Janet Morgan has had a long and varied creative life from the start. Her WPA trained grandmother taught her painting around the kitchen table, and her room was her studio beginning as a young child. She forged her own path through art school, from the Minneapolis College and Art and Design to the Halifax College of Art and Design, to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, finding mentors such as Warrington Colescott and Kinji Akagawa, who appreciated her unique vision. After school she moved to New York City and started new adventures.
In New York Janet worked in another love of hers – literature. She ran the fine press and poetry department at the famed Gotham Book Mart, while continuing a vibrant life of making art, illustrating books, exhibiting and creating stage backdrops and costume for environmental spectacle and theatre. It was a rich life in many aspects, but very hard to survive on a bookstore salary, so after seven years she knew she had to move on.
Janet found a teacher of art therapy who taught experientially and truly appreciated the power and freedom in art making. After her training she worked full time for 18 years as an Expressive Arts Therapist with adult cancer patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. The large 3,000 square foot recreation department was a hive of activity. Janet taught watercolor, pastel, stained glass, copper enamel, clay and many other creative media, often using whatever materials were donated and creating a new project on the spot. She helped her patients find amusement, distraction and joy in new tools of creativity. She often used creative visualization to relax and energize her students before diving into painting, making them less self-critical and thus freer in their art making.
Since then Janet has been a full-time artist – travelling, painting, and teaching.
In 2008 Janet received a public art commission from the New York City Department of Education for an Early Childhood Center in Queens. It is made up of ceramic reliefs on a circus theme of aerialists, acrobats and animals. For Earth Celebrations in New York City she worked on environmentally themed pageants on both the Hudson River and the Lower East Side Community Gardens; conducting workshops with school children to create robes, puppets, hats, staffs and banners, many based on the local animals and plants. Her large (8 X 8 foot) acrylic paintings have been featured at the 2018 Parliament of World Religions in Toronto, on stage at the Omega’s Women and Power Conference in New York City in 2004, at Burning Man in 2007.
She has been artist-in-residence in Death Valley National Park three times, the Weir Farm National Historic Site in Connecticut, the Babayan Culture House in Cappadocia in Turkey, The Luminous Bodies Residency at Artscape Gibraltar in Toronto and annually at The Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York for over a decade.
Janet has traveled, taught and painted widely. She has painted landscapes inspired by her travels in Central Asia, Africa, Antarctica, Iceland, South and North America. She and the painter Gregory Frux were the first Americans to show at the National Museum of Art of Kyrgyzstan, and they have shown together in Death Valley National Park, Brooklyn and onboard the cruise ship “Orlova” on the way back from Antarctica.
Janet has created her own pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, now numbering over two hundred large format watercolor paintings. She has taught her a workshop on “How to Create Your Own Deity” at the Rubin Museum of Art, the Art Students League of New York and the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors. She has had well over 100 exhibits, and has shown at the Death Valley National Park Visitor Center, the Fashion Institute of Technology, the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, the UN, the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building in New York City and the Tabla Rasa Gallery, Coney Island Museum and Williamsburg Art & Historical Center in Brooklyn.
Janet is on the board of director of Artfront Galleries, which produces numerous pop-up shows, and now virtual shows, for the wonderfully diverse Newark art community.
Janet has long had an art practice than involves both the human (figurative) and portraits of the earth (landscape). Her expressive art comes from a dancer’s response to the earth and its inhabitants, capturing movement of the present moment as well as visual evidence of the geologic forming of the earth – always looking for gesture and force. She often paints her figures with both hands, connecting the painting itself to the bilateral symmetry of our bodies. She tries to capture the seen and unseen energies of both the earth and of the body in her art. Science Fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson describes her work in the introduction to the catalog for the exhibition Quintessence – Three Visions:
“Morgan’s images display our own felt electricity, the crackling auras and fields that we know for sure are there, not just from new scientific sensors, but from the way our bodies so often feel. We are not only stardust, but wild patterned energy, dust devils swirling through space for just a time. “ –– Kim Stanley Robinson