an outlet for Vyas to empower others to face their deepest demons and darkest shadows, just as she continues to do. Vyas also publishes a written series she calls her heARTwork musings, and paints murals for public and private commissions to share her meditations on a larger scale. Her art exhibitions are shifting the gallery landscape with their commitment to fostering authentic experiences for actual people.

Anyone who thinks art doesn’t matter to the average individual can think again. The ideas and words that become our inner monologues are simply a conglomerate of all the noise out there, seasoned with a dash of nature and nurture. To make art is to create culture, to help shape the planet’s ideals. Jenny Vyas understands this power, and she’s overcome the only person who can hold her back from commanding it—herself.

(Artist Replete)

Make friends with your demons, because the final frontier lies inside. Jenny Vyas’s paintings are portals to that place.