Janet Wheeler grew up in Dutchess County, New York, a place once inhabited by native Wappinger peoples before the Anglo-Dutch settled there in the 1600's. Although Janet had no contact with those indigenous peoples, the wildness of the area and perhaps some Native dreams eventually worked their way into her psyche to be expressed in sculptural form. As a kid Janet loved exploring the forest and making art. As an adult, after obtaining her art degree from Stanford, she and her husband moved to Switzerland and then to Ithaca, New York. Home again she again "went wild" exploring the 30 foot waterfalls, pools and lakes in the natural world that called to her.
It's a good thing Janet had that time to dwell amidst those finger lakes, incipient vineyards, and rolling hills, because in 1963 she and her husband moved to Washington DC, where Rock Creek Park seemed like Nature Abbreviated. Luckily for her, the nature wisdom Janet absorbed in New England found a way into her art and has been a constant from then until now. Luckily for us she regularly exhibits at Touchstone Gallery after helping organize it in 1975.
Ten years ago Janet eschewed Plexiglas display boxes and began constructing narrow six foot wood totems incorporating unusual papers and colors. Then it was back to the box again, only this time they were natural unpainted wood boxes--perfect foundations for plant material compositions, intriguing metaphors for life on Earth. Janet's affinity for natural forms shows up in her totems and boxes, which reveal a sensitivity and deep respect for humble materials: delicate seed pods, branches whose strength belies their slight form, feathers and all the shapes and pieces that come from the wild to tell a story of nature to the viewer.
As she works, Janet focuses on color, composition and balance, which, in the end, ultimately reveal inner dreams and powerful visions that are so compelling. Perhaps her imaginings sift in from the spirit force of nature's ancient rhythms, or the dream world of Wappinger people whose feet walked where she walked, or the universal collective unconscious, that well of mythological motifs and primordial images we see represented in cultural artifacts, from ancient times into the present. That each composition exudes a sense of the sacred, there is no doubt.
In her newest exhibit Pagan Dreams: ceremonial constructions, Janet breaks out of the box again to build nine foot iconic and ceremonial constructions using bamboo, red osier sticks, iridescent oil sticks on Hosho paper, as well as smaller totems and collage masks to round out an exhibition, which is both ancient and contemporary.
Ceremonial Constructions by Janet Wheeler
April 5-28, 2013
Preview: April 3-4, 11-6pm
Opening reception: Friday, April 5, 6-8:30pm