Janice L. Moore
Location , Freeport, Maine, , US
There is problem solving and making order first before working out meaning. It took 20 years of working without specific intention using shape, color and texture to arrive at a purpose in the work. This was necessary and couldn’t be skipped or fine tuned. The more words I use about the work, the farther I feel from the meaning of it. I prefer instead to approach it physically through repetition, layer by layer. Adding what feels right and true and removing what doesn’t. Same slow ritual over and over.
I get ready to paint first by changing clothes. My work clothes are worn and splattered with paint. I wear the same ones for years and I’m sad when something becomes too worn and I have to let it go.
I use a thick sheet of beveled glass for my palette and another to sandwich the wet paint when I’m done for the day, so when I return to work, I begin by pulling apart the sheets. I clean my palette. I remove the dried paint with a blade scraper. I mix my glazing medium. This is a slow and deliberate process.
I sit down in front of the painting and just look. The previous day's layer of paint has set. I may spend 15 minutes only looking. I identify all the areas that need work; a detail that’s ambiguous, an area of shadow that is not consistent with the direction of light, or a color that needs depth or brightness. I select the specific problems I will work on then begin. There are always problems that remain to be solved and the painting informs me what it needs. For me it’s an ongoing conversation with an idea. I return sometimes to paintings that I started years before. I am never really done.
I choose my brushes carefully. I go through many and I'm harder on them now because I can't feel my hands very well. The brushes become worn down and, when the bristles are short they become eraser brushes.
I paint in layers. I use fine sandpaper to smooth out specks and lint from the previous layers and I add paint very sparingly. This is an impossible task. There will always be imperfections. Each painting acquires hundreds of layers over time. Each layer is a day's work.
I use rags made from our old clothes and sheets for wiping and erasing. I like using my son's old things because it reminds me of when he was little. I use rags made from bedding I had when I lived in Paris so many years ago. I like the reminder. I can’t let go of the used rags which somehow become symbols of the effort; their own abstract works in a way.
I lay out fresh paint onto my palette from the tube. This takes longer than it used to. I’ve lost feeling in my fingers and strength in my hands. I can't feel the cap. It’s more challenging now to squeeze the paint through the opening and to get the cover back on.
Everything goes slowly. Each routine step is part of a ritual of transitioning to work on the painting. Whatever else I might have on my mind falls away. I am only thinking about the next step and the painting and the problem I see in front of me. By the time I begin to paint, I am clean. I listen to music. There is only the painting and the act of painting and the music. Everything else slides away in the work.
After I finish and have completed the slow process of cleaning up, I don’t look. When I come back to the studio hours later and see with fresh eyes, it feels like I’m discovering the work for the first time. I look quickly, but I don’t study it. That’s for the next chance I will have to go to work and start the ritual again.
Moore was born in Canada. Her family is from Nova Scotia and she goes back every year to spend time with them; to learn more history and to absorb the incredible visuals of the place. She grew up in northern Maine in Aroostook County. Schools still closed for fall harvest then; a tradition mostly gone now. Young kids could work on the ground, but not on the harvester which paid more. She tried joining in the harvest for several seasons and was a terrible picker, falling behind almost immediately as the tractor unearthed more and more potatoes. She would eventually give away her section and flip over an empty barrel to take in her surroundings: patterns made by row after row from each pass of the tractor and wide open sky with beautiful clouds in every direction.
She moved with her family to the coast when she was fourteen, eventually finding her tribe of creatives where she felt included and accepted. After graduating from Waynflete school and Sarah Lawrence College (both incredible places for a young artist to explore and expand), she travelled in many directions, living in Paris and New York City before eventually returning to Maine to raise her son and pursue her quest for being useful despite her poor labor skills. She works from her studio in Freeport Maine.
Moore has engaged in an ongoing exploration of Maine's industrial landscapes and what she describes as “the architecture of usefulness.” She believes that in Maine landscapes, “we often reference an idealized, natural place of forests, mountains, and coastline, which Maine is rightly known for, but there is another equally intriguing landscape that tells an important truth about our culture and our history.”
She has shown her work in many traditional gallery settings, and has a particular interest in showing her non industrial landscapes in places of healing, having spent a fair amount of time in them herself and knowing first hand their value.
I move slowly; not by choice. My hands don’t work very well. My energy is limited and unpredictable. Paintings often take years for me to complete and I never really consider them done. I’m always conscious of how to be useful under these circumstances; of what I can add. I organize and curate exhibits (sometimes in nontraditional spaces) for other artists and myself around ideas that resonate. We are in a new time with room for new ways of making art happen for more voices now.
I’m always inspired by the words of other creators. When a particular quote resonates, I write it on a spare surface of my studio so I can see it and be reminded daily of my purpose and potential.
One of my very favorite quotes is from Donna Tart’s novel, The Goldfinch about many things including a painting:
“To understand the world at all, sometimes you could only focus on a tiny bit of it, look very hard at what was close to hand and make it stand in for the whole.”