In Plant Passions this week we talk to artist Jana Nicole, known on Instagram as @jananicole_studio
Over her considerable artistic career, Jana Nicole never fails to surprise. Always unique and diverse she creates irresistible works in mixed media tackling an eclectic array of topics with intelligence, humour and mischief; merging such diverse subjects as erotica, politics, war, mysticism, animals and natural worlds.
Jana Nicole’s curious creativity rose from her childhood in the deserts of California eventually fusing with her many years of observation of British culture. Residing on the south coast of England her award-winning mixed media artworks are consistently well received on both sides of the Atlantic, enjoying prestigious invitations to many of the influential Art exhibitions in London, Paris, New York and her native California.
Jana Nicole: Botanicals Series - Winner - The Special Jury Prize - The Salon des Beaux Arts at the Carrousel De Louvre in Paris 2019
Tell us more about you ?
JN: Having grown up in the desert of California, I spent much of my time outdoors. I was always intrigued by animals and plants. So much so that following an introduction to an incredibly eccentric individual, I jumped at the chance to look after his private collection of exotic animals and plants. It was a fabulous time for me. His house was an oasis of foliage both indoors and out, he even had swans in the swimming pool.
From an early age, thanks to my parent's wisdom, I had learned that the exotic could be achieved anywhere. Ever since, no matter where I have lived, I have always tried to share my space with other living flora and fauna. Even in my student digs, I was surrounded by the green stuff. That's’ the great thing about growing plants, it doesn't matter how little money you have, everyone can afford the opportunity to try. It just takes love and commitment. I was given a Piece Lilly when my son was born and I am proud that it still thrives amongst my collection today
The Botanicals series has not only won awards but led to commissions
from around the world. How did this series come about?
JN: A very dear friend of mine always had orchids in her kitchen and I was intrigued what the secret was to get them to flower again and again. She shared her knowledge with me which I have never forgotten. The flower is of course beautiful but it was the roots that I found so amazing. So I started to read deeper into how to care for different species and the road became more and more fascinating. I then discovered mycelium, which is as I'm sure your readers know, the vegetative part of a fungus colony.
In my opinion, the heroes in the plant world are not always above the ground and are overlooked. So I decided to create a new piece of work by painting and drawing every root, leaf, stem, flower etc individually, I then cut them out and started to create 3D sculptures, this lead to the Botanicals Collection and an invitation to show at the The Salon des Beaux Arts at the Carrousel De Louvre in Paris. These all sold very quickly and I started to get requests for commissions from around the world. So now I'm creating works for clients that want me to include within the piece, for example, the flowers that they had in their wedding bouquet or fauna of any kind associated with fond memories. Furthermore, I'm also creating Botanicals with specific colours to match interior design plans or existing rooms or of course, just favourite colours.
Your work is always unique and diverse and often with a hint of controversy, but nearly, if not all, feature plants of some kind, why?
JN: Without plants we are nothing, the beauty and complexity have inspired my work as it has many other artists, they are the unsung heroes. Adam and Eve had their apple….Newton had his apple…..and Jack had his beanstalk, right?
My love of botanicals and mycelium comes from a different perspective. It is their sense of community and being that I connect with. And in doing so, find them enduringly fascinating and completely beautiful. It also hasn’t slipped my attention to the historical and medical important effects that these extraordinary lifeforms have on both their surroundings and us.
When it comes to creating living spaces, what kind of plants feature in your home?
JN: Orchids, Cacti, the more exotic the better! It drives my family crazy, as I am continuingly moving the plants from room to room to maximise the seasonal natural light. I love bringing the outside inside. I like to have cactus, in particular, to remind me of my childhood. I even had a special one brought back from California and although I was not sure whether that was allowed, she settled in nicely! I have plants that remind me of my family who are no longer with us. I find placing house plants into the right space is so important.
I have Boston ferns in our bathroom and my daughter has a String of Nickels and Hoya hanging in her bedroom and succulents (Fishbone, Christmas to name a small few) in her bathroom I don’t think I have a single room without plants in it. They are great for oxygen, and like fish, can be calming and help to reduce stress. I even have dried lavender in our boot room. As living organisms, I never forget their important contribution to our wellbeing and health.
Tell us about your process?
JN: Predominantly mixed media and collage techniques, I want to fuse the nostalgic with the iconic to create a line between the ‘classically familiar and the downright bizarre, I have a collection of work 'Animal Attraction' that fuse vintage Playboy models, Animals, birds and plants together. ’It starts with curiosity. Something will grab my attention and I would like to learn more about it. I’m always questioning and digging as deep as I can.
Then from that comes the inspiration for a piece or series which always has a narrative and will incorporate multiple themes from a single subject, one of which is always nature. The more I look into something the more I always discover a connection with nature. My Botanical series is a good example: I choose each flower and plant for several reasons. whether it be the Victorian idea that each flower carries a message, one that couldn't be spoken aloud or simply that plants and herbs are not only important to people for their flavour but invaluable in medicine too.
Whichever my choice, these rich subjects allow me to layer my works with far more significance than meets the viewers first glance. It is very satisfying when they discover this.
Where does your interest in art come from?
JN: I believe it comes from within and that I have always had it. For me Art is a complex language all of its own and when I learned to create it allowed me to communicate from a very young age. As it brought so much pleasure it was easy to be interested. I am sure it is the same for a chef who has loved food from childhood and now derives pleasure from every aspect of cookery: sourcing, cooking and eating. I feel the same about Art and the older I have got and the more I have learnt, the more satisfying it has become.
What was your first ever experience of ‘art’?
JN: My grandmother and Great Aunt were artists. My mother is very talented also. So I was raised around art for as long as I can remember, I distinctly remember the smell of the paints. My grandmother beaded flowers, they are proudly displayed in my home and inspired my art when I moved into the botanical world.
Outside of art what makes you the happiest?
JN: My family, which includes our menagerie of animals including cats, turkeys and guinea fowl. I’m secretly looking for peacocks at the moment, please don’t tell my husband! One of the great things about having birds is their shedding of feathers, which I love to incorporate into a floral bouquet, you can display them all year.
We are very pleased to announce that Happy House Plants have an exclusive offer for our readers from Jana and art gallery Hatch Contemporary. Our readers can get 25% off any of the limited edition prints in the Botanicals Series and Animal Attraction series with this code HappyHousePlants25% claim your offer here JANA NICOLE BOTANICALS and use the code at checkout. This offer is solely from Hatch Contemporary not Happy Houseplants Ltd all queries should therefore be directed to Hatch Contemporary. Participation is limited to UK residents only. Offer closes on the 31st December 2020.
Plant Passions is a series of articles where we focus on plant people we admire. If you want to be considered for a future plant passion entry please get in touch @happy_houseplants
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