Briefly describe the work that you do.
My paintings are a right-brained approach to observing, dissecting, and recording the objective subject matter found in the lakes, rivers, prairies, and forests of south central Iowa. As my intimacy with the land surrounding me evolves, so do my approaches for depicting the complexities of varying terrains and the plants and animals that occupy them.
Each of my gouache painting is a fictitious ecosystem that has been broken down into a series of vignettes. Each vignette describes the decay, growth, and interaction between the flora and fauna of that imagined place. Although bold colors, repeating patterns, and flattened space make the paintings appear fantastic in nature, each scene is based off an observation.
At what point in your life did you decide to become an artist?
My mother is a gifted artist, teacher, and designer. My father is a pianist and designer turned businessman. The artistic temperament runs in my family and being a creator is just something I am. I can’t pinpoint a time where I thought,
“I’m going to be an artist when I grow up.”
I always knew that I was an artist but it has taken a lifetime to figure out what that means. It basically boils down to this: If I don’t take the time to nurture my need to create I become depressed and miserable. I am at my best when I am painting, printing, or building. I am at my worst when I am wallowing in self doubt.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I’ve always been fascinated by animals. Their behaviors, social structures, and aesthetics were a driving force in my work for a long time. After graduate school, I moved to a rural area. A lot of my leisure time is spent exploring the great outdoors and I’m finding myself fascinated by the trees, plants, and landscapes that surround me. My work is less about the animal as an individual and more about the role of each creature in a functioning (and imagined) ecosystem.
My change from an urban setting to a rural one has influenced my work in many ways. The most profound change has been the way I get my information. Before, all of my information about came from books or the internet. My visual references were usually googled and my color choices were based off of colors I was into at the time.
Now, my content is informed by my experiences in the “wilderness” of Iowa. I shoot my own visual references and my color palettes are usually informed by the seasons combined with colors that I’m currently into.
What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?
My work is very much about growth and decay and that’s evident in the content of my paintings. I like to have a nice balance of the macabre and the divine. Color affects the mood of each piece. Even if the content is rather dark, the colors and humor lighten the mood significantly.
My work is also about observation. I like to engage the viewer in the content of the piece by giving them a lot of information to process. So, I’d say one of my conceptual concerns is forcing people to observe and make their own connections and narratives
throughout the piece. It’s important to entertain the viewer. I love hidden imagery and smooth compositions. It’s my goal to get everyone to look at each painting for over a minute.
We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?
Mr. Close has a valid point, especially for artists that no longer exist in academia. If I waited for inspiration to hit I would never get anything done. I was in denial about this and it took a long time to learn how to balance a 9-5 workday with a 6-8 studio day.
What motivates me as a non graduate student? Deadlines and goals. I always have a show or a print exchange that I need to prepare for and that keeps me honest with studio time. If I work for two hours a day I can get a lot done. Because I have less time to work with I treat each minute seriously. This is not a trait I was born with so it’s been an interesting and frustrating ride.
I don’t have the luxury of time but I do have the luxury of determination…and I’ll always have the weekends. I get a ton of work done on the weekends.
What artists living or non-living influence your work?
Josh Keyes, Albertus Seba, Audubon, Gregory Euclid, Stacey Rozich, all the artists at Western Exhibitions (in Chicago), Martina Nerling, Oscar Gillespie, Michael Barnes, Ashley Nason, Ann Coulter (my professor from Bradley University), and Denis McNett. I could go on for hours.
I also have to give a big shout out to all of my friends from undergraduate and graduate school. You know who you are and my life is better because of each of you. You guys have made the biggest impact on me by far. You taught me how to critique my own work, get over artistic blocks, curate shows, and manage my personal/studio time.
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?
I have become quite the outdoorsman. When the weather is lovely, I am usually outside. I like to collect fossils and look for arrowheads; my collection is getting pretty massive (you can check out my blog if you’re interested in how I find the fossils and arrowheads).
I enjoy time with my dog and family (funny how I say dog first) and we’re working on teaching the dog new tricks. He’s recently mastered “roll over.” Antiquing is still a hobby/passion and I like taking road trips to indulge my inner hoarder.
Other than that, I’m just working on appreciating life. I’m a pretty happy human.
Jane Garrett Ryder was born and raised in the fine state of Illinois. In 2005 she received her BFA from Bradley University and went on to earn her MFA at Northern Illinois University four years later. In 2009 Ryder moved to from Northern Illinois to South Central Iowa where she can be found tromping through various, muddy environments in search of fossils, arrowheads, and new artistic content. Her change from an urban environment to a rural setting has influenced her paintings in many significant ways. A deeper understanding of the interactions between man, animal, plant, dirt, water, and sun have affected the content and compositions Ryder’s new body of work.
For anyone interested in learning more about how a rural environment can affect the content of contemporary artwork check out Jane Ryder’s blog, “Flux Biota” at http://fluxbiota.blogspot.com/.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.