Janet DeCover 

Painter and Printmaker

What you will see: A free-form installation that includes a series of irregularly shaped wooden cutoutswith prints, paintings and suede printing plates glued on; an arrangement of unframed prints; and square canvases stretched in oversized embroidery hoops. The work was created especially to fit Main Art's gallery space, which DeCover co-owns with business partner Rudy Winebrenner.

What it's about: "The whole process started with cutout plates for printmaking because I really wanted to get off the square format," DeCover explains. "…Maybe it's because I run the gallery as well, but it got repetitious to take a painting or framed drawing in a square and go down the gallery walls hanging them in a row. It is rare to see a show work as a whole when each image is isolated in a square. I got real bored by it, so I decided to get out of it."

The show is as much about the process of making art as it is about the art itself. "I'm really interested in the different materials," she says. "It doesn't just have to be paint. … [The whole thing] just kind of came full circle, from printing on cutout plates, to the cutout plates becoming the paintings that are glued to cutout wooden panels. Then separate prints were cut out from the square piece of paper, with these cutouts reintroduced again to the wooden panels and paintings. … You can look at each piece individually or the work together as a whole."

DeCover believes the work is spiritual and universal, in the sense that it makes reference to the universe and atmosphere, and "all that other space outside the universe." But, she says, it's open to interpretation. "Everyone always sees something different, which is nice. Everyone takes something different away."

Why her work is so colorful: "I like color — I guess you can tell," DeCover says, as she laughs and gestures around the gallery at the many bright hues. "I feel a lot of passion when I paint. I feel brave when I use color."

Vivid red-oranges juxtaposed with dark and stormy hues of blue-black and purple are characteristic of her work. "I like things that don't work together," she says. "I like that tension. … I have always used a lot of color. It is emotional, but also representational. I never wear clothes that bright and my house is not that bright. Maybe it all comes out in my art."

How she's evolved as an artist: "Under Lavender" is a departure for DeCover, whose last solo exhibition at Astra Design consisted of self-portraits. Before that, she painted realistic landscapes.

"I think it's really important to reinvent your art," she says. "I think it's wrong when an artist confines themselves to one specific area or focus. They stop seeing things. …

"I am apprehensive about people's reaction [to this work], but I really don't care. I'm not trying to sound rude, but that's not why I'm doing it. … I am always trying to find another way to express myself, relate to myself"

Up next for DeCover: video art.

Where she works: DeCover works in her home studio and makes her prints at the Virginia Museum's studio school. She says she has been working on "Under Lavender" for two-and-a-half years. "I spend a lot of time in the studio," she says. "I think you have to be pretty religious about it. You have to live it to make it happen. When I was making this work I was dreaming about it, thinking about it all the time. Sometimes it can make you nuts. You can just get fanatical." — Jessica Ronky Haddad

"I feel a lot of passion when I paint. I feel brave when I use color."


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