Q&A with Painters Jeanette Mundt and Ned Vena

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

Mundt and Vena sat down with Okay Cool Magazine to share how they navigate jealousy and competitiveness while being in the same line of work as their romantic partner.

words by Kitty Knorr

*The original version of this interview can be found in Okay Cool Magazine Issue #2

In a few sentences, can you share a little bit about the each of you and what you’re currently working on, or your latest project?

Jeanette Mundt - I’m a painter and writer living in New York.  I was born in the US, and I grew up in Zurich, Switzerland and I moved back to America to go to university. I am currently working on paintings for a show at a gallery in Manhattan that will open in early 2020.

Ned Vena - I’m 37 and I’ve lived in New York City since 2004. I’m a painter. I use digital printing technologies combined with expressionistic painting to produce works that attempt to reflect the possibilities painting presents to how we look at space and images as those terms and their parameters are being constantly redefined.

How long have you been together? Were you both pursuing art when you first started dating?

J - We have been together for 16 years and we were both artists when we met, yes, though neither of us were showing at the time.

N - We’ve been together since 2003. In 2003 I had no idea what pursuing art meant, and my understanding of pursuing art has continued to change since then. I presume it will continue to.

Has your “style” of work ever reflected or responded to your partner’s at any point in time?

J - We are in constant conversation. I ask Ned about ideas, executing paintings, and exhibiting work - every stage of my “art-making” involves Ned on some level.  We have exhibited together a couple of times. The first time we worked to make works together and we exhibited the installation in Milan, Italy. Recently we worked more in dialogue than collaboration when I began making ‘copies’ of Ned works.  He was making paintings of the tattoos on his body using a photographic-based printing process and painting, so I made oil paintings of a number of his works. We exhibited these works at a gallery in Manhattan in the summer of 2018.

N - Jeanette’s work is different from mine. She is capable of things I could not do, or that I am not willing to do in my own work. We discuss painting and our work every day, so in a way I feel that I am able to participate in a painting practice and conversation outside of my own simply by my proximity to her. She is the person I trust the most to look at my work and discuss my ideas, and we both have very strong opinions of painting. In that sense I feel that my is always a response and reflection of her own. She is an incredibly brave and courageous mark maker and image producer, which I take as a prompt to push myself the way she does, but to a different end.

Who had a taste of “success” first? What was the experience like for the other person?

J - Ned began showing and selling works much earlier than I did.  It was confusing on a number of levels, and I certainly felt quite a bit of jealousy and frustration.  I was very aware, at the same time, of how great of an artist Ned is, how smart and ambitious he is, and so I was able to focus on these elements when the frustration of not exhibiting and selling at the same pace as Ned began getting in the way of our relationship. I had to sit myself down and make very clear the positives of Ned experiencing a degree of “success” before I did. And my awareness of these positives allowed me to focus and keep working at my own pace.

N - With regard to professional success within the art world, I was. I won’t speak for Jeanette’s experience, however, my own experience with this was confusing and turbulent. It was also amazing and a tremendous opportunity. Perhaps it’s possible to interpret how this spectrum of response could have an influence on a relationship.

Describe a time when a career move put a stress on your relationship, how did you work through it?

J - We haven’t really experienced this. The only thing I can think that might fit is when I moved to New Jersey to pursue a degree. This put some strain on us just because we were physically apart for a lot of the time.  But it was entirely manageable.

N - Kind of like what I said before regarding how my style of work has been a reflection or a response to Jeanette’s. I trust Jeanette more than anyone and she has helped me with any career move I’ve made. We give each other a lot of space to be ourselves, I think that we choose to share these things with each other and we are fortunate to be able to do so.

On the flipside, has your relationship ever affec