Sunday, May 06, 2007

Art Space Talk: Jane Fulton Alt

I observed the art of Jane Fulton Alt while attending the Artist Project exhibit in Chicago. Jane was born in Chicago in 1951. Alt attended the University of Michigan (BA, 1973) and the University of Chicago (MA, 1975).

Jane Fulton Alt has exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally. Alt is the recipient of numerous awards and her work can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, New Orleans Art Musuem, Beinecke Library at Yale University, University of Illinois Comer Archive, Centro Fotografico Alvarez Bravo in Oaxaca, Mexico, Center for Photography at Woodstock, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Wilmette Public Library and the Dancing Bear collection of William Hunt. In addition to photography she is a licensed clinical social worker, with a practice of over 30 years.

Alt’s photographs explore universal issues of humanity, reflecting an interest in the mysteries of life and the non-material world. Her photographs ask us to consider issues of love, loss, and spirituality, which transcend all notions of race, religion and culture.

Q. I observed your work at the Artist Project exhibit in Chicago. How did the exhibit go for you?

A. "It has been lots of work but great fun and great exposure."

Q. ARTropolis has been a great success. Care to reflect on the events and how they have improved Chicago's standing in the 'art world'... I understand that some critics had doubts about the exhibits... what have you heard?

A. "All the planning has really paid off. My impression is that this has been a world class event. Chris Kennedy is doing all that is humanly possible to put Chicago back on the map, including buying out Art Basel and the Armory show in NYC."

Q. Jane, in the last three years you have done several lectures about art. What do you normally discuss at these lectures?

A. "I am interested in the creative process and helping people to more fully express what it is that needs to be expressed. I have also spoken at length about my experience as a relief worker in the lower ninth ward of New Orleans and how I came to photograph there."

Q. You have won several fellowships- Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship Award, Ragdale Foundation Fellowship Award... do you have any advice for emerging artist who are seeking fellowships, grants, or other awards?

A. "Just to apply and don't be discouraged if you don't get it. There have been plenty of times that I have been rejected but that is just part of the whole picture."

Q. Let us take a step back- when did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "I have always been involved with making things. During summers in my college years I took ceramic and welding courses. I was a quilter for a few years but found it took too long to express what I wanted to in working with fabric. As so time freed up, I began taking art classes and happened upon a wonderful photography teacher."

Q. How has society influenced your art? What are the social implications of your art?

A. "I had never been very interested in politics. I did protest in the 60's with the VietNam war but that was about it. I suppose that when you see so much of what you believed in starting to erode, it is difficult to remain silent. I am also a clinical social worker. After 34 years of helping people to live more full lives, you begin to see the big picture of what it means to be alive...what is important. This in addition to my own life experiences of raising a family has greatly influenced my art."

Q. Jane, can you share some of your philosophy about art and artistic creation?

A. "I have a book sitting next to my computer that I have been trying to find time to include in my blog on since you asked...

The book is called Sculpting in Time by Andrey Tarkovsky. In chapter 2 the title is ART - A YEARNING FOR THE IDEAL. "the indisputably functional role of art lies in the idea of knowing...In a very real sense every individual experiences this process (self-knowledge) for himself as he comes to know life, himself his aims. Of course each person uses the sum of knowledge of ethical, moral self-knowledge is the only aim in life for each person, and subjectively, it is experienced each time as something new. Again and again man correlates himself with the world, racked with longing to acquire, and become one with, the ideal which lies outside him, which he apprehends as some kind of intuitively sensed first principle. The unattainability of that becoming one, the inadequacy of his own "I", is the perpetual source of man's dissatisfaction and pain. And so art, like science, is a means of assimilating the world, an instrument for knowing it in the course of man's journey towards what is called "absolute truth.""

Q. Has your art ever been published? Where?

A. "The work has been published in numerous places...that is best answered by going to my bio page on my website.
Q. What was your most important exhibition? Care to share that experience?

A. "It was at the DePaul University Art Museum in 2006 when I showed my Katrina work. It was very well received and was named the top 2006 photography museum exhibit in Chicago that year by New City. It was kind of like a coming out...the work has been continually exhibited since then. 30 images are being included in the 3rd edition of New Orleans, The Making of An Urban Landscape by Peirce Lewis which is to be released in June. "

Q. Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

A. "Rituals? not really. I like listening to Kirshna Das, The Dark City Sisters, Classical Music, Jazz. I do love music..."

Q. If you could pinpoint the characteristics of people who collect your art, what would they be?

A. "Very difficult to say..."

Q. Discuss one of your pieces. What were you thinking when you created it?

A. "Matter of the Heart...the first one that pops a self portrait. In my journey to understand this life, I decided I needed to understand death and dying. I managed after great effort to visit a slaughter house in Louisiana. Needless to say, it was a very traumatic experience. I often wonder how many people would still be eating meat if they had to do the killing.

Anyway, the pig heart is the same size as the human heart. This self portrait was created after the visit to the slaughter house and I continued to use the heart as a metaphor for other images."

Q. Why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?

A. "I found that I could most easily access what I needed to express with the camera."

Q.Where can we see more of your art?

A. "You can go to my website . Iam also exhibiting in various venues which is also on my website under "What's Current"."

Q. Are you represented by a gallery? Do you have any upcoming exhibits?
A. "I am part of the Catherine Edelman Gallery's Chicago Project which is web based. Every 2 years she has a group show and I will have my Mourning Light series exhibited there. The opening is this coming June 8th. I found I have done very well on my own. The internet is really an amazing tool."

Q. What trends have you noticed in the Chicago art scene?

A. "Frankly, I don't really know. It is hard for me to see the big picture. You may have to ask a photo critic for the answer to that!"
Q. What was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?

A. " is something I think every artist goes thru...It is important to just work. Let the judging go."

Q. Is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the 'art world'?

A. "Art has the amazing capacity to help heal not only the artist but also the viewer. It is an essential component of being human and I am so happy that the Chicago will once again become an important center for the arts."
Jane is a wonderful photographer. I really enjoyed observing her work in person.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin


Unknown said...

Good interview. Congratulations on your well-deserved NYAXE win.

Unknown said...

Good interview. Congratulations on your NYAXE win. Your work is great.

Unknown said...

Good interview. Congratulations on your well-deserved NYAXE win.