Wedded to art: Jennifer Hoes, the woman who married herself

December 11th, 2006

KARL ZIPSER: Jennifer, why did you marry yourself?

JENNIFER HOES: I married myself at the moment I was prepared to embrace my own life and agree on the responsibilities that come with that. I married myself at the age my father died, I decided not to stay in the shade of his death at thirty.

Jennifer Hoes at her self-wedding in Haarlem, The Netherlands, 2003.

KARL ZIPSER: Is it not a bit self-centered to marry yourself?

Jennifer Hoes in her studio in Haarlem speaking, about porcelain objects cast from her body, with her mother.

JENNIFER HOES: I believe if a person is loyal to him- or herself, he or she he has more to offer to others — to be active, straight and involved in relationships. Therefor, by no means, is marrying yourself a self-centered act. In my wedding I needed my family and friends there as my witnesses and it was also a celebration of my relationships and intentions with them.

Installation at a big plant and flower fair in Holland: Jennifer Hoes is “Eva” in a back-projected movie within the installation; her porcelain objects represent the animals in paradise.

KARL ZIPSER: Marriage is of course more than a ceremony. There is also a wedding night . . .

JENNIFER HOES: The wedding night I spent alone and slept like a baby! I feel my wedding-night was the most logical one after a hectic day!

KARL ZIPSER: There is also a honey moon . . .

JENNIFER HOES: Unfortunately I had no money for a honeymoon, that would have been nice and welcome after the hard work.

Jennifer Hoes’ porcelain vases based on cast of her thighs [photograph: Eric van Straaten]

KARL ZIPSER: Also there is the rest of your life “together.” How does self-marriage affect your life on a day to day basis? Do you find yourself a good life-partner so far?

JENNIFER HOES: My wedding ring says “I will return to my heart every time.” I read this every day. I think the values to an individual life are pretty much the same as in a marriage, it is about how you’ll behave, about taking responsibility, about being a loving person. The promises you make in the ceremony concern good intentions. The intention to do your best, be involved, be sincere, etc. and the ceremony is something you do for the moment later when you’re making a mistake in the relationship, to remind you of your promises and to make up for your mistake. To always try your best. Of course, I’m not always happy with myself and the things I do.

KARL ZIPSER: Does your self-marriage preclude you from a traditional marriage with another man or woman?

JENNIFER HOES: I can still marry a partner. But I do feel I had my moment in white, so I’m not eager to take the trip to the city-hall again.

A nipple montage by Jennifer Hoes

KARL ZIPSER: Would it be fair to say that your wedding was an “art event”?

JENNIFER HOES: I don’t claim my work (or wedding) is art. I do, and make, what I feel I have to do or to make. The “art” label is given by others. The media, because of the wedding, tried to own me, make me say or do things. I had to verbally fight with reporters and kept most of them out of my wedding ceremony. I did not invite them. The truth is I did not reject them altogether when they did come. I enjoyed the attention, but to an extent.

Jennifer Hoes beside a nipple montage

KARL ZIPSER: Jennifer, you indeed got a lot of media attention because of your self-marriage. You present your “wedding” as an important personal experience. Wasn’t it just a publicity stunt to promote your art?

JENNIFER HOES: Today people still ask me when the next big “stunt” will be. I am hurt when people degrade my very being to a stunt. The wedding cost me a lot of time, effort and money. Also, very important, I did not make any money out of it, would also not justify it being a stunt for the sole purpose of entertaining others.

Karl, I don’t make a distinction between my life and work. Therefore my wedding can be considered “work.” It also explains why I can so easily use my own body as a tool. I believe life is a matter of design — for the biggest part we are the designers of our own lives. I believe we have more influence on our own lives then we sometimes realize. It is about taking responsibility and accountability. I use this concept in my work. At the physical level the work is based, sometimes literally, on the from of my own body. But the work is also is a projection of my heart and mind. The wedding, as something of heart and mind, is just as relevant to my work as a cast of my nipples.

Jennifer Hoes in her “Summer dress made of silk and silver.”

KARL ZIPSER: Will you take questions from readers here on Art & Perception?


. . .

30 Responses to “Wedded to art: Jennifer Hoes, the woman who married herself”

  1. Hanneke van Oosterhout Says:

    Hallo Jennifer

    Wat is de diepere betekenis van de tepelmontage vergeleken bij de betekenis van het huwelijk?

  2. Angela Ferreira Says:

    Mmmhhh I am a bit confused, but ok I am open minded about it.
    I believe there are two types of people, ones who are born to be individuals and twos who are born to be couples… and think I fit in the second category.
    I am a couple type person… I need my big hairy man next to me in bed, warming up my feet, making me breakfast in the morning… and I have the need to provide, cook and care for him too, its my nature.
    I know people like Jennifer who would marry themselves too if they could. My best friend for example she is like that and I kind of admire her in a way to be so independent!
    I believe in the romantic idea as the world being made by different opposite parts, the Yin and Yang, the night and day, the man and the woman…
    So if I made what I believe is right for me, I respect Jennifer decision if she feels she has done the right thing for herself…

  3. David Says:

    Jennifer, did you meet yourself online, or were you introduced by friends? How do you resolve disputes when you disagree? Do you ever get jealous?

  4. Karl Zipser Says:

    Hey David,

    I think you’re not taking this seriously. But in fact, “did you meet yourself online?” is a good question for anyone who does blogging. If there were not an element of self-discovery, I doubt people would spend time with it.

  5. David Says:

    I think you’re not taking this seriously.

    Karl, even though my questions are somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I also mean them seriously. These are just a few of the questions one might naturally ask about any relationship.

    Also, I’d gotten the impression from your earlier posts that the contemporary art scene in Haarlem was pretty boring. You’ve been holding out on us :)

  6. Karl Zipser Says:


    You wrote “I need my big hairy man next to me in bed, warming up my feet, making me breakfast in the morning… and I have the need to provide, cook and care for him too, its my nature.”

    It is not clear from the interview if Jennifer is a “loner” or if she has a partner, male or female. She indicates that her self-marriage enables her to have a more fulfilling relationship with others. There may be a big hairy man in Jennifer’s life after all.

  7. Karl Zipser Says:


    I’ll try to take your questions seriously then. The “did you meet yourself online?” question was interesting as I already said.

    “How do you resolve disputes when you disagree?” I suppose that is an excellent question also. I can’t answer for Jennifer, of course, but I’d like to think about if this is relevant for me, and if so, what the answer is. Can a person have a self-dispute?

    “Do you ever get jealous?” David, this question I can’t do anything with. Jealous of one’s self?

  8. David Says:

    Jennifer, have you heard the song I Married Myself by the group Sparks? It’s on their wonderful album Lil Beethoven, which came out in 2002. Here’s an excerpt from the lyrics:

    I married myself
    I’m very happy together
    Long, long walks on the beach, lovely times
    I married myself, I’m very happy together
    Candlelight dinners home, lovely times

    This time it’s gonna last, this time it’s gonna last
    Forever, forever, forever

  9. leslie holt Says:

    What a great idea. Congratulations. I am just curious about why you would make a committment to yourself in such a traditional format, with the dress and all the expense involved, etc? Why not something alternative, as it was obviously not a “traditional” wedding?

    I also love your vases!

  10. Karl Zipser Says:


    I’ve been wondering the same thing. Why the traditional wedding style, when the wedding is so inherently non-traditional?

  11. David Says:

    Why the traditional wedding style, when the wedding is so inherently non-traditional?

    Seems to me that’s the whole point. The contrast between the traditional wedding style and the non-traditional partnership.

  12. Angela Ferreira Says:

    Hey Karl isn’t marriage a vote of commitment and partnership?
    Shouldn’t Jennifer be devoted to herself as having additional partners would be an unfaithful act?

  13. David Says:

    Angela, I don’t know where Jennifer is originally from, but maybe she had to marry herself for immigration reasons.

  14. Karl Zipser Says:

    David, David David.

    Okay, you are right, the formality of the wedding is the whole point. Contrast. Life as art. I should read the interview, not just look at the pictures.


    The Dutch are pretty broad-minded as far as the concept of “open relationships” go (not that I have benefited, mind you). Maybe Jennifer has an open relationship involving a big hair man.


    Where are you anyway? You are getting some great questions here. Join the fun.


    Good thinking about the immigration issue. You should go into investigative journalism. I’m obviously missing the real news here.

  15. David Says:

    Karl, did you get a lot of free drinks on the plane?

  16. Karl Zipser Says:

    Does it still show?

  17. David Says:

    Just a wild guess :)

  18. Birgit Zipser Says:

    The ‘Summer dress made of silk and silver’ is beautiful. It makes a lot of sense to me that you married yourself considering that you are using your own body as model. Your self-marriage is a good way of insulating or isolating yourself from the public.

  19. jennifer hoes Says:

    Hallo Hanneke,
    Ik ben begonnen met het maken van afgietsel van mijn eigen tepels in natuurlatex vanwege de eigenschappen van latex. Het verkleurd, wordt poreus, is vergankelijk, net als het menselijk lichaam. Ik heb van de tepels verschillende werken gemaakt, broches, een slip en de “zelfportretten”. Dit werk is minder gelaagd dan mijn huwelijk, maar wel een onderzoek naar de betekenis van het fysieke leven.

  20. jennifer hoes Says:

    I have to say, i’m not a jealous person, never was. But i’m very familiar with “loosing myself in turbulence of society”. Therefor it’s a good thing to sometimes take time to evaluate yourself, not just the output but especially emotionaly. Everybody should be their own best friend and most reliable partner. Everybody is allowed to think outside the box of “tradition”. Why can’t I set a new tradition? (that’s not what i’m looking for, it’s just a thought). A tradition can evolve in something new, and perhaps better suited to timeframe. I do have a partner, not so big and slightly hairy. partnership is not 50%+50% it takes 100%+100% therefor it is good to be married to yourself first and it might be more like renewing vowls, I was stuck with me the day I was born, I just never chose to be untill I married myself.

  21. David Says:

    Jennifer, I’m glad Karl introduced us to your work. It makes me laugh and think. And the objects you create are very beautiful. Thanks for sharing your images and thoughts with us.

  22. jennifer hoes Says:

    David, you’re welcome.

  23. Yvette Says:

    Hi Jennifer I am soon to be 40 and had just started talking about having a ceremony for myself at my party in March and then caught your show on Rachel Ray. And I got emotional because you were doing and expressing exactly my wishes and plans for my 40th party. Missed the actual episode where you had the ceremony and sitting here now on Xmas eve waiting forever for it to download. Congratualtions to you! I am honestly happy for you. My ring will have engraved – you are born from the love of thousands. my daily mantra.
    All the best to you in all of your life endeavors.

  24. Yvette Says:

    Sorry – I made a mistake and mixed you up with the american woman. Nonetheless. I still support you and Gayle and am joining the Commited to Myself club.

  25. Celena Says:

    I feel the marriage ceremony is fantastic. We are all partner people..w/o each other how can we make it all come together. Yet without ourselves, we are nothing. Loving oneself is the single most important thing one must do. When loving oneself, that is how you can come to love and have compassion and understanding for others. (Love ones neighbor as thyself). How can you love others if you hate yourself? Many are just mirrors of your own if you think others are stupid and you hate them, how do you really feel about yourself?
    Kudos to Jennifer, although there are many women who have taken this first step to a fulfilling life, as well as quite a few men. Its nice to see it happen more often and everyones way is unique.

  26. W. E. Todd Says:

    Narcissism. Look it up.

  27. DarkestMaiden Says:

    How can I go about marrying myself aswell?

  28. Jennifer Hoes Says:

    Marrying yourself is any ceremony by your choice and wishes, in respect to your surrounding. We embrace, without questioning, ceremonies which are developed BY PEOPLE, centuries ago. Why not to design your own! Crucial part of the deal concerning marrying yourself, have it your way!

  29. Brenda Says:

    I am a fine art student and I am interested in the piece you have created using nipples. Why did you create this piece? whats the story behind it? what are you trying to express? are they casts of real nipples? I am working on a piece using casts of my nipples and casts of my children’s mouths, the mouths I have fed. I once got engaged to myself! perhaps it is an artistic thing :) Love your work.

  30. Patricia Johnson Says:

    Jennifer Hoe: I married myself on April 3, 2008 and had an informal ceremony by myself and have a framed wedding picture of myself naked, my wedding vows and a kissing mirror. After I framed the picture I said my vows, looked at my naked picture and kissed my lips on the mirror. The picture is hanging in my bedroom, and I have not shown the picture to anyone. I just cover it if anyone comes in my room. My wedding ceremony was private and personal. I just found out today that you married yourself also. The reason why I married myself was I never belonged to another person and I do everything myself. I bought my condo myself, I pay my bills, I work full-time, I have three cats, I clean my house, prepare my meals, and I am in love with my own body. So, I thought it was the thing for me to do, so I did. At least I know that someone else did the same thing. I told a few friends that I married myself, however I did not tell my relatives due to religious reasons of it being against the Bible because the Bible states it is between a man and a woman. Nobody can loves me as much as I do. Today’s date is Saturday, November 8, 2008