Tell us about yourself, how did you become an artist?
I grew up spending a lot of time with my maternal grandmother who was an artist. She mainly worked in portraiture. From a very young age she gave me the tools and freedom to create. She also brought me to museums and had a wonderful collection of art books and magazines that I would often look through. All my earliest memories involve me trying to express my inner emotions through the written word or paint. Or I was out in nature daydreaming. I have always been an artist, but I have been working to make a career as an artist seriously since I had my first child in my late thirties.
What is your background? and how did it inform the focus of your creative exploration or the medium you're currently working with?
I have two B.A’s in English and Geography and I focused on poetry and environmental protection within the two fields. My two objectives were to become a better artist, though I kept this to myself, and to become a teacher. I thought teaching would give me stability, which was a great concern for me growing up. In my last year of university I admitted to myself that I would never be happy unless I pursued painting. It was an ‘aha’ moment to let go of this fear of instability and have faith in what felt like a calling. Poetry remains a great source of inspiration, and more and more my environmental concerns and relationship with nature is entering my work. I am thinking a lot about process and materials and what kind of art I want to make in the future. There is a lot of art out in the world. It is overwhelming. I am still examining how I should partake in this and what truly feels right for me.
What ideas interested you in the beginning of your practice, which ideas have you continued to explore, and where have they led you?
Well I think because my grandmother worked in portraiture herself and exposed me to the works of artists like Alice Neel and Jacob Lawrence I followed in this vein. I developed a desire to tell a story about our humanity. I started off doing the full figure with an abstracted background, but then when I started using watercolours and the small square format I focused just on the face. The human face is a very direct portal for exploring our individual and collective humanity.
These days I am opening up more to think about imbedding more my ideas into the work instead of being so direct about it. Right now I am considering my process and use of material a lot.
Who were and are the biggest sources of your inspiration?
Growing up they were Alice Neel, Jacob Lawrence and Milton Avery. Now I connect a lot with the Arte Povera movement and absolutely love the work of Marisa Merz. Art Brut/Outsider art- artists like Bill Traylor and Purvis Young; they both move me deeply. I am very drawn to non-figurative work like the abstract work of John Zurier, Suzan Frecon, and Etel Adnan to name a few. I love the conceptual work of Christian Boltanski, and the photography of Diane Arbus, and Laura Aguilar. The performance work of the late Ana Mendieta and the sculpture work of Miho Dohi. Across mediums and style there is a strong spiritual and/or poetic element to these artists’ work that I am drawn to.
Where do you find inspiration?
Poetry, a nature, and other visual artists. The poem The Pulse of Morning by Maya Angelou has led to many recent paintings. One by the same title which has large bleeding red birds flying from the chest region and was made for my show Echo. Another is linked to a recent map I painted and embroidered during confinement for my last show All the Hemispheres. This work was a mediation on our current pulse, the thread that unites us all. It was a map embroidered with illness pulse lines painted in a soothing pink to balance out the dark content.
Is there are a single work, project, or series that is pivotal in your current trajectory?
Having the project of my recent solo with Municipal Bonds called All the Hemispheres, which was based on a poem of the same title. I wanted to add new but complimentary elements to the portrait work and I wanted to address the pandemic. I began working on maps, and I was thinking a lot about text work and embroidery and reassembling to unearth new work. I had been playing with materials already. Namely with large grain sea salt. But I also began with techniques like cyanotype.
How did it begin? and how did it evolve?
Trying this new avenue of embroidery is a result of the confinement. As Louise Bourgeois said “sewing is an act of repair.” I have been feeling very vulnerable with exposing my work and also, and more notably, from the pandemic. Balancing child rearing and working from home and like so many dealing with a lot of existential anxiety that is getting pent up from being in a small apartment. Cutting up, reassembling, and sewing just became an obvious choice.
What were important lessons in the process that you’ve carried forward with you?
I think the ‘just do’ attitude and the 'have fun’ aspects are very important lessons to try to take into the studio these days. My sensitive nature and poetic intentions will come through on their own I think. I truly think the most important aspect of art making is pleasing myself first. If I don’t believe in it, no one else will.
What are you working on now?
I have been cutting up old small portraits and sewing them together with gold thread to make new forms. This feels personal and therapeutic, and it is a way for me to again push myself out of my comfort zone and save materials. Lightness is on my mind in connection to spirituality and I am thinking about stained glass in holy places, and the Japanese art of Kintsugi. I am working on my healing and I am also finding a lot of joy in it!
If you could go back in time to the very beginning of your art practice and give your younger self a single piece of advice what would it be?
To go visit galleries more and press my teachers to talk about all aspects of the business side of art.
About the Artist
Based in France
Jamie Romanet (b. Farmington, CT 1978) is currently based in France. She is represented by Municipal Bonds in San Francisco. Solo exhibitions include Jamie Romanet: All the Hemispheres with Municipal Bonds, and Echo at TURN gallery in New York, NY. She has exhibited in group exhibitions internationally and has been published in ArtMaze issue 7, Brenda Magazine, and various blogs. She received the fellowship stipend for her residency at Vermont Studio Center. Jamie is working towards an upcoming solo in La Rochelle, France.
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