- "Lean In 2" by Jana Flynn
San Francisco-born and now Brooklyn-based artist Jana Flynn makes a foray into New England with an exhibition at Kishka Gallery & Library in White River Junction. Collectively titled "Blind Spot," the half dozen mixed-media works consist of silk-screened prints on paper sewn together. The images — layers of concentric rings in contrasting colors — are trippy, pulling in the eye. It's an artistic sensibility she may have absorbed in childhood, Flynn surmised in a phone interview.
"My parents were 1960s hippies, and my mom collected posters from the Fillmore," she said, referring to the iconic San Francisco rock club. "I do love a good op art."
Born in that city in 1980, Flynn earned her undergraduate degree at San Francisco State University, then headed to Manhattan for an MFA at Parsons School of Design. Now she lives in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn with her husband and two children and is the artistic director of StoryCorps.
"Blind Spot" demonstrates Flynn's fluency with graphic design, but, for her, the work has a deeper significance than visual gyrations.
"A blind spot is a hole in your consciousness; it can be about childhood trauma or things you can't quite comprehend," she explained. "I went away during the pandemic. I had experienced a lot of anxiety and went into some paranoid states that I didn't know I was capable of. I went to a retreat and confronted some of these blind spots, looking at spaces that were really dark."
Though working through these feelings wasn't fun, Flynn said, it was healing. Similarly, on her website she describes her artistic practice as "spiritual centeredness." Her process involves creating designs digitally, then silk-screening "hundreds of them," composing arrangements of the concentric circles and sewing them together.
"I sort of think of them as like quilts," Flynn said, "puzzle pieces that I put together. Sort of like creating my own artwork to then collage."
- "Lean In 3" by Jana Flynn
Unlike a puzzle or quilt — or a typical collage — her finished pieces are not rectangular. Rather, they are seemingly capricious arrangements of separate papers stitched together. The unorthodox polygons have a roguish appeal — you get the sense they might rebel and fly apart if not bound by a literal thread.
The works seem to mirror Flynn's process itself, which she said helps her "remove myself from the chaos." But, she added with a laugh, "I just moved my studio home, so we'll see how that goes."
What's not evident in her Kishka exhibition is that Flynn also makes ceramics. Her website indicates that proceeds from sales of her bowls, plates and pots "will be donated to organizations that support human rights, ending gun violence, police reform, women's health, BLM, and protecting our earth." At the beginning of the pandemic, she said by phone, she stopped making art, "but ceramics always gets me going. But I couldn't just make art for art's sake — I had to give money away."
Asked if she'll continue to make silk-screened prints, Flynn replied: "I think it's always evolving. I can't do the same thing for very long. I have to move on to something else."