lundi 5 novembre 2012

Artist brings a Haitian style to the Desert Southwest

By BILL COATES Valley Life Editor Casa Grande Valley Newspapers Inc.
Janet Sanders found the Haitian influence for her art in Antigua, a Caribbean island 700 miles southeast of Haiti.
Sanders shows her paintings in Gallery 203 in downtown Casa Grande. Three of them reflect the Haitian influence that made its way to Antigua. Each half of a painting is the mirror image of the other half. One has herons, each a mirror image of the other. The other has mirror-image lions. All have a pond and, in the background, a mountain.
On another wall at Gallery 203 hangs a painting in the same Haitian style. But Sanders has applied the technique to the Desert Southwest, depicting a symmetry of saguaros, succulents, Kokopelli icons and familiar landmarks.
“I took that style and made it my own,” said Sanders, 65.
Her imagination, it happens, goes beyond her Haitian influence. Many of her paintings are layered with textures not found in those early works. And she creates art out of found objects — everything from belt buckles to bicycle wheels. It’s recycled art or — as she calls it — upcycled art.
Sanders’ art has not gone unrecognized. The Case Grande Valley Fine Art Association named her Artist of the Month for November. Her work will be on display at the association’s exhibit duringTuesday’s Art in the Alley in downtown Casa Grande.
And while she might reference her Haitian influence, her first artistic experiences go back to her childhood in Indianapolis. She painted her first picture at age 7, with help from her grandmother, who also painted.
“She was 78 and blind in one eye when she painted,” Sanders said.
Her aunt was another influence.
“My aunt used to have a magic closet and she used to pull things out and we’d make stuff,” Sanders said. She’d find empty milk cartons, oatmeal boxes and other items in her magic closet.
Nothing in her aunt’s magic closet went to waste, including the name, as it happens. Sanders named her planned website Ms. J’s Magic Closet. (She signs her paintings JJ.)
Sanders’ career path into art was not a straight line. She moved to Denver and, in 1975, became the city’s first female paramedic. It was there she learned a trade — picture framing. She would later take her skill as a framer to Antigua.
That came about after some police officers — who work hand-in-hand with paramedics — said they were going scuba diving in the Caribbean. She joined the dive trip.
It was 1989. She went with an open mind and fell in love with the culture.

She ended up moving to Antigua.
“When I burned out with the ambulance, I went to the Caribbean,” Sanders said.
She found work as a picture framer for Nick Maley, a movie-creature designer who worked on the original “Star Wars.” He owned three galleries on the island and made trips to Haiti to purchase art.
“I had to restretch the canvases, so I sat there with all that Haitian art,” she said.
She also became acquainted with the artists of Antigua and their work. Their influence stirred her own creativity, and soon the framer became the painter.
All in all, she spent eight years soaking up the sun and culture of Antigua, returning to her hometown of Indianapolis in 1997.
She made her way to Casa Grande in 2008, initially just planning to visit a friend from Antigua. Aziza McMillan, another artist, had moved here earlier. Sanders, however, didn’t just visit. She made Casa Grande her home and became part of the active art scene.
At Gallery 203, she showed me her work. The Haitian-influenced paintings reflect her detail for framing. The frames are part of the picture, painted with bright colors and hearts. Another painting shows an ocean meeting the shore. The landscape is highly textured and rough.
Her recycled pieces include one made with five belt buckles. They came from her grandmother’s button boxes, which Sanders kept all these years. Other pieces are fashioned around bicycle wheels, found in a desert area southwest of Maricopa.
“My bicycle wheels are all from Vekol Valley,” Sanders said. “There are tons of bicycles there. The illegals leave them.”

Sanders’ work can be seen during Art in Alley from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at 407 N. Florence St., as well as at Gallery 203, 203 W. Second St., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday.


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