Jane Fleming, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the month of July 2019, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Jane some questions about her work and studio practice:
Q: To start off, tell us about your background.
My path to becoming a visual artist has been rather non-traditional. I grew up in Virginia and moved to Texas in 2014, where I have lived ever since. I received my B.A. in English from the University of Texas at El Paso and am currently pursuing my PhD in English from the University of Texas at Austin. I have always been a creative writer, focusing primarily on poetry and creative non-fiction, but had never really considered myself a visual “artist.” In 2016, I began to create small collages as a compliment to my writing— a way of working out the things that I couldn’t yet form into words.
My collage practice morphed to include painting with acrylics, which I began to learn with the help of YouTube videos and guidance from my twin brother, Jordan Aman, who has a BFA in studio art from Florida State University. From there, something really clicked. Like my writing, the creation of my collages became almost compulsive. I have totally fallen in love with the ever-growing and changing artistic practice.
Q: How would you describe your work?
All of my work is mixed media— usually acrylic paint with images found in old magazines and used books. I often joke that my preferred aesthetic is “naked ladies in space” because most of my pieces have some kind of cosmic backdrop and nod towards my fascination with the female form.
Like my writing, though, my art tends to play with the experience of internal chaos alongside the presence of what I consider aesthetically beautiful. I am an artist, like many, who struggles with mental illness, so I am all about working through those struggles in my art. The road to recovery from depressive episodes and intense anxiety is as beautiful as it can be dark and exhausting. I think a lot of my work mimics that.
Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
In addition to writing and visual art, I also do a lot of flow dancing, which is basically a form of dancing that relies on the music and gut instinct to determine movement (that’s a crude description, but it is hard to describe). I think about it as a form of meditation. I am placing my faith in the medium of creative production and trusting my creative instincts to perform the right movement. My process for creating art is very similar.
Usually, I start with an image from a book or magazine that has really gotten stuck in my mind— a figure, a face, a background. I choose the major color for the background and paint a primary layer. Then, I begin to lay out the piece with other objects, images, etc. that feel right. When I have a basic composition, I sit with the piece and ask it what it wants to be. I find that my most successful pieces form narratives organically throughout the process of creation. Usually, what I think I am creating when I begin is nothing like what the piece ends up looking like in the end.
Q: What type of music do you listen to? How does music affect your artwork?
The music that I listen to has a huge influence on the art that I create. When I get into the “zone” it is almost always accompanied with a deep dive into my favorite albums. That said, my taste is pretty erratic. By far, the album that I listen to the most while working is Pink Floyd’s The Wall. I just love the performative nature of the album and the feeling that you are going down the rabbit hole with the band. When I am really jamming hard with a piece, I feel like I’m heading down a rabbit hole too, so it jibes perfectly.
Otherwise, I am a big fan of what I lovingly call “sad girl music,” which is basically female indie singer/songwriters who wear their hearts on their sleeves. Some of my recent favorites are Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, Hop Along, Slothrust, and Boygenius.
Q: Do you collect artwork?
Yes! Absolutely. Mostly, I buy art from local artists at craft fairs and art markets. I just love picking up prints or originals that both support local artists and are emblematic of the places that we live and have visited.
I am also lucky enough to have a family that also values art production and collecting, so some of my most treasured pieces in our collection have been passed down. My favorite piece is without a doubt one of those gifts. It is a paper cast from New Mexican artist, Dolona Roberts, which was gifted to us by my grandparents for my husband and I’s wedding.
Q: Who inspires you and why?
Unsurprisingly, a lot of my pieces have a literary influence. I often get lines from books and poetry stuck in my head and write it on the wood/canvas before I begin painting. So, you could say that the heart of my visual art is always literary.
In the art world I have a lot of influences, but for collage, my favorite is undoubtedly Sebastian Wahl. I love the Wahl’s clean composition and the dynamism/movement of his collages. I am always trying to emulate that in my work.
Q: What are your goals for this residency?
My biggest goal for this residency is to play. I hope to really experiment with material and form. Recently, I have begun using butcher paper and wheat paste rather than wood for my collages and I would like to continue working with that.
Additionally, I have a series that I have been working on called “To Wander,” which I would really like to expand upon. The series gets its name from John Milton’s use of the word “wander” in his epic, Paradise Lost. In Paradise Lost, it is Eve’s wandering that leads to the “fall of man.” Milton uses “wander” from the latinate root for the verb “to err,” thereby suggesting that a wanderer is, in fact erring. I interact with this interpretation in two ways. First, my series produces “Eves” that wander on purpose. They are fully in control of their processes of discovery. Additionally, these Eves are centered rather than the tragical Adam. They are engaging in a pleasurable wandering– one that is productive for its pleasure, rather than reductive for its erring.
I haven’t yet found a place for this series, but I am excited about where it will take me with its narrative.
Q: What’s next for you?
I have two full-length collections of poetry and lyric essays coming out in 2020 with Rhythm and Bones Press and Chaleur Press, so I am working hard on getting those manuscripts ready to go. With my visual art, I intend to keep producing and working on getting involved in the artistic community here in Austin. I am hoping to have opportunities to show my work before the end of the year and have faith that those opportunities will fall into place!
Q: Where else can we find you?
I am very active on social media and have a personal blog. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram at @queenjaneapx. I also run a blog called Luna Speaks, which houses my artistic portfolio in addition to interviews with other artists and authors, and a creative writing series. You can find that at lunaspeaksblog.com.