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309 Artist in Residence shares family history through art and community

309 January Artist in Resident Eniko Ujj
Jennie McKeon
WUWF Public Media
309 January Artist in Resident Eniko Ujj

As a teenager, Eniko Ujj spent time in the Pensacola punk scene going to shows. She returned to the 309 Punk House as the January artist in residence.

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“My first time going to Sluggo’s was when I was like 16. My mom dropped me off and (I remember) going to End of Line all the time. Especially for poetry nights that used to be on Wednesdays, and then I would just come here for shows as well,” said Ujj. “It was definitely part of my upbringing. The different places, like the punk-owned places and 309, just because I liked music and I liked art. And those were the kind of places that had events going on like that.”

Ujj was born in Hungary before her family moved to the United States when she was nine months old. She graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts from the University of West Florida. During the pandemic, she began a career as a mural artist.

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With the 309 residency, Ujj took the opportunity to work on a video installation project and revisit oil painting.

“I had a video installation project that I've been wanting to do that I recorded when I was in Hungary this past year, visiting my family,” said the artist. “And so I was like, oh, this is such a great opportunity to finally be able to show that work. Because you don't often get spaces for installation video. But I also wanted to do something else during the time of the residency. So, I decided to oil paint, which I haven't done in like five years. Just because oil is…you need the space for it. And I don't really have a studio space for oil at my house. And I was like, this is such a great opportunity to go back to this medium and to work with that again.”

To prepare for her time at 309, Ujj read the oral history, “A Punkhouse in the Deep South.” It inspired her to host events that brought the public in to experience her art, as well as her Hungarian culture.

“That's what sort of pushed me to do more open studio events, like the drawing club, (and) of wanting to create a sense of community,” said Ujj. “And the potluck as well — because 309 has a long history of doing potlucks and just feeding people. I wanted to share my Hungarian heritage through food as well. Because my Hungarian heritage is so a part of the pieces that I'm working on, and food is such a great way to connect with people.”

RELATED: New book shares the history of 309 Punk House through the people who lived there

For Saturday’s closing show, Ujj will host an artist talk. Inside one of the rooms of the house will be a video installation with footage of a hiking spot in the Mecsek Mountains; A place where her grandmother, an avid hiker, wants her ashes to be spread when she dies.

“I do that hike every time I go back as a sort of pre-grieving,” said Ujj. “And this past summer when I went there, I took a bunch of video footage of the hike, like me going and videoing the little bugs that I saw and the different flowers and things like that. And at the top of it are these old Roman ruins that are gorgeous. And that's where she wants her ashes spread. So I did a little ceremony using some of her embroidery thread, and I braided it into some grasses.”

Part of the installation features a phone call between Ujj and her grandmother talking about her love of hiking. While the conversation is in Hungarian, a translation of the conversation will be a part of the exhibit.

Family is a constant theme in Ujj’s work. During her residency, she painted a series of portraits of family members. As a full-time artist, she relished the time to work on something personal that could connect with people.

“What really fuels me is my more conceptual art, but you don't necessarily make money off that,” said Ujj. “I can't sell a video installation piece, but I love sharing that kind of work. I've noticed that that tends to be the most meaningful work to other people and tends to help them connect to me and to find this mutual, I don't know, catharsis through the work itself. So, I'm very grateful to have this opportunity to this month and this residency to really focus on that side of my art.”

Eniko Ujj’s closing exhibition, “Threads,” is 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27 at the 309 Punk House, located at 309 6th St. In February, the 309 Artists in Residence will be Jennie Andrews and Crystal Treamer. For more information, visit 309punkproject.org.

Jennie joined WUWF in 2018 as digital content producer and reporter.