A Columbia Daily Tribune interview with Jane Mudd on the opening of her show “Old Favorites, New Flavors” at Imago Gallery, August, 2014:
Tribune: The first thing that struck me about the show is that there is a combination of work that appears to have been created with a narrative, question or allegory in mind (i.e. “For Christ’s Sake, Wake Up,” “Round Table” or “Found Object”) -- and often this has some clever underlying humor; and work that appears to be more of a meditation on space, light and form (i.e. “Log House”), and this seems to be backed up by your artist statement. Over what period of time were these pieces created, and did you select or create them with a specific idea in mind?
Mudd: The above mentioned were done in the last five to seven years. The narratives were influenced by both an interest in -- and a skepticism of -- organized religion. My strict Catholic upbringing as well as past artists and current events are probably the main reasons I have the urge to make occasional narratives of this nature. I also feel responsible as an artist to spend time questioning and calling attention to themes of prejudice, hypocrisy and certainty, etc. The sacredness of religious paintings and the classical style of design and modeling is what I have been drawn to in the approach, but, yes, I can’t help slipping in a little absurdity while I’m at it.
Tribune: Can you talk about the symbolism in “Round Table”? I notice that most of the immortals depicted are of Eastern (or, in the case of Yoda, based on Eastern) origin. There’s no Thor or Zeus (unless I’m really missing something), for example. Why did you select the particular beings for this image? Does the choice of indigo monochrome have its own significance? How about the placement of figures in relation to one another?
Mudd: I have a collection of little religious icons on the windowsill by my kitchen sink at home. They are all together in the same place -- getting along nicely. So one day there was this urge to want to show that idea in a painting ... why not? Most of the figures in the painting are not in my collection so I did a little research. Yes, no Thor or Zeus or Nanna or many others. The selection came about with figures I thought would be fairly recognizable. I did realize that for every one I put in I’d leave 10-plus out. The placement was more about design. The color blue, more heaven-like?, and a way to unify them all. Some are not exactly gods or goddesses but more iconic in nature, i.e. Eve and Yoda. I explored the early man (homo erectus) theme at length several years ago so I just had to put him at the table too.
Tribune: In “Found Object,” two men are examining what appears to be a Venus of Willendorf/Woman of Willendorf figurine. The men gazing at the figure appear not to be that far removed from the Paleolithic era themselves. A few scholars have speculated that these figurines were created by women; and there is some evidence that cultures from this era were matriarchal. Is this a comment about women -- and often their objectification or their dismissal/reduction as artists -- in the context of Western art history? Mudd: ...It is definitely two men from a more patriarchal time wondering about the “found object” so small but potent. ... Could there really have been a time when the matriarch was really dominant? Wow, imagine that! Who the two men are and from what era is up to the viewer.
Tribune: Finally, I’m interested in your process as an artist. Some of your landscapes appear to have been painted en plein air and have an almost Fauvist quality. Your charcoal drawings are accompanied by clay models, which I’m guessing you made to assist in accurately rendering form and shadows. Do you often create models for use in your work, especially allegorical work?
Mudd: I know the anatomy well enough to render the human form in clay, but I’m not as good doing that in the two-dimensional realm without a model. So, yes, many times I’ll do a clay study to get the gesture and movement in the multi-figural work. You can then light and view the models from any angle. Working from life (plein air) has its advantages over copying from a picture, as I try to tell my students. A sense of process, immediacy and discovery is what can be achieved. Not to mention spending considerable time with another human being or something in nature. How often do we spend 3 to 5 hours non-stop intensely looking at something real?