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Work Samples




Hot House Hybrid/Sophia
archival pigment print 2018


You Are What You Eat (cantaloupe)
You Are What You Eat (cantaloupe) photograph, archival pigment print, 26.7" x 40"


The Sky is Lemonlime/Umbered Orange
archival pigment print 2015


About Jenee

Baltimore City

Jenee Mateer's picture
Jenee Mateer holds  an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a BA in Modern Studies/English from the University of Virginia . She is Professor of Photo Imaging  and Chair of the Department of Art + Design, Art History, Art Education at Towson University. In addition to teaching at various colleges and universities, she has also worked as a video editor for Spot Video and Providence Pictures and as the Gallery Director for the Community College of Rhode Island. Many of her images... more

Hot House Hybrids II

Rooted, Radiant Ravishing
Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your long hair
Born of the beds
Earth born mother of bees and birds
Sister of lavender
Friend of slugs and spiders
She dances with the lilies in the light of the full moon
Her gyrations, reverberations groove
In cicada time to the beat of darkness
And in the morning
Her eyelids sparkle with the dew drops of a heavy heavenly sleep
She laughs
And her laughter mingles with birdsong and wind chime
Unseen, the wind gently ruffles the leaves
And she spins
Like the earth
Her dance continues
She spins a web on the branch
She winds her way up the trellis
Attaching herself to everything
Attaching everything to everything
One day to the next
One season to another
Rapunzel lets down her long hair
A gossamer net alight with fireflies and stardust.

The Hot House II images allude to the metaphorical connection between flowers and the female or feminine and are meant to celebrate a diverse group of women, transformed and unified by bold color, pattern and natural forms that re-affirm the female connection to powerful forces of nature and the earth. Mark Twain’s amusing re-imagining of Eve in the Garden of Eden in his book ,Letters to the Earth, as well as Alice in Wonderland, the Wizard of  Oz , Frankenstein and other fairy tales have long been an inspiration for my work.
In 2017, as part of The Earth Is Intimate Series, I created a group of images called Big Girls and Painted Ladies. A continuation of this idea, the Hot House Hybrids I series (2018) became more abstract and painterly. In 2019, I went a step further and turned my Hot House Hybrid I series into a 3D installation where images from the series were printed on silk and paper and used to construct a garden of glow-in- the dark flowers. In Hot House Hybrids II, I again re-use the first Hot House images, layering and reassembling them with images of women that I’ve appropriated from the internet. In this new set of images, the reference to women which in previous images was only in the title, is realized in the image itself. 
By combining photographs from my garden with watercolor to create digitally layered compositions that hover somewhere between the mediums of photography, collage and painting, I hope to suggest that hybrid forms allow for revelations in making and understanding. With this evolving body of work, where I use the digital ‘DNA’ of one set of images to genetically engineer the next, I also explore the metaphorical connection between gardening and making art. Both allow for chance pollination and evolution and rely on the interplay of control and chaos. Gardening makes me aware that cycles of life and death are circular and eternal just as making art makes me aware of the creation and destruction that must occur in pursuit of new ideas and the images they spawn. 

Hot House Hybrids

Mula Bandha
Lavender. lemon thyme, wild raspberry
sweet basil, radish
ravishing arugula
my friends all
I am but a delicate flower
destined to live and die
and live again

The soft fragrant folds of my petals explode
in watermelon, tangerine, strawberry
lemon-lime and plum
Not to mention the velvety green
of my long stem and leaves

I'm a big girl I am,
a queen here in the garden
stronger than I look and smarter too.

I'll outlast you.
Perennial conqueror of new territories,
my children, immigrants, hybrid strains
defy the boundaries set forth by those who seek to control nature
my nature

I return each spring in regal attire
camouflaged in beauty
but beware
Like tangled morning glories that strangle and support
as they reach towards the sun
I am rooted and ruthless

My lineage is long
my wisdom that of the ages
I was here in the beginning
witness to she who tasted the apple
and learned of the secrets of the Universe.

Hot House Hybrids is a continuation of the flower series I made for the Earth is Intimate in 2017.  I call those images “Big Girls and Painted Ladies” emphasizing the flowers’ metaphorical connection to the female and the feminine. The use of watercolor in combination with the photographs allows for a double meaning. The flowers are meant to represent females and suggest the feminine but they are also literally painted and dominate the frame. These are flowers in all their beautiful glory. They verge on cliché. They attract and repel.  I hoped the images might lead the viewer not only to question our notion of beauty (natural and unnatural), and photography (straight and manipulated) but also the terms “big girl” and “painted lady”. These latter are less than empowering descriptions for the female – the first, a euphemistic term used to describe an overweight woman or a tall woman or perhaps a naïve young woman and the second, a term used to describe a woman whose sexuality is for sale. These are terms used by culture to denigrate the female and limit her physicality and sexuality. Beauty too is a questionable premise, in art, in nature, and as it applies to the female and humans in general. What does it mean to be a beautiful female? What makes an image beautiful?  

For me, beauty has to do with character. In this series, I wondered what might happen if I allowed my girls to get older, wiser, louder, more daring.  What would happen if I allowed myself to more thoroughly embrace painting and turn it too, metaphorically, into an empowerment. Where is the boundary between the beautiful and the horrific, the ripe and the rotten, between naivete and wisdom?  In these I recognize that I am Eve and I am getting older. Like Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein, I have dissected and reassembled these hot house hybrids from the genetic shards of abstract painting and straight photography and its digital progeny.  Are they monstrous desecrations of the photograph and bastardizations of painting or are they a new genetic strain, stronger, faster, smarter?  

These images are connected to the work in my new book –  Break Boundary: Places Real and Imagined – by the color I capture from the real world and the color I create in my studio. It is perhaps not immediately clear, however, that the connection between these two bodies of work also hinges on the idea of the Break Boundary, the place of transformation where one thing turns into something else. I am interested in that moment where to borrow from Lawrence Weschler’s book on Robert Irwin, we forget, for a moment, the name of what we see.

The Earth Is Intimate

 Artist Statement for The Earth is Intimate/2017 

Recurring themes of Alice, Eve, the garden, the snake, an original tongue, the birth of knowledge. The garden is pungent, tactile, connected to the first smell of mother, the first smell of baby, the smell of my mate. We are what we eat. The smell of the garden informs speech, speaks to me of the earth. Visceral light, color, sound, smell; an extension of my home, the garden reminds me that I am of the earth and also that I will return to it, to the dirt. I will decompose and be reconstituted. I will become part of the ground upon which future generations are built. 

I am connected to the earth; its smell is savory, sweet. I dig my fingers into the soil. Worms seek cover, mysteriously disappearing into the underworld. And if, like Alice, I were to follow the rabbit, its white bushy tail disappearing down the hole, if I were to follow and fall into the earth what would be revealed to me on the underside? The garden speaks to me of the possibility of another world, a parallel universe where things are not what they seem. 

My cabbage reveals labyrinthine corridors of mesh and flesh. I slip through cerebral portals, past dendrites chasing the rabbit deeper and deeper. A cat appears, calm, tail twitching, enigmatic, unhelpful. I am unable to ask for directions. My language has unraveled. Like a child, I must learn the alphabet of this strange place. A chorus of cicadas accompanies the wind. The flowers, big girls all, reach for the sky, their heads nod in the breeze. Colorful parasols, their beauty is fragile, delicate. Their perfume draws me near. They drink light and reflect its vibrant color. Big girls have secrets. They share with me their experience of time. And the roots too tell me things, whisper stories, sing operas and dance. I scale the mulch pile and my foot slips. I fall into a watermelon rind and slide to the bottom. There is no death here in this place-all is reclaimed by the earth, all is recycled. Trust in me says the snake as she slithers by. My visit to the underside forever changes the way I see things.

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    You Are What You Eat (cantaloupe)
    You Are What You Eat (cantaloupe) photograph, archival pigment print, 26.7" x 40"
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    You Are What you Eat (watermelon)
    You Are What you Eat (watermelon) photograph, archival pigment print, 26.7" x 40"
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    Tangled Wonderland II
    Tangled Wonderland II photograph, archival pigment print, 22.7" x 34"
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    Crest (Of Cabbages and Kings)
    Crest (Of Cabbages and Kings) photograph, archival pigment print, 37.5" x 28.25"
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    Unravelled II (Of Cabbages and Kings)
    Unravelled II (Of Cabbages and Kings) photograph, archival pigment print, 37.5" x 28.25"
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    Queen of Hearts (Of Cabbages and Kings)
    Queen of Hearts (Of Cabbages and Kings) photograph, archival pigment print, 27.75" x 38"
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    Dahlia (Big Girls and Painted Ladies)
    Dahlia (Big Girls and Painted Ladies) digital photograph, archival pigment print, 19 7/8" x 27 3/8"
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    Peony (Big Girls and Painted Ladies)
    Peony (Big Girls and Painted Ladies) photograph, archival pigment print, 197/8" x 27 3/8"
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    Daisy (Big Girls and Painted Ladies)
    Daisy (Big Girls and Painted Ladies) digital photograph, archival pigment print, 19 7/8" x 27 3/8"
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    The Mad Hatters (Woodsman, Chief, Opera, Tango)
    The Mad Hatters (Woodsman, Chief, Opera, Tango) digital photographs, archival pigment prints, 17 7/8" x 11 7/8" each

The Sky is Lemon Lime

This body of work is a continuation of the Break Boundary series where I started to push the boundary between photography and painting, between the natural and the unnatural. These are a series of manipulated landscapes, mostly trees bordering lakes in New York and Michigan and a salt pond in Delaware. The tops of the trees reminded me of washes of watercolor on paper. So I started experimenting with using the computer to create a palette of color that is both part of the ‘natural’ image and not, using layers and blending to push the latent color of the images to the extreme.

This series is not only about pushing the boundaries of language and discipline but also about altering the landscape, re-mapping the terrain and choosing a new path. It’s about the subtle shift we experience both psychologically and emotionally in relation to our environment as our perception of where we are and who we are changes over time.

Invisible City

Technology mirrors our desire to interact, communicate through words and pictures, to define ourselves through interaction with others and to answer the age old questions: Who am I?, How do you perceive me? What power do I have to change the way people think?Originally, just the title of Italo Calvino’s book, Invisible City, served as inspiration for this body of work. I was thinking about Facebook, cloud computing, ipads and electronic games in relation to this idea of a place with no tangible location that is nevertheless very ‘real’. As I read the book I began to make even more connections. Calvino speaks about the slippery shortcomings of language and cities as endless happenings, where the distinction between inside and outside is fuzzy at best. He speaks of cities within cities and cities where the present is a simultaneous reflection of the past and present, cities formed by desire and perpetuated by it.

Visceral Spectrum (2006-2012)

Cycles of nature, patterns of behavior, interaction. Like snails, we carry our homes with us as internalized structures.. Inside is an infinite space where we are at once a part of everything and simultaneously alone. Outside, the world resonates with the chords of our internal mechanisms. Our brain waves register pulsations of light and color. From rhythmic patterns of noise we pull our thoughts. Visceral color surrounds us. We absorb just as objects absorb and reflect light. We register hot and cold and all steps in between as changes in season and place. Home is a place of quiet or disquiet where the opposing forces of fear and joy, good and evil, life and death reveal themselves and do battle in shifting patterns of sunlight traversing wall and floor.

This work is a meditation on home, inhabitance, spirit of place, on energy patterns formed like a slow beaming up, the materialization that occurs with the transference of physical presence from one structure to the next. These images also speak to our inescapable physicality, our need for sustenance, and our undeniable drive as humans to perpetuate and reproduce energy and life.


The idea for this body of work evolved slowly. It started with many images of my sonâ??s toys and my thoughts about how children learn to process images and words in relation to objects that can be touched and through the sensations of color and sound.

At the same time that I was photographing toys, I was also creating a series of image filled pages for what I imagined might become a recipe or SpellBook of sorts. Pictures from art history, media and popular culture as well as bits from books on medicine and alchemy mixed with images of the things around me. I soon realized that the deconstructed parts of these pages were potentially more interesting than the pages themselves. I started to think about streams of 0â??s and 1â??s and cityscapes, about building blocks, bits and picture books in relation to perception, memory and identity.

On one level, SpellBook considers the role that language and visual imagery play in communication and how they figure in oneâ??s understanding of self in relation to the world. It explores the â??ideaâ?? of a book as a receptacle for knowledge and memory but also as an artifact, a repository for deconstructed marks that mean less than the form they take. It considers the translation of image to language and language to computer code. It also considers (picture) writing as a means of divination and its relation to myth, magic and religion. On another level, it explores cooking as a metaphor for making art, sifting my thoughts about science, religion, language, art and technology as they relate to both the terrain of our physical tangible existence and the often intangible and ephemeral nature of thought.

Break Boundary

?Break boundary? is a term I discovered reading Marshal McLuhan?s book, The Medium is the Message. He defines it as the transformative point at which a system is irrevocably changed. I think about the water in relation to this term. By slow degrees, we are changing the ecological balance, the chemical composition of our oceans. Oil spills are just one small part of the problem. Global warming too is changing the weather and the way that water flows. I also think about this term in relation to photography, specifically, the language of photography in relation to the language of painting.

New technologies that allow for the manipulation of the image have changed forever the way we understand the photograph as a document of ?truth?. Certain celebrated photographic images of our time (I am thinking specifically of the photographs of Jeff Wall, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Andreas Gursky) are not those that capture a single moment but rather those that are composed of many moments to suggest a single moment. They make us aware of the medium itself and they are interesting because they play with our understanding of the structure and language of the medium. They are composed much more like paintings and they make us aware that time has become, to a greater extent, a tool of the photographer rather than a fixed variable.

In a similar way, abstract painting also made us aware of the structure and the language of the medium of painting. I have always been drawn to the work of Mark Rothko. His paintings suggest windows through which to enter another dimension. His resonating squares of color suggest a boundary between here and there, inside and outside. These photographs, on the one hand, very simply reflect my love for the water but they also reflect the influence that painting has had on my understanding of photography. They play with the boundary between earth and sky and the boundary between photography and painting to suggest my belief that the language used to define and understand these two mediums has evolved, and that the emergence of a new language is upon us.


"Nature is serpentine, a bed of tangled vines, creepers and crawlers, probing dumb fingers of fetid organic life which Wordsworth taught us to call pretty."

Camille Paglia Sexual Personae

Beautiful and horrificâ?¦the concurrence of opposites, the embodiment of contradictions and the biological, slippery nature of language, thoughts about these things inform my work.

This body of work entitled Pharmakon began with a group of photographs that I took of rotting fruits and vegetables that I had around my house. Increasingly I felt that the images in this body of work began to speak to ideas about the body and intimacy. At times grotesque or surreal, this work speaks not only to my interest in the domestic and the alchemical but also to my thoughts about the loss of innocence and the acquisition of knowledge and enlightenment.

  • Pharmakon installation view

    (from left to right) "Apple (Malus pumila)", "Rattus", "Chinese Beans (Phaeolus)", "Lepidoptera", "Tree Bark", 12" x 18" each, archival inkjet from color negatives covered in resin, 2006 "She-skin", multiple inkjet prints from color negatives, resin, string, 2006 "Garden", multiple archival inkjet prints from color negatives, 2006
  • Garden, detail

    Multiple archival inkjet prints from color negatives, 2006
  • Garden, details

    A few of the images in the Garden piece; Purple cabbage, leeks, garlic.
  • Sheskin, detail

    The images are of pages from the dictionary that show various words used to describe women. They are coated with resin, sewn together and suspended.
  • Runes

    Approximately 40 plaster pieces with embedded or transfered images covered in wax, 2006.
  • I-Ching (1-8)

    Archival inkjet prints, 2006
  • I-Ching (cherries)

    Archival inkjet print, 2006
  • I-Ching (shell)

    Archival inkjet print, 2006


The symbols and myths of our culture influence identity and self esteem. Much of my inspiration comes from traditional fairy tales as well as from popular culture, films and the media. This work is created through a process of layering of both original photographs and appropriated images. I see my work as a meditation on issues of gender, desire, identity and the complexities of language (communication). The images often collide with the language of science, philosophy and religion. These basic ingredients inform my search for meaning in a complex web of interconnected systems.

Connect with Jenee


Jenee's Curated Collection

This artist has not yet created a curated collection.