How do we become attached to images? What is the force that pulls a person towards something? Where is the interest forged, and how is that connection solidified? Sometimes, there isn’t an explanation, or at least not one that gives itself to the written word. I was watching an interview with Noam Chomsky last night, and in it he talked about the recognition of an object, regardless of the physical presence that it embodies. Now, I could be interpreting this incorrectly, but what I took from it was the connective process, the inherent cognitive solving of a physical complication. I see this in Jana Anderson. She attaches herself to these images, and sees the abstract connection in her subject matter, much beyond the obvious. It was a pleasure to speak with her, and I hope you enjoy her insights as much as I did. Please read on to see Jana’s views on the creative process, the struggles of private creation and public display, and the importance of creating a routine for yourself. ~Amy
JAM: What is the path that has led you to where you are today?
JANA: The path to getting here has been difficult. Some days I don’t even know where I’m at, but creatively I’ve always been interested in art as a kid. It was that kind of path. I went to college thinking I was going to be an art teacher. I like kids, I like art; I thought it would be a good combination… turns out it wasn’t. I’m a one-on-one kind of person. I don’t do that great in a crowd or in a group of people, so classrooms seemed more about discipline than creating art. I slowly realized that all I really want to do is create art and that makes teaching children difficult, in terms of getting that going for myself. However, as it turns out, I am a nanny right now; it’s my full-time job. I do that and then painting. I’ve created a studio for myself for the past four years or so, and have been selling stuff the past couple of years. It’s just slowly been going together more and more, wanting to create and trying to get my name out there a little bit and see where that goes. If I can slowly back off on a full-time job that would be awesome.
Is there anyone that has been a mentor, or given you guidance on how to approach what you’re doing?
Not anymore. I had some really great professors in college that were professors and working artists, and making a living that way. I saw their solo shows throughout my college career, which was really cool to see what they were doing with traveling and stuff. I went to college in St. Paul, MN, and I moved back here about three years ago, and ever since then I’ve just been doing my own thing and seeing what happens.
Is being a full-time artist the end goal for you?
I think so. Right now I don’t have my Masters, and that is something I have been thinking about possibly wanting to do soonish, maybe. That would definitely involve teaching down the road, which is cool. Creating the art and processing through that is the goal.
What was your major in college?
Studio Arts. It was going to be Art Education but then I dropped that and it just became straight Studio Art and a minor in Art History. I became really focused really quickly. I went to a liberal arts school and stuff, and before that I always thought I was super academic because I just did everything. Once I got to college, after the first year or two, I realized I didn’t really want to do everything. I wanted to do this one thing.
How has your work developed since school?
So much. I’m 25, I’ve been out of school for three years. There’s some stuff that has definitely lasted. The subject matter has really been the thing that’s changed. In the last couple of years it’s really been all about bones, bodies, landscapes—these weird little things that I’ve attached myself to that were never there in college. So that’s been the main thing.
What’s the correlation between using landscapes and bone structure?
I’ve tried to write about this so many times because I just feel the connection, but I don’t know how to explain it all the time. It’s about the skeleton of living things, I guess. The skeleton of the land and the skeleton of the body are the two things that I’m interested in, and getting deeper into whatever’s under the surface. Like, a naked body isn’t about a naked body. It’s about the positioning and what’s going on, and the mental state, emotional, whatever. It’s more about those kinds of things. It’s the same thing with how you look at the land and where you are in that moment, as opposed to what you’re seeing and why you pick out certain things.
Your medium as of late has been oils. Have you worked with other things in the past?
I’ve done lots of things—amateur sculptor, amateur photography, kind of explored everything, but everything takes so long to really figure out. I feel like I’m just starting to figure out oils, and it feels so good, so I just keep going with it without spreading myself too thin over all sorts of different stuff.
How often do you create?
Right now, I’m working on the weekends. I have a schedule where my nanny job is Monday-Thursday, and then Friday, Saturday, Sunday are hopefully devoted to painting. I’ve been trying to keep it in balance for sure.
How long does it usually take you to finish a piece?
That is all over the place. (Pointing to three larger pieces on the wall) These are my three newest pieces, each of these would be probably 40 minutes, and they’re not done. I’m probably going to have multiple sessions with them, but my sessions with each painting usually aren’t super long. I get in a mode and then I sit back and stare at it and think about it forever. Then I’ll get back into it again.
Staring is always important.
Yes it is. It takes a long time. It’s funny, because I tell people that a lot, that I go really quickly. But that quickly painting part is not even half of it. The majority of it really is thinking about it, and thinking about where the next step is going to be. The deciding of whether or not it’s even done takes a lot of time. Overall, it’s many hours by the end of it.
Is this a narrative? Are you using models?
Most of my figures are somewhat based on me, just out of necessity. They’re not necessarily self portraits. It’s the whole [Rene] Magritte thing, ‘this is not a pipe, it is a painting of a pipe.’ It’s always a painting first. Second it might be a model or a nude figure that resembles me, and then third is where you start to get into what it might actually be about–which I don’t totally know yet, but I’ve been throwing all sorts of symbols into them. I want to do a couple more in this series. The symbol of a dog, which is fidelity, having an orange and a halo… an orange can mean a lot of things. Lust is one, freewill is another, and then halo being the obvious symbol of holiness. I’m just messing around with them and each one is going somewhere, but I don’t know where it’s going yet. I’m pumped about them, but I don’t really know yet. I’ve been really happy with each stage and thinking that there might be a story in it eventually.
Do you usually have a story when you’re finished?
It goes both ways. There’s usually an intention at the beginning, which I think is important. Having some idea or some mood that you’re trying to express or something that you’re trying to get out. I like that, but it always takes on a life of it’s own throughout the process of painting and creating. In the end you do the same thing again, you create intentions at the end point that you do at the beginning and it all wraps up I think. I think that process is similar with each thing I do, in various forms.
You show at Cliffhangers; how does that work?
There’s not really a set thing right now. I had a solo show in May, and that was really just forming an idea. It was the first time that I’ve had a show that I created an idea to go with. I had a pretty formed idea about it, it was called Eversion. Inside out-outside in. It was just all of those themes that I have in my paintings and putting them together in a process. When you walked through the gallery it told a story to me. It made sense to me. It was like ‘this has to go in the beginning, this has to be in the end.’ I made a zine that went with it, so that was really formed.
Do you ever incorporate writing into your paintings, or are your zines just a separate medium to explore?
I haven’t in my canvas paintings; it’s something I’ve definitely thought about. It’s fun to do, to create this, because I write poetry and I do art separately. I like the idea of putting them together, but I haven’t really with any of my canvas stuff. Not yet.
When you were working with your other mediums in the past, such as photography and sculpture, what was the subject matter you were using then?
Sculpture I did a lot of stuff with hands. They were my main thing that I liked to sculpt, just because they’re so intricate. There are a lot of facets that you can explore with clay. It all comes down to the body. Just some sort of organic figure and shapes.
Do you do a lot of drawing?
Here and there. There’s drawing in the painting, for sure. I draw with paint. I have sketchbooks everywhere, but drawings aren’t usually the finished project. I’m working on some portraits of children right now that are drawings, but those are for the various families that I work for.
Do you want to talk more about your creative process? What happens when that spark flies?
I have a few different ways I do it. Lately I’ve been trying to focus more on the idea of a routine at the beginning of the process. The whole Friday-Saturday-Sunday thing is the routine. I get up in the morning on those days and it’s like this is what it’s about. Today I am in here. I make my cup of coffee and if I don’t have an idea I just deal with it. Figure it out. That’s been more the process lately, just because I’ve been wanting to produce more. When I have the idea that I have to create a masterpiece right from the get-go—that never works. The idea of doing something is where I’m starting with right now. It wasn’t always that way, but I think it’s gotten better in the last couple of months. I’ve actually been able to stick with the routine a little bit more, when I’m not working and I’m saying no to babysitting gigs on the weekend.
Do you find there are struggles you run into when creating?
All the time. Even talking about that is a struggle. I come in here and I’m not always doing something. I’ll come in here and I’ll sit for hours and be reading and thinking and not come up with anything for hours. Feeling inadequate all the time—it’s a constant struggle. Nothing about creating stuff is easy, I don’t think anyway.
Do you feel like you have a responsibility as an artist, with what you’re trying to produce? What do you want people to take from what you’re creating?
Right now, no. It’s more a responsibility to myself to be honest. Honesty and truth doesn’t always have a word to it. I don’t always know what that means, when I’m trying to be honest. Some of the things that I do, some of the commissions, they don’t feel like that. They feel like I’m trying to please someone else. It’s more about pleasing myself than trying to get at something deeper within. If I can do that I feel like I’ve done my job, which doesn’t happen in everything, obviously. It’s more about that right now. It’s such a private experience to create, because I don’t collaborate with other artists that often, I don’t know that many. So it’s me in here, by myself. It’s all about that. Just dealing with myself and dealing with whatever I’m trying to get out. When I do that, and take the art out of the studio, that’s when I start to feel really vulnerable, and realize what I may have glossed over.
Do you do a lot of commissioned work?
It’s been a friend-of-a-friend kind of thing. Like, “I have a space and need this size of canvas.” When it’s specific portraits, I’m not always happy with them. I have one exciting project that I’m super pumped about. I’m going up to Duluth for a family of a friend of mine, they own property up there and they want me to come up four times this year and do essentially four season paintings. They just want me to do landscape paintings of their property over the course of the next year, so four different times. That is like the perfect idea of a commission, where they just let me do my thing. They like the landscapes I’ve done, so they just wanted to see my perspective of their land. That’ll be really cool.
Do you feel like you have a good handle on the business aspect of art?
(Laughing) No. I’m just kind of getting there. It hasn’t always seemed important, and I hadn’t always known if I wanted it to be a business. Working with Cliffhangers has definitely helped me see, both in positive and negative ways, how much of a business it needs to be if you want to be successful in the public eye. Success definitely has different definitions for yourself, how you’re being viewed, but when it comes to actually wanting to sell and getting your work into other people’s homes and other people’s walls, it really does become more about being a business woman too. Cliffhangers has been a huge opportunity just to have an outlet to public viewing at all times. My work is always up there and hopefully will be for a while, which is good. And I sell things here and there. Trying to vary my stuff a little bit, like having prints available. I’m trying to get a handle on that, but I’m not very good at it though.
It’s a lot to take into account. Do you show anywhere besides Cliffhangers?
Not since I’ve been in there. I’ve been with them for about a year. It’s been enough right now. I don’t produce things super quickly, it’s not like I have a new piece every week that I’m ready to sell. I’ve just been sticking to that. Before moving back here I had shown in Minneapolis in different places, but Cliffhangers is representing me to some extent right now.
Do you go to shows outside of Cliffhangers?
Yeah, I went to one of the Frislie’s shows this summer. I’ve been to 8th and Railroad for a few different things. I’ve been to Rehfeld’s and some of their events too. When Exposure was out and about I went to a couple of their shows.
Is there anything you’d like to see changed or developed in Sioux Falls, in regards to the art community?
I’d just like the art community in general to be taken more seriously as art. I know there’s not that many commercial galleries, but I respect them. I had internships in Minneapolis and I studied abroad in college in England, but all in commercial galleries. You sometimes think that percentage that gets taken out is the devil, and that they’re “the man.” When you have galleries that really respect art, and are searching for good work, for fine art, it’s really a pretty good place to be and be involved in. I think that it’s what helps the public see art as respectable and can push the community or the viewers to think of art differently. Just for there to be more of that. I wish there were more galleries, more shows going on where the artist benefits from money being spent, and money is put towards quality as opposed to maybe a famous name or work from out-of-town. I think there are a lot of people in town that buy art, but they don’t always know what they’re looking at, or why they’re buying what they’re buying. So just… more. 
Amy Jarding is a visual artist living in Sioux Falls. She is a co-founder of JAM, and an editor/contributor to the JAM blog. She enjoys experimenting with different mediums, and has just recently built herself a 4’x4′ weaving loom to keep her busy during South Dakota’s seemingly endless winters.