Interview: Janette K Hopper
Luca Curci talks with Janette K Hopper during BODYSPACES, first appointment of CANVAS INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR 2023, at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
As a recipient of two prestigious Fulbright Scholarships, one from Denmark and one from the United States, she spent a year teaching and painting in Denmark and exhibiting in European one-person shows and, as a member of Paleur International, group exhibits. Her works have been in over 250 solo, invitational and group shows in art centres, galleries and in juried exhibitions in the United States and internationally. Her art has been collected extensively in over 60 public art venues, principally in museums, colleges and universities and also in private collections in the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Spain, Canada and the Netherlands. In the US her paintings and prints were shown with New York artists in the Lincoln Center in NYC and included in a Fulbright juried retrospective in Washington, DC. She has a MFA from the University of Oregon, has taught in Denmark, Italy, Germany and in the United States and served two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Maria la Baja Colombia, SA. Recently, she was the featured artist at a benefit for Coastal Land Trust held by Big Sky Design in Wilmington, NC. Her works were also shown at the Annual Fulbright Conference and invitational print shows in Spain, Portugal and Poland (2022). She had a solo art show in Noja Spain and a short film in the 13th Edition (2021) of the Venice (Italy) International Art Fair. She participated in a month-long invitational virtual residency in Buenos Aries with the Programa Internacional De Residencias Artisticas (ACE) in 2020. In the summer of 2019, she was selected to be a part of the prestigious Simposio Internacional de Artistas XIX in Noja Spain. WILMA Magazine has named her a “Woman to Watch‘’ in the arts and she was the Juror Judge of the 2018 Official North Carolina Azalea Festival Art Show.
Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Janette K Hopper – Art is Life. My art can be both contemplative and provocative. It can be in any media and come from any culture. My art can inspire change or be meditative. Something comes out of every single experience I have, and all my channels of creativity feed one another. Whether it is calling on humanity to preserve oceans or encouraging people to see the wonders of nature and speak out for each other or the planet, it is important work I wish to share. From film and performance and handmade masks from natural material I collect to large-scale panorama oil paintings to sumi ink-inspired seascapes to comic strip like political linoleum cuts to mixed media works, the scope and diversity of my work is enormous in each venue.
LC – What’s your background?
JKH – As a child, I asked for art materials to make murals when I still could only say “burals”. I attended two years at the university studying art before joining the Peace Corps and working in nutrition for two years in Colombia, South America which developed my interest in international experiences. I came back and spent years as a partner in a ranch, having two daughters and painting many watercolours. I returned to the university and earned the highest degree in the practising arts at the University of Oregon in Painting and Drawing. Upon graduating, I began my career as a professor and fine artist. I received two Fulbright Grants in Denmark and spent a year there painting and teaching. I chaired the art department and taught as Professor at University of North Carolina Pembroke. There I continued my own artwork and enjoyed an international relationship with a university in Ludwigsburg, Germany where I taught and exhibited my work. My art has been in over 250 exhibits across the world. I now commit my life to full-time art production and travel with the help of Charles Kernan who is my husband, photographer and publicist.
LC – What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
JKH – What an artist needs is time to focus and work. Artist residencies have always influenced me and given me new momentum. The film in this exhibit is a collaboration with an artist that I met in the pandemic doing an online artist residency called “Together Apart” sponsored by Programa Internacional de Residencias Artisticas (ACE) in Argentina. After the residency, Ariana Pirela Sanchez, a Venezuelan in Montreal, Canada and I continued to make films together. In a time when we isolated from others, we were able to become creative together using social media on our computers. Another residency, “No Boundaries International Art Colony” offered me a special place on Bald Head Island, North Carolina where artists come together to focus on work in a beautiful setting. I enjoyed placing work in and meeting people during the exhibit held at the culmination. A third residency, Simposio Internacional de Artistas en Noja Spain (SIANOJA) connected me with the whole world of incredible international artists and the right combination of time to work, food and exposure to speakers from curators to spectacular artists. These experiences and others have encouraged me and connected me with important inspiring friends.
LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
JKH – For me being out in nature hiking or kayaking or biking inspires me. It is the firsthand experience and the contemplation that sparks my creative spirit. The human body and difficult problems to solve in the world inspire me to use the subjects of social justice or political comment in my linoleum cuts that always include the body Other artists both living and masters from history make me want to work and remind me of artistic ideas that I wish to pursue. My work is influenced most by nature and human relationships. I want to raise consciousness and self-awareness so we can make the world a better place. I am particularly interested in the artists and ideas of Romanticism and those artists that were also influenced by those ideals such as Rothko, Richter and Anselm Kiefer. I love to develop luminosity and drama in my oils-I want my work to be spontaneous and express feelings but I also want my work to be painterly so growing up with the abstract painters, I am interested in listening to the paint as it unfolds, composing and making interesting use of the materials I am working with.
LC – Which art themes do you pursue?
JKH – I pursue the figure and the figure in settings and the panoramic landscape focusing on sky and water and the light and drama of that scene. Sometimes just the feelings I have for nature particularly painting clouds and water and other times social comments often concern nature and human beings.
LC – What is your preferred subject, if there is any?
JKH – Whatever I am working on at the time. I am trying to make my work speak and I am focusing on developing it to an aesthetic level. I believe even if the subject is difficult that the artwork will still show the signs of the artist’s hand and mind.
LC – Do visitors suggestions enrich yourself and your art?
JKH – I do listen to what people have to say about my art. I have learned to ask why they like something and follow up with comments to see what they see in my work. When I was in Denmark, I found the student interpretations of works to be fascinating and that influenced me to develop a body of Adam and Eve linocuts that dealt with a man and woman being together in a particular scene after I had made just one for a student demonstration. I think there are now over 50 of these the last being ones that I developed for Merida, Mexico. What is interesting in a narrative is what the story tells that I the artist does not expect.
LC – What is the message linked to the artwork you have shown in this event?
JKH – The message is that we have to change ourselves to change the world. It is about our relationship to the ocean and the sadness of global warming. “Reframing the Self/ Recrader le soi/ Replanteando el yo” is a collaboration of myself doing the performance, writing and reading the Haikus and Ariana Pirela Sanchez who was a co-director and her marvelous editing of the film was so welcomed. I am viewing the ocean’s many aspects; it’s personal inspiration, its dangerous warming and flooding. I felt it particularly would speak to the people of Venice who’s treasures are under threat from the rising ocean. In order to change the world, we have to reframe ourselves to leave a smaller footprint and join hands in a giant wave of concern and togetherness. Charles Kernan shot the film of my performances and put together the credits. Tony Murnahan wrote the original music to accompany the images and inserted my voice. Without all of these collaborators, I could not have accomplished and finished this short film.
LC – How is it connected to the theme of the entire exhibition?
JKH – I have performed in the film using my body and my voice reading haikus that I wrote to express the urgency of ocean changes and what the ocean means to us as humans-One thing I like about performance art is that the body becomes the vehicle, the medium of expression. I suppose the film is the canvas that I paint on with my own body. In the film that is shown, I use the body to tell the story and also masks that I have made out of natural materials. The masks are another reason that I brought the film to Venice. I find the materials while walking in nature. In this particular film the masks are derivative of the natural forms of plants, shells and so forth that wash up on the beach. The masks in native cultures have always been symbols of death so I believe again that this addresses the spirit of the exhibit and of my particular response to it.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the exhibition?
JKH – I like the themes of your exhibitions as they make people think and they require the artist to make or fit their work into the ideas of the exhibit. There was a broad range of responses in this exhibit and I am glad I could be present to see and hear the responses from paintings to performances.
LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
JKH – The organization was successful as there was a good crowd there and the performances added life to the event.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
JKH – Well, you make it easy to participate and any artist that would like exposure can benefit from Itsliquid.
LC – Is there something more we can provide to artists?
JKH – The opportunity to exhibit and experience Venice was a privilege. Thank you.