Since graduating from Baylor University as a University Scholar in 2004, artist Jen Dunlap has lived in New York for about 10 years, then Los Angeles with some five cross-country trips and several Waco visits in that time.

When it came to titling the show that opens Thursday at Art Center of Waco, Dunlap decided to adapt the title of one of her solo LA shows, going from “Self Chases Shadow” to “Self Chases Home.”

“It’s been a quest to find your home, the place where you feel grounded, where you feel at ease,” she said. Los Angeles is that now for the Houston native, more so than New York City, but Waco has a partial claim as well, thanks to her years at Baylor and her grandmother Betty Dunlap, a Waco resident who died last August. “Waco’s been a pretty substantial home for me,” she said.

Dunlap’s show encompasses about 20 abstract landscape paintings, photographs and digital video pieces, a reflection of her wide-ranging artist output and interests. While a University Scholar leaning toward art, she found her classes in sculpture, ceramics and photography equally compelling. She turned to performance art for her senior project “Art Is For Eating,” baking cake sculptures to go with her food paintings, then, with the help of several costumed, dancing friends, fed cake to visitors in the gallery.

“Different media can better express what you’re trying to say,” she explained. “I also want to try and have fun with it.”

Diversity played a part to in trying to survive as a freelance artist in New York City and Los Angeles and Dunlap broadened her reach to encompass production design and digital video, with such clients as Hollywood’s Mike Nichols and Ethan Hawke, UnderArmour, Dell, CollegeHumor, USA Today and fashion designer Derek Lam. She also has done artist residencies in Mexico City and Vermont.

Many of the works in “Self Chases Home” come from travels she made after the wear and tear of a decade in New York City was starting to get to her. She responded to a tug of nature by traveling cross-country to visit such places as the Everglades, Yellowstone National Park, Malibu, Marfa, Red Rock Canyon and more.

Photographs she took on those trips served as reference points for her abstract paintings, with her memories of those places heightened by an expanded color palette, much in the style of Fauvist painters. “It amplified what I remember, an expansive abstract of my memory,” she said. “There are a lot of robust colors I use. It brings out the energy that you see when you’re there.”

Dunlap is in Waco this week and will talk about her work in a reception opening the show Thursday night. After that, there’s more travel and art ahead for a self that’s still chasing home. “I’m going to Orlando, Florida, for a production design project . . . and then have a few video pieces to finish in the desert — before it gets too hot,” she said.

Tribune-Herald entertainment editor