Artist CJ Hendry is known for her meticulous, large-format, photorealistic, black-and-white ink drawings of everyday objects, usually icons of consumer culture. For her current project, a series called “The Trophy Room,” she dipped dozens of objects — including a dildo, a teddy bear, and an Hermès Birkin bag — in bronze, photographed those bronzes, and then translated the photographs into drawings.
Hendry works quickly, in black uni-ball pen, lightly running the nib over the surface of the paper until she achieves sufficient depth. “It’s just scribbling,” she says matter-of-factly. “Crosshatching takes too long. Stippling takes too long.” Hendry tosses her empty pens — she might go through a dozen or more to complete one piece — into a Plexiglas bin. “I should have one of those guess-the-jellybeans-in-the-jar contests,” she jokes.
At 25, Hendry was a university dropout working as a sales assistant at a Chanel boutique when she gave herself a year to concentrate on art and see what would come of it. “My focus was just on buying clothes,” she says. “I was so consumed by luxury that I would spend money I didn’t have on things I didn’t need.” That cycle of consumption inspired a series of drawings of lightly crumpled designer shopping bags — each a kind of status object, one that conceals its contents as it reveals its bearer’s wealth.
Hendry drew designer handbags and shoes, too, and during that year, her drawings started to sell. Working outside the traditional gallery system, she amassed 250,000 Instagram followers, and her prices climbed. Kanye West owns a Hendry, and Floyd Mayweather and Swizz Beatz are said to have vied for the same drawing of a pair of boxing gloves.
The Birkin aside, fewer luxury objects find their way into Hendry’s work these days. “Now I’m in a position where I can go and buy pretty much anything,” she says. “I’ve just got other focuses.”