Autobiography Via Fantasy: Jane Andrews Makes Paintings of Her Life

Karen Kedmey
Nov 28, 2014 4:00PM

Guided by her experiences and her heart, Jane Andrews paints what she knows best—love, illness, successes and challenges, and resilience in the face of the vagaries of life—albeit in the form of fantastical, metaphorical images and visions. As the artist once explained, she considers each one of her works as an “attempt to understand, interpret and laugh at the complexities of life.” Working in oil on canvas and largely intuitively, she places human, animal, and hybrid figures into spare, otherworldly settings. They appear inward-looking, as engaged in navigating their own thoughts and emotions as they are in the landscapes and strange scenarios in which they often find themselves.

Much of Andrews’s work is autobiographical, and, since 2005, centered upon the stability-shattering experience of her husband’s diagnosis with and slow decline into Parkinson’s disease. She paints both herself and her husband into her compositions, shown together, or, in the case of Noname, alone. Here a figure is centered between two bare tree branches, which seem far too delicate to bear its weight. The figure wears striped socks and is wrapped in loose garments and headscarves, which serve to highlight its careworn face and hands. Its gender is indeterminate. Is this a portrait of the artist, shown shrouded in worry and weighted down by the burden of her husband’s illness? Is this her husband, wrapped in hospital gowns and caps and using the sticks as crutches in an effort to steady his weakened body? Or is this a hybrid of husband and wife and a picture of their determination to remain hopeful and find happiness in the face of his struggles? After all, though her works may be moody and dark, Andrews always tempers them with subtle optimism and humor, tools for drawing viewers into her compositions—and for getting through life.

Karen Kedmey