137ac — JANET LAING
A PERSON VIBRATES, MOVES, CHANGES By Janet Laing
“I have been painting for 13 years—ever since I first got sober at 49, and began art therapy groups. Painting is healing and therapeutic for me, it frees my mind of clutter so I can concentrate on what is in front of me.
I love art because it is such a great tool for self-expression. Both singing and painting are my fortes because through these vehicles I find my inner voice.
There is something magical about capturing a sound, a color, and the vibrancy of telling a story. It also makes me only too aware of how I must evolve, stretching beyond my comfort zone, taking some risks so that my personal truth can come to light.
Lately I have been painting in oil on canvas and giving myself themes: People and Pets; Kissing Couples; and Waterfalls.”
TIME HAS A WAY OF BEING FEMALE I was born in Los Angeles in 1952 and raised in a working class family attending schools in Covina and West Covina. I knew I wanted to be a professional singer by the age of eight, but was never encouraged in this or any other art form. In my twenties I did a lot of different jobs, but mostly worked as a legal secretary because my typing was fast. When I found out my mother died at 38 from Huntington’s Disease, and I had a 50/50 chance of inheriting the gene, I decided I better work at what I love, singing.
That is when I moved to New York City and sang with the Funktionaries. Later I formed my own female band, Wanda and The Way It Is. I sang, wrote songs and breezed past my late thirties and forties without getting HD but my two brothers were not so lucky. They both passed away. Me, I was living the fast, wild and wooly lifestyle of an entertainer. It didn’t take long before I was a full-fledged alcoholic.
Recovery brought me to my knees and then my senses were awakened in art, music and writing. I became prolific in all three and recaptured my long lost soul. My spirit had been pushed down all my life because it was impractical to be an artist. Now I am thriving in all art’s glory. Thanks to Annatina Miescher, founder of 137ac, I have a studio with supplies to paint in and get to work with like-minded people who love to paint. Our collective is innovative and challenging and we are blessed to have each other to inspire. My band, Wanda and The Way It Is, has come full circle as well.
“When we look at the blue sky for the first time, that is to say not merely see it, but look at it and experience it and for the first time have a sense that we live in the center of a physical poetry, a geography that would be intolerable except for the non-geography that exists there — few people realize that they are looking at the world of their own thoughts and the world of their own feelings.
On that occasion, the blue sky is a particular of life that we have thought of often, even though unconsciously, and that we have felt intensely in those crystallizations of freshness that we no more remember than we remember this or that gust of wind in spring or autumn.” (Wallace Stevens)
THE BLUE SKY SHUTTERED IN PIECES FELL INTO JANE LAING’S PAINTINGS
By ROSANNA ALBERTINI
What’s in front of her, in front of us all, is the most malleable scene. Only the mood, and the way we step into the new day will tell if the beach, or the towers downtown are easy or impossible to reach. Los Angeles is in my mind, the place where Jane Laing came from and where I live; a non geographical spreading of trees houses water and sky so expanded and intertwined with different languages and communities that nobody thinks of human nature as something interesting. Human nature is just a drop in the water.
So I’m not sure what disconnected Janet from her nature nailing her fast fingers to a typewriter except the idea maybe that humans are good when they make money and compete with machines. A very diffused feeling around parents of young people of her generation, also in Europe, a sort of after war syndrome. “Tears are not the chorus. Food is not the chorus. Money is not the chorus. What is the chorus. … Anyway there is the question of identity.” (Gertrude Stein) And that also has to do with the cat.
Jane built her living space despite the broken glass around her, perhaps a broken sky. Her cat recognizes her. In the end she became an artist.
Her painted stories are songs of separation: she paints a life pushed down to earth, rocks or asphalt. There is no open sky, no sky at all. Buildings and roads as brown as dirt. They are scenes of movement. Flatness liberates them from realism. Painted life is not reproduced life. It’s her dream of a living place charged with physical energy: human bodies float rather than swim in the ocean because the water does the work after swallowing green and blue and azure and pale blue and she can tell the humans “you know? I don’t care. I’m the strong one.”
The painter as well found her voice as if crystals of freshness exploded in her mind, as if she had seen the sky melting in waterfalls so the rocks can wear a liquid dress that constantly changes, at the same time sounding like an orchestra for the invisible birds hidden in the green. Of course, somewhere, there is always a cat.
Her painted cats are bodies of tense muscles, concentrated: “Shall I jump from the window? mmm… Maybe the birds are too distant.” But a crazy desire spreads from the eye in yellow, follows the birds, becomes a yellow stream from a window… and the azure surrounding the cat like a river, whatever, why should words count?
That’s why I love Jane Laing’s portraits. They are silent. Although they happen to be in a particular place, the person’s outline is surrounded by a white halo, maybe a reflection of her/his/whose mind which travels elsewhere, and doesn’t stay inside.
Let’s go, let’s go girls, springtime is calling. Musicians are ready. “Azure, the afternoon is too azure and too long for me. I might take the train and come to see you. But, the train of my desires and the one of my thoughts go in opposite directions.” What about a lemon ice-cream? “Azzurro, il pomeriggio è troppo azzurro e lungo per me. Quasi quasi prendo il treno e vengo da te. Ma il treno dei desideri e dei pensieri all’incontrario van.” From Azzurro, a song by Paolo Conte.