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Janet Roberts will tell you how she feels about art, what it means to her life, what life means to her, and the synonymous linkage between art and life. But when it comes to her paintings, she isn’t about to explain them. First, she has already done so on canvas. And second, to burden viewers with her own perspective could potentially rob them of their own. Having learned the grammar of painting, she is articulate, eloquent, even, in her expression. Yet for Roberts, basic skills are nothing more than a set of rules meant, not to be broken but overcome, a framework she labors within and without depending on what she wants to say. Her command of the language is supported by an expansive vocabulary, which extends well beyond her palette, enabling her to say what she feels with a close approximation of intent. Yet unless you speak the same language, you might not understand what she means. So Roberts translates her message into a universal language of emotion, speaking to and from the heart through color on canvas. Somewhere between elementary and art school, she learned that while Claude Monet had something to show her, Clyfford Still had something to teach her. That what the market will bear may not be what the public can stand. That those who make the rules can be both honored and overcome by those who interpret them.

Roberts will tell you she paints, on occasion, to feel better, to get well. Most often, it is to feel well and to get better. Always, it is a healing experience, an opportunity to think and to feel and to stay in it long enough to get something down on canvas that speaks to her sense of self, and convey what is essential to her audience.

She paints with an emotional intensity whose representation is neither abstract nor purely expressionist as she seeks a mental, physical and emotional engagement between artist and canvas, canvas and audience. Janet Roberts is a wild child, a study girl grown into a most assured woman, equal parts filly and farm girl, at home on the range or the runway, but most often sequestered in her studio, painting. She has a fine mind and a fantastic body which, despite several bouts of cancer, has never failed her, having won the battles and relinquished the war. She will tell you her painting has always restored, replenished, rejuvenated her, but by all observations, she was never actually depleted.

What saves her on a daily basis is not the painting but the process, not the product but the probability that someone outside herself will shift perspective and understand the visual and philosophical implications of her work. She paints to paint. She paints to ponder what is and what isn’t, what should be and what could happen if we pay attention. She paints because she loves it, loves the action as much as the reaction among a devoted cadre of collectors who acquire her work for the same reasons she creates it, pure conviction.

She paints for herself but releases the work to collectors, to critics, to charitable organizations who benefit from the sale of her paintings. She will tell you her work, through no conscious effort, is created out of a channeling of faith both distilled and deepened by love. And yet, by all accounts, her art, as her life, is both spontaneous and carefully planned. She knows what she wants and wakes to the opportunity to create it with the gift of each new morning.

Her work is serious, even somber, often exhilarating and always inspired. It is a lesson about life, a link to the artist, both who she is and what she represents, and a language with which to understand and explain ourselves and our relationship to life, and to each other. If we pay attention.

Lisa Crawford Watson

 

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