In Profile

Jennifer DeCarlo

BY Sarah Schmerler, November 2, 2015

”Efficient and pleasant multi-tasker” ought to be at the top of the job description for any art dealer. Just ask Jennifer DeCarlo – if you can catch up to her. Chances are you will find the 34-year-old at her gallery, jdc Fine Art, in San Diego, where she showcases the work of lesser-known contemporary photographers. But on a recent Monday, we found her walking the aisles of Home Depot, shopping for spackle and touch-up paint. “I think sometimes it would to be easier to be a private dealer, but you never know who you might convert by having your door open,” she says. “What I call the ‘social consumers’ – the people who can only afford to buy the museum postcard today – might one day become collectors, who knows? They make the art world thrive, and I think that’s great.”

Naturally gregarious, DeCarlo grew up in the Elm Grove suburb of Milwaukee, making regular trips with her younger sister, Kristen, and their grandmother to Chicago’s art museums. Summers were spent on Wisconsin’s Lake Geneva, doing water rescue. At Knox College in Illinois, she pursued a double major in French and studio art, studying abroad near the Jura Mountains of France. DeCarlo’s own photography got her into the MFA program of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and, though she thrived there artistically, graduation three years later found her soul searching – and job searching – in Chicago. “Sending out all those applications on your computer – you feel so removed. So one day, to lift my spirits I visited the gallery district, and I walked into Martha Schneider Gallery. I was so impacted by everything I saw. I truly felt I needed to be there. I chatted with Martha, and she said, ‘right now we just need someone to pack the boxes’ and I said ‘yeah I’ll pack up the boxes – that way I’ll know where everything goes!”

Over the next three years, DeCarlo’s learning curve was steep and rewarding – she gained a mentor in Schneider, who eventually offered her the chance to take over the business when Schneider was on the brink of downsizing. DeCarlo’s soon-to-be husband was moving to San Diego, however, and DeCarlo went with him. After six months of job hunting while working as the administrator of the AIPAD website, DeCarlo found herself missing the artists she had cultivated with Schneider. “I realized, I don’t need to be there – I can do it here,” she says. “I called Martha and asked her blessing. I found an affordable space, mustered my courage, and jumped in.”

Today, DeCarlo’s eclectic stable favors work with complex and often elegiac narratives, including imagery by Mexican-born Tatiana Parcero, who overlays images of her own body with cosmological maps and anatomical diagrams, and Paul Turounet, whose recent exhibition at the New Mexico State University Art Gallery displayed his photographs of illegal immigrants on an actual wall salvaged from the border between the U.S. and Mexico. “The border is just 20 minutes from my house,” says DeCarlo. “We should just have as our motto ‘Let Art Lead The Way.’ I may run this gallery by myself, but I almost always use the plural when I refer to what we do here. It’s the artists, and all the collaborators, and all the vast issues that surround us. It’s not just me.”