Joan Painter Jones
1260 Library Street
Detroit (south of Grand River Avenue)
313 671 4447
Cafe de Troit
January 9 through January 30.
Ok, first off, the artist’s name really is Joan Painter Jones, or at least that’s what I’m told. Regardless, it’s a good name for someone who captures the struggles of everyday life in her paintings/assemblages. Jones mines her personal history – from childhood to the raising of her own children – to create narrative and poetic works. She builds her pieces from an assortment of refuse, including scraps of clothing, discarded wood, and floor tiling. The focus on childhood is enhanced through her use of such objects as crayons, child sized chairs, and chalkboards.
Despite their three dimensional nature, it is, however, safe to call these assemblages of objects paintings. While the pieces would have a lot to say strictly as a collection of the items and personal artifacts, Jones goes farther and applies bold, quite childlike color and imagery over the top of the objects. In fact, often the assemblage serves as a canvas for Jones to place a more complex narrative upon.
The vibrant use of color reinforces the childlike, though not childish, quality of Jones’ work. She paints iconic imagery of bright colored suns on garish, crazy quilts of a landscape. The pieces composed of clothing are quilt like in both construction and color. The clothing scraps are inspired choices – from puffy coats to denim jeans – sculpting the appropriate dimensionality to create a varied landscape. She also provides some unique moments like the inclusion of the texture of tree rings and a physical staircase ascending into a painting of houses. Jones scrawls over the pieces words that echo her poetry that hangs alongside the works.
Throughout the work and the poetry runs the theme of the “sheltered child.” Jones writes of and depicts a dangerous adult world. Barbed-wire holds a tiny chair together, which itself is adorned with sharpened crayons. Her bright colored and whimsical imagery is protective of the child’s innocence as is her inclusion of the more sculptural crib-like and child’s chair pieces. In this vein she offers perhaps the most unusual “Madonna and Child” probably ever, in the form of two scraps of wood with nails for limbs and drilled holes for features. Somehow in these simplest of forms she captures the innocence and helplessness of the child coupled with the caring and protectiveness of the mother. Jones’ work explores how do we protect children without simultaneously stifling their growth? While her paintings do not cover up the fact that sometimes that struggle is lost, they are filled with such warmth and care that they serve as a source of exuberance and hope.
Jones works all maintain this theme of childhood and the dangers that threaten it. She accomplishes through pieces that may be distinctly different, yet all remain distinctively hers. She provides delightful moments of joy in the color, the paint handling, and the narrative, that allow us to persevere over the moments that make us fight back tears. – Nick Sousanis