Featured Artist, Janice Hayes-Cha
Interview by Kimberly Mehler
After working closely with Janice for a few years on a five person collaborative endeavor, I have a huge respect for the way she approaches her art and life. Janice operates on a level of high standards with rigor, professionalism, perseverance, determination and a healthy sense of humor thrown into the mix!
The following are her answers to a few questions I posed.
Kim: For those who are just being introduced to your work, can you tell us a bit about the experiences that led you to creating collages?
Janice: My art emerged after some drastic life changes: I had four kids in my late thirties followed immediately by two bouts of cancer in my early forties. While recovering from surgery, I looked at a big box of get well cards by my bed and started making small collages inspired by all the flowers that friends sent me. The response to these works was so positive that I abandoned watercolor painting and immersed myself in making collages.
K: What was the most interesting, challenging, or surprising thing about transitioning from water colors to your current work?
J: I love the blurry edges of watercolor and the ability to use the brush to achieve that effect. I try to have my collages look like paintings, but achieving these effects by cutting out cardboard is much more difficult. Also, the palette is completely different. With cards I’m using bright bold colors, and that is actually quite difficult to achieve in watercolor painting, which tends to be more subtle. One thing that was surprising was how much I like cutting, and pasting and using my hands. I have always loved sewing and knitting and crocheting and I have very fidgety fingers so this work is really satisfying. Watercolor always felt difficult and treacherous because you can over paint and make mistakes that can’t be corrected. I feel my collages are always fixable. I can rip out a piece or layer over it. They are forgiving and don’t stress me out as much. It’s more relaxing.
I love the idea of recycling. I also love that birthday cards and other greeting cards can be so tacky and bright and garish but then they can be transformed into a brush stroke in an impressionistic way. I love the transformation from the pedestrian to fine art.
K: It seems to me that one of the things that inspires you is the power of place. Can you articulate what that means to you, and what you hope to convey to viewers through your art?
J: When I moved to Philly I was so taken with the grandeur of the architecture and the beauty of Fairmount Park and the bridges of the Schuylkill. I was spending a lot of time on the river rowing. I did my very first landscapes in collage and then saw how successfully the medium adapted to it. My goal is to capture a place, but better, brighter, deeper. I also want to show the quirkiness with inside jokes or history. My pieces resonate with anyone who knows the place because they are filled with love. It’s my love of the place, but also all the love and sentiment in the cards that come together to create the collage. I want my work to impact the viewer at different levels– recognition of the scene, but then as they get closer, more and more details draw them in and they can get lost.
K: After working in the corporate world for many years, what resonates with you the most about your artistic journey?
J: Well, one thing that I have found is that the pressure I always felt in the corporate world is something that’s inside me and not external. Because although I’m doing something that I absolutely love, I still set ambitious goals and get nervous and feel like I’m not working enough. That said, I don’t dread Monday mornings anymore and I know it will be a good day if I can just get around to making some art.
K: Why do you create?
J: I think I am compelled to create but also I’m paralyzed. So it’s a challenge and obsession all at the same time. My brain is so visual and filled with images that I want to react to and share. I find it deeply satisfying to make something beautiful.
K: With a busy family of 6, involvement in school and community, has it been difficult to find balance in your art and life?
J: It certainly helps that I don’t have a full-time job besides being an artist. But I do find, like all women, that my family comes first, and it is difficult to find the time to make art. Also, there is a hurdle to overcome each time I settle down to create something. I find lots of other priorities make it so damn hard to make art!
I need to get over my fear of failure and irrelevance and the negative thoughts in my mind. If I’m in the middle of a piece sometimes it’s hard to get back to it, especially if I’m at a stuck point. That’s when my fellow artist members come to the rescue and tell me what I can work on and how to get back on track.
K: What social issues have you addressed or hope to address with your art?
J: As a feminist, I like to recognize women who have contributed to the places that I am depicting. For example, I will incorporate famous Philadelphia women in some of my pieces, and now that I’m in Boston, I will incorporate a face or other image of women who helped create a place but maybe have not been recognized as much as the men.
I have also been involved in the issue of gun violence, and how it destroys families. The One Year Project was an opportunity to work closely with women on a social issue of grave importance.
K: And, finally, what has our collective meant to you?
J: It means everything to me. This amazing group of women embraced me and told me that I am an artist. They gave me opportunities that I would never have found on my own, and taught me the ropes. They critique my work, they provided career and marketing advice, they prop me up when I am rejected, and they celebrate when I have a huge success. They’re like family.
Visit Janice at- jhayescha.fineartstudioonline.com