Interviewsand Articles


Janine Brown: An Excerpt From An Artist's Journal

by Janine Brown, Feb 10, 2009



These paintings are a road.  No, it is a road these paintings are on: the buying of the paper, the place to work, the drawing, the hanging up and the putting down, into the portfolio and out of the portfolio, a little more work, another trip to the art store; thinking: the painting or the road? The thing and the process: the gallery, the showing, the slides, the mats, the portfolio, the viewers, the comments.  Where, what is this road? The shapes, the forms, the colors, composition.  It is not a picture of the road. It is the road. Like life. It is not the breakfast, the house, the starting up of the car, the trip to the gas station, the supermarket, the dressing of children. Each stop is not the road, nor is it the end of the road. The road does not wind through the aisles of a supermarket, I with my cart, choosing sugar, vinegar and salt; it is not a rounded shape with crystalline forms whitish, pink angling down from left to right. The road is me sitting at my table, the pastels to my right, the finished pictures on the wall, the unfinished in front of me, the soup simmering, the children to be picked up in half an hour, the light playing on the wisteria out the window as I lift my hand to choose a color.

lt is me, circling like a dervish in slow motion, the events unfurling out of my imagination, like a hawk sailing on the wind, memories unfolding one within another, as a child in a yard, bees humming, lost in a world of paints and crayons; or later, storms, thunder, rain ice-cold in a desert night protecting myself with inner images of light. Other times, brisk mountain air watching hawks circling over rocky slopes falling away below; where are they now, those hawks, that child? Where is the mother of that child? Sitting, reading, remembering, once I had a child, so long ago she sat on the floor with crayons covering sheets of paper hour after hour while I sat reading or I washed dishes and thought of other things, dressed other children. And where are these children now? Working in an office, unfurling letter after letter on a typewriter, the cup of coffee steaming, office workers laughing in the background. And the hawk still circling in the imagination after all these years, the rocks holding a memory of geologic time, other hawks circling above, a person passing through briefly, peering through this window at a landscape: tree to the right, tumbled rocks below, blue sky with fluffy cloud, a pleasing composition titled  "Landscape With Hawk Circling" circa 1974.

Words, images: thoughts, how we fill our time. As if from a vast pitcher we pour ourselves out onto the ground and then watch as we are absorbed, leaving only a trace which gradually disappears, too, into the dust, now dry, now so many swirling tiny bits of what once was we, ourselves now blown away, into another landscape, settling, waiting for replenishment. A cat meditating. She has so little to occupy her time. She has so much time. What does she do with her time? Oh, she paints, writes, cleans house, shops, cares for the children, pays the bills, meditates. Meditates, you say-you mean she has the time? Like a cat meditating who suddenly hears, down the hall, the sound of cat food poured out of a bag, then swiftly following instinct, runs to the exact spot where, as if by magic, a bowl appears brimming with refreshment.

Here we are at an art exhibit, what is this we are looking at? The traces of someone who passed through here, living. Someone who lived in such a way that during the minutes that were her life these images appeared on this paper that was part of the space she was part of and now is part of the space you are part of during the minutes that are known as your life.

     We tend to think of the important things in life as happening elsewhere and at other times. In places gotten to with difficulty such as Himalayan peaks, in places of political or financial power such as summit meetings or boardrooms, or at significant times like weddings or births. Or we think of once-in-a-lifetime events like love at first sight or a near-death experience. In our media oriented society, moments of heightened excitement-dramatic events with beautiful, fascinating people-seem like real life and how we spend the minutes and hours of our days is just passing time until we too are caught up in the glamour of drama.
     So we spend our days waiting for something to happen or rush around trying to make something happen, but the actual time we are awake goes by in a blur of insignificance. This is what interests me, all this ordinary time and energy passing unnoticed, disregarded and even despised. These are the hours and minutes that make up most of our lives. Is nothing really happening while we do the laundry, change our clothes, file our papers? Or is there life here among the filing cabinets and supermarket aisles? My pictures are part of this investigation, starting here, now, this minute, with myself and my own pile of laundry.


About the Author

Janine Brown is an artist living in Berkeley, CA.


A Man Impossible to Classify photo: r. whittaker One of my first experiences in San Francisco ... Read More 749646 views

The Dumpster       “We can’t use these. They look like ... Read More 161963 views

Cotton and Silk Vorbeck quilt, detail I’m working on the last panel of a pair of ... Read More 14662 views

Say Grace I am deeply delighted to live on a planet that is so big and varied that I can ... Read More 13382 views

An Interview with Betsy Damon I first heard about Betsy Damon from Sam Bower of Water ... Read More 48835 views


A Man Impossible to Classify photo: r. whittaker One of my first experiences in San Francisco ... Read More 749646 views

Interview with Bill Douglass - Jimbo's Bop City and Other Tales At the time I'd first gotten to know the widely respected ... Read More 371586 views

Greeting the Light It was thanks to artist Walter Gabrielson that I was able to get ... Read More 326894 views

Interview: Gail Needleman Gail Needleman taught music at Holy Names University in Oakland, ... Read More 196953 views

The Dumpster       “We can’t use these. They look like ... Read More 161963 views