Jane Hambleton: Exploring The Liminal Space

"Exploring the void and its relationship with the figures that frame it, Jane Hambleton has created images that inspire meditation and deep thought," says reviewer Susan Keefe, and I agree.  These paintings make me happy!  I was drawn to Jane Hambleton's art these Olympic weeks especially because of their subject matter of high diving and swimming, and I've been watching the Summer Olympics just like you!  My friend Karen interviews Jane about her artwork, which all started with an old Red Cross lifesaving book and its intriguing illustrations . . . 

What is it about the Red Cross illustrations that you were drawn to?

It all began when I bought an old 40's lifesaving book at an estate sale. I collect old books and magazines and love the patina and character of old paper ephemera. The Lifesaving book interested me in particular because many moons ago I was a lifeguard (Tom too!) and had to learn much of what was taught in the books. Also, I spent a lot of time as a kid in and around a pool; swimming, lifeguarding and playing. Because of that, I think, I'm drawn to the vicerial sensations of floating in water or under it and diving into water. Much of my work has played off of connecting to those sensations, but I also love the idea of water as metaphor for life. It can be both a place of great comfort, but also a place of fear. I think a lot of my pieces can be read both ways. I like exploring that duality, contradiction.

The first drawing I did from the book was based on an image of a man floating just under the waters surface. I did a large scale graphite drawing of the figure, but wanted to take the drawing further and layer in other elements into the piece to create more depth of meaning. I had been playing with coating the surfaces of my drawings with clear gel medium than staining the coated surface so tried it on the large drawing. The effect creates a rich watery surface texture that I really love. The surface of the piece is as important to me as the drawn elements and can convey so much in a subtle way. I also collaged in other graphic elements, color, and in this case, pages from the lifesaving books to reference my source.

Are you inspired by the Olympics swimming or diving?

Of course! I'm actually inspired by most athletes. At my core, I would say i'm a figurative artist so naturally i'm fascinated by the human figure in motion. I've done a number of pieces of figures diving and caught in mid air. There is an amazing bravery and beauty to it. 

Does your subject inspire the medium you choose to work in or vice versa?

I think the marriage of medium and message comes through most in the finish of my pieces and the way I hang them. I generally work on large pieces of paper cut from rolls with some of my biggest pieces being 8 feet tall. I generally don't frame the large pieces, but instead present them hung from cleats so the paper floats above the surface of the wall giving it a light and ethereal quality. I love this approach because not only does it mimic the subject matter, but it makes you aware of the beauty of the paper and it's materiality.  And as mentioned above, the surface of the drawing is as important to me as the drawing underneath. It's also a way for me to combine more literal figurative imagery with more painterly abstract ideas which are both artistic approaches i'm interested in. Here's an image of me in the process of staining a coated drawing.

What is it about the moment between dry land and water that is so appealing and fascinating (and I agree that it is!)

I would guess because it is sooo visceral—it can be both scary and exciting at the same time—taken in both mentally and physically.

Reviewer Susan Keefe referred to your work (Above, Below & What Falls Between) as exploring the void between objects.  I see it as also exploring thresholds or liminal spaces – do you?  Do you have other work that explores the threshold or liminal space?  Does all your work?

I love the word "liminal" or the idea of "liminality", and yes, I think it is at the root of what my work is about. Capturing that moment between—the threshold. I've played with that basic idea most of my work. It's not an idea I set out to explore, but has emerged on it's own—something I find fascinating about making art.

A hanging paper piece:

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