Photos by Steve Smith, VisionFire Studios
Acrylic and newspaper on raw canvas. 32” H X 42” W
The figure in the painting was influenced by an art work I did called Sign of Peace; marker, oil pastel on paper 17” H X 13.5” W.
There is a freedom and sense of abandon I find when working with markers and oil pastel on paper that is a worthy challenge to reinterpret and convey with paint.
This was the first piece I did in the “Covering The News” series and as such has the spirit and intent of the series. You can see traces of the articles showing through…such as…”Broad crackdown includes new rules on deportations and the targeting of sanctuary cities.” “President Trump’s executive order to immediately start construction of a border wall has widened his rift with Mexico and placed pressure on Mexican President…”
I like the rawness of working on unprimed canvas and the textures and effects that happen when paint is applied. The words added speak to the needs of the times…“protect civil liberties…justice for all…freedom…shared humanity.”
It was one of those nippy and nose numbing winter mornings when I spotted Janet Wallace displaying prints of her original artwork at the New Glasgow Farmers Market. It seemed a bit incongruous to her surroundings from only a few months ago when she still lived in the sunshine bathed city of Los Angeles, California. A change in life’s circumstances called her back to her old stomping grounds in the North End of New Glasgow. But Janet welcomes change. She seeks it, asks for it and responds to it in almost every aspect of her life. Change is the gesso of her artwork and the base layer of what is driving her current collection of paintings “Art For Change.”
Art and travel are authentic pieces of Janet’s being. She emerged from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in the early 70s when a second wave of women’s rights activism was washing over a new generation. She was a child of this new era. The issues driving the women’s movement had made their impact and she would eventually find her way to express her ideals. Her evolving perceptions of the world would soon be stamped into the ink of her passport. For a year Janet travelled around the world with a cohort of a dozen other students selected to participate in a sponsored program through NSCAD called “World Encounter” allowing them to experience different cultures. It was a trip that would change Janet’s view of global cultural affairs for the rest of her life.
“One of my professors expressed that the trip would be a success if it evoked change in us,” says Janet reminiscing about her start in life. “I spent four months in India where I was introduced to the practice of connecting with ones inner self. This has become a core understanding and effort for me. A lot of my adult life has been tied into and influenced by this practice.”
After returning from her travels she started her life as a professional artist. She cultivated experiences in Halifax, Toronto and Vancouver making a mark in the world of fashion in the 80s and early 90s where bold style and colours were the hottest trends. Her company Art Marks, created original clothing and product designs with silk-screened and hand-painted surface images. Art Marks items were sold through high-end stores and boutiques in Vancouver, Los Angeles, and New York.
It was an exciting time in Janet’s life. Current affairs and issues about indigenous culture, environment and equality continually bubbled up in her work. She replanted herself in the beach city of Malibu, California and began working in South Central Los Angeles around the time of the riots and the civil unrest that stemmed from the acquittal of four white Los Angeles police officers after the beating of black motorist Rodney King.
“It was tumultuous a time both personally and collectively,” says Janet of her introduction to life in LA.
“I was an immigrant speaking the same language but formed by a different culture.” But despite the unsettled political times, a few earthquakes and fires not far from her Malibu Canyon home Janet says that she found a magic and a charm to her life in California.
While her work in textiles brought her to LA she also began teaching art in Malibu and had an opportunity to do a large scale mural project in LA which led to her self-producing grant-funded murals with statements and ties to community development, ethnic diversity and protection of the environment. She completed more than 40 murals during her time in LA including one on the Santa Monica Pier. “I enjoy projects that have significance to community and I love working with students. I have taught art for years and I have always loved the art that children produce,” says Janet.
Unbeknownst to her at the time, life in LA was coming full circle. She had arrived in the City of Angels at a time of turmoil and she would start to prepare for her departure in the maelstrom of the first few years of Trump’s presidency.
Janet was one of an estimated 750,000 people who gathered in a friendly protest in downtown LA to be part of a nationwide act of solidarity to send a message to newly elected Donald Trump. Hundreds and thousands of women and men packed the streets calling for equal rights and defending civil liberties. The voices in the Women’s March would echo across North America and European countries. As marches unfolded in communities from Sandy Cove Nova Scotia to Versailles France and plans for consecutive years commenced, Janet embarked on her own response to the events and created a series of 27 paintings she titled “Covering the News.” The first piece, “Shared Humanity” perpetuates the themes and the spirit of the series. Using newspaper clippings in background citing the headlines of President Trump’s bold crackdowns Janet created a multitude of textures and effects. A primitive human form finds its shape in the middle of the canvas and is given a voice with the words, “civil liberties,” “justice for all,” “freedom,” and “shared humanity.”
While in LA Janet did three exhibits of her “Art For Change” series in part to support the Womens March, ACLU and Indivisible. Two events included speakers from the action groups and music for change.
In 2018 Janet was one of a handful of artists invited to showcase and sell artwork and posters at the second Women’s March in LA. Many of the prints of her artwork ended up on the placards carried during the demonstrations. Janet appreciated the vantage point of seeing the flow of the half million attendees walk by with what felt like deeper commitment from the first year which was fuelled more by anger and frustration.
This year Janet and her paintings are starting to find their place in a community that will always be home. Again she finds herself re-adapting to a culture that was once so familiar but has evolved since her departure several decades ago. She is connecting to organizations that have synergies to her personal doctrine. Seven pieces of her recent artwork series are on display at the Museum of Industry in Stellarton and a special exhibit “Celebrating Women” in conjunction with International Day of Women is at Studio Lab Gallery in New Glasgow. Both exhibits close March 30th. She is now preparing a new exhibit of paintings at The Bistro in New Glasgow during April, May and June. There will be an opening on Sunday April 7th from 2-4 pm with artist talk at 3pm.
Janet believes that her artwork will continue to respond to what she feels needs to be adjusted and what needs attention.
“You have to be authentic to yourself and stand up for what you believe in.” My work is a response to the imbalance that continues to exist,” says Janet. “Each generation is getting a little better but there is still a great need for change and it’s important that we keep talking about these things that really matter and to evoke whatever change is necessary.”
I am a huge fan of Anne Frank and this piece is inspired and influenced by two smaller pieces I did that were from my artwork series Change collages – colour pencil, marker, print on paper 17” H X 11” W.
As I started the painting of Anne I also wrote
two quotes from Anne around the perimeter
of the piece.
“I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe people are really good at heart.”
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
It amazes me that a young girl in such adverse circumstances could express so much wisdom, clarity, love and hope. Such inspiration.
Incredible words from a young girl that certainly are useful today! I always am inspired by the young Anne Frank who has uplifted countless people through her writings. If a young girl could make such a difference through her diary there is hope for change.
Headlines and subhead of the underlying articles “CONFUSION REIGNS” “Trump calls travel ban a success as chaos mounts on many fronts” “Trump order sparks outcry”
I like that one of the main things showing through from the underlying articles is a poster saying “IMMIGRANTS ARE WELCOME HERE.”
“Annelies Marie Frank 12 June 1929 – February or March 1945) was a German-born diarist and writer. One of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust, she gained fame posthumously following the publication of her diary, The Diary of a Young Girl (originally Het Achterhuis; English: The Secret Annex), which documents her life in hiding from 1942 to 1944, during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. It is one of the world’s most widely known books and has been the basis for several plays and films.”
To learn more about Janet’s work you can visit her websites: janetwallace-art.com and coverinthenewsart.com