Catherine Jansen, (b. 1950), Pony Boy, 2011, archival inkjet print, H. 41 7/8 x W. 63 1/8 inches, James A. Michener Art Museum. Gift of the Artist in Honor of Bruce Katsiff, Director 1989-2012.

Tip #8 – A work of art can teach about people.

About the Artwork:

“I have learned that the hungry eye is always rewarded. I take multitudes of photographs, which I later weave together into more complex images. I have found that photographing and then merging images taken from several angles and perspectives gives a closer echo of the experience then a single recording of it.”
-Catherine Jansen

Catherine Jansen has been inventing, exploring and creating photographic processes that merge state of the art technology with traditional photography since the late 1960s. She has created artworks with color copiers, cyanotypes, and Kirlian photography on cloth. From the late 1990s until today, Jansen has been working with a digital camera and Adobe Photoshop to create a visual vocabulary that builds photographs into a long format that can express psychological and emotional time and space within the image. After taking multitudes of photographs, she weaves them into increasingly complex and meaningful images. This work has coincided with over 15 trips to India, and is an ongoing project called The Nada Series.

Jansen’s first photographs were focused on the domestic landscape and her backyard garden. Now, her life has changed and her body of work has expanded to include her extensive travels and changing perceptions of the world around her. Jansen has found that photographing and then merging images taken from several angles and perspectives gives a closer echo of her experiences. She also confesses that capturing images during her “down time” has increased her opportunities to photograph. It has made it easier for her to meet people, especially children, who have befriended her and allowed her into their personal lives. She has also become more aware of  the animals who play a unique role in Indian life. Intimate encounters with people, animal or places have, in her words, quickened her breath, and frozen her eyes.

Looking Questions:

  • What do you see? Describe all the details you can find in this artwork.
  • What is the focal point in this work of art? Why?
  • How does the artist use light to create mood in this work of art?
  • How would you describe this work of art—happy? Sad? Thought‐provoking? Calm? Disturbing? Peaceful? How does it make you feel?
  • How do you think the artist feels about her subject matter? Why?
  • If you could tell as story about the people in this photograph, what would it be?
  • Does this image remind you of anything? Explain your answer.

Activities:

  • Catherine Jansen volunteers several months a year at the Little Stars School in India. Here, over 400 students are learning to read and write, develop their English language skills, computer skills, have arts programs, and have access to good health care and hygiene. This school is funded completely by private donors. Learn more about the Little Stars School. How is the artwork of Catherine Jansen impacted by her work with children at this school? What clues do you glean from her work that make you say that?
  • Take several digital photographs that reflect the essence of your community. Use Adobe Photoshop or other comparable software to combine and manipulate these images to change their meaning. Present your final photographs in a display.
  • Create a collage of images from original photographs and/or magazine images that makes a strong statement about a part of the world that has meaning to you. Use color copy processes to make multiple copies of the work.
  • Catherine Jansen once said, “Many [of my best] photographs were taken while stopping by the side of the road to accommodate carsickness, or in tiny villages waiting for flat tires to be repaired ‐‐and on paths to outdoor toilets.” What does this quotation mean to you? Do you feel other artists also find their inspiration during such mundane moments, or does great art only come from great moments? Find some artworks that illustrate these types of moments and create a visual display of your findings.
  • If you could create a conversation among these people featured in the photograph, what would it be? Write it down or act it out with friend or family member.
  • Increase your understanding of India by reading books by Indian authors: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, or A Suitable Boy byVikram Seth. Younger readers would enjoy these tales of India: The Road to Mumbai by Ruth Jeyaveeran, Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami, and I is for India by Prodeepta Das.

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