Jana Renée is an artist, a lover of colors and curves, and a fierce feline. Her hair is a sun and her smile hides a million secrets. With a body of work that celebrates the feminine in all its forms, from large scale murals adorning vibrant cities to sensual stained glass imagery, she conquers it all – with grace. A deeply rooted love for the action of creation or the act of creating itself, infused with Renée’s bright laugh and her ever so hopeful energy, seems to be the propeller of her practice. Always in movement, conceptualizing, sewing, painting, sketching, sculpting, she shapes for the mesmerized viewers a universe full of tantalizing creatures who need nothing from us – if not, perhaps, our undying adoration. At the center of it all, with Jana Renée, it is all about love.
I feel like one of the best questions to learn more about someone is to ask them about love. So, Jana, before we talk about anything else. What is love for you?
Love is the raison d’être. The reason for being. The reason to live and to create. Love is a small thing like a smell that triggers an old memory, or a kind gesture that brings you to your knees and breaks down your walls.
Love is feeling like you will break in half when you experience true grief.
Love is finding it an easy joy to do something you hate doing because it’s for someone else instead of you.
Love is letting people be who they are with their faults and not trying to change them.
Love makes you blush and warms your cheeks for no reason at all.
Love makes you pause, listen and breathe.
“For me, women hold a power being life bringers. Whether that is physically or through nurturing others with action.”
Your work is a celebration of the feminine, its strength, colors and beauty. What draws you to paint women, and to do so the way you do?
For me, women hold a power being life bringers. Whether that is physically or through nurturing others with action. The female form is all small curves bounding and meeting again and again. I love the lack of angularity and the flow of an effeminate form. I use a lot of warm colors to create a womb-like soft energy to the works. Softness is important to me. I think I make everything feminine, rounding and smoothing even male figures I have painted! I laugh because this is why I am not the best at masculine portraits. I can never help but add moister and softness to my works, even if they aren’t figurative.
How did you start out as an artist? Can you walk us through that path, and what led you to here and now?
I started out absolutely sure I was going to be an illustrator since childhood. Graphite is the only medium I would say I have mastered and flows from me with little effort. I wrote stories as a child and was constantly drawing everything around me, always moving my hands, always asking for scraps of napkin or paper to make marks on. I did not get much formal education, but used drawing books and was taught watercolors privately by a family friend in my teens. From there I threw myself into art school and found a need to express my voice in a different way. Illustration became too structured for me, so by Sophomore year I had changed my major to painting and picked up oils for the first time. I got my bachelors in Boston at MassART, then moved back to Texas where my siblings were raising their children shortly afterwards. Feeling understimulated and confused by the gallery rules and structures, I left my studio started painting large scale latex paint murals whenever I could contract one. Now I am back in my studio creating my next series while continuing to paint commercial murals.
“Each model has a HUGE part of the feeling of my works. I’m very affected by female energy.”
What is a project you dream of and haven’t told anyone about?
I love this question, because I am currently beginning a series I have been dreaming of for years. I want to create an all immersive show combining traditional oils, sculpture, fashion, sounds and performance. I love to sculpt and have been tailoring and sewing my clothes since I was young. I want to create a series around my central idea exploring the same palette and central theme. I always like to include touch, visuals and sound with my work because I’m usually wanting the viewer to settle in and remove themselves into the world I’m trying to create. I won’t go into my concept for this current series at the moment, as it would overtake the whole article. Ask me any time in person and I’ll talk about it at length.
Do you feel like your practice as an artist influences your every day life, or would it be the other way around? If so, how? In terms of strength, dreams, love?
I laugh reading this question, because my art is so much a part of me, there is no separation from my life. Even on my days off of studio or painting on a site, I am doing side projects, such as painting on vintage denim for mine and my sisters company Geode Clothing, cutting glass for my erotic stained glass business I call Stained Ass Glass, sewing a sweater for my cat, hemming some paints, refurbishing a piece of furniture, repotting my many plants, sculpting something random with clay, making a costume, re-attaching my front door, or drawing something I am fixated on. I do not know how to stop making things. When it comes to love, I tend to be very intentional and serious about it. I make sure to take time for my loved ones, and it is very intentional when I turn my brain off to focus on people I love. I need people in my life to give me reasons to take a break from my creating brain.
What have the women in your paintings taught you throughout the years?
So many AMAZING things. Another great reason I love painting women is how different and powerful every person I paint is. Sometimes I would have a theme or idea, such as my series Sweet Tooth that focuses on women’s lips, I wanted the women to take a selfie. I wanted them to give me their favorite angle. I would give them a prompt like “put on clear gloss, eat this lollipop” or “can you blow a spit bubble?” and then I would direct them slightly while they took the picture. I came to one woman with the prompt and she swiftly replied “no, you take the picture” and started posing with a giant blue lollipop I gave her. The pictures came out amazingly and her confidence blasts through them. Each model has a HUGE part of the feeling of my works. I’m very affected by female energy. I spend time getting to know most of my models and have a separate love and infatuation with all of them. I guess in telling that story, I am saying that women have taught me its okay to be powerful, its okay to be me, and that its even better to be assertive and not apologize for myself.
“No matter how hard you try to love others, if you are hating on yourself you will always fall short in your own mind.”
Where can we see your work out in the world, from permanent pieces to current or upcoming exhibitions?
Currently I have all of my serieses on my website which is my name: JanaRenee.com
I am not currently affiliated with a gallery and most of my works are for sale.
I do shows a few times a year with the works I haven’t sold and always announce it on my instagram: @TheJanaRenée
I also post many progress videos of my murals as well as occasionally write about my process.
A final thought, if any, for those out there who think of love as the most important thing in the world?
This is cliché but true: Make sure you’re taking time to love you. No matter how hard you try to love others, if you are hating on yourself you will always fall short in your own mind.
This is my hardest lesson I am still learning every day.
Undo Self Hate.