by Bob Bahr, PV Arts Council member
There are no humans in Janice Schoultz Mudd's paintings now on display at R. G. Endres Gallery, in the Prairie Village Municipal Offices, but human fingerprints are all over all the paintings.
Her paintings of aerial views of coastlines show land and water but also harbors, street grids, and other signs of civilization. And that concept--civilization--seems to be the lens through which much of her artistic vision is projected.
When a sailing ship is shown navigating waters near modern seaside developments, old and new collide. Additionally, Mudd depicts such scenes by utilizing images from Google Earth. Schooners and satellites have little in common except that they both represent achievements of civilization.
"The Horse,"acrylic with collage, 24 x 24 in.
Likewise, the image of the Uffington White Horse, a prehistoric earth sculpture in England, features prominently on another Mudd piece titled "Horse" that seems based on satellite imagery. And while "Red Light Camera" was inspired by an incident with a toll bridge in New York, the piece sits well beside her satellite imagery. The viewer might be tempted to read more into the bits of ephemera attached to the canvas in a dance of paint and collage, but sometimes a smashed bottlecap is just a smashed bottlecap.
"I was crossing the Tappan Zee bridge and got caught by a red light camera," Mudd recalls. "I was thinking about something else and didn't exit to pay the toll, and all the lights went on in this big structure above me. So that painting is about the experience of it all--there's roadmap information, and that bottlecap, because you have drinks while driving, and all the trash, all the things you bring with you when you are on a road trip."
"Red Light Camera," acrylic with collage, 36 x 48 in.
A trio of paintings depicting planets and moons may seem devoid of a human touch, but the imagery was inspired by photos taken by the Hubble telescope, and one of the paintings features inscribed shapes of constellations. "I was just so amazed by all the images out there in space and how beautiful they were," Mudd says. "I was enamored with the colors from the filters they were using on the photos. Also, I was thinking about how we came to be. Did we get here by accident? I do believe that we were invented by God, but I really started thinking about that. in one that have all the constellations. How did those people of ancient civilizations, from South America to Egypt, navigate? How did they see all this stuff? When they looked at the sky, how did they differentiate all those stars?"
When Mudd sees the world from different or unusual perspectives, she wonders how humans engaged in their environment. An aerial view may be Mudd's way to ponder how early inhabitants of Earth survived winters and found food. "A painter is a visual person," she says. "You see these things and you think about them. I'm more fascinated in the internal workings of the mind and the way that life experiences combine with the world that we live on, and how it all comes out in the wash. There's no big message. I take it from a factual point of view. This is what happened. This is how things changed. It's more historical and the way that people think and respond and live, largely due to circumstances."
From left: "Searching for the Blue Moon," "Cadmium Night," and "Breakthrough," all three are acrylic with collage, 40 x 30 in.
Part of the fun of taking in a Mudd painting is examining all the elements of her collages. As long as something is relatively two-dimensional and capable of being affixed to a canvas, it is fair game. "I have boxes of things," Mudd states. "I collect things all the time. I never know what I might want to use or what's important. People see me and they think I lost a contact. No, I'm just looking for interesting things on the ground, in a parking lot, interesting shapes or something that could be representative of something in a painting. It's somewhat indiscriminate."
Or perhaps simply instinctive. Mudd doesn't seem interested in nailing down the meanings of her paintings too tightly, but to pretend that she isn't making an artistic statement would be a serious mistake. Even when the meaning of a passage in one of her paintings seems mysterious, it is succeeding, based just on that very fact. Artists make you think about the world and human experience. Mudd does that in ways both straightforward and oblique.
Mudd's work is part of a group show on view in the municipal building on Mission Road until March 1.
"Fissure,"diptych, acrylic with collage, 60 x 40 inches each
Bob Bahr is a member of the Prairie Village Arts Council. He has written about visual art for several national magazines. He lives with his family in Prairie Village and paints a variety of subjects. He wishes there were a NYC-style bodega in the Shops.