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Hand in the Clouds: Janette Hopper hangs chapter three of art show at Costello’s

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Since February Costello’s Piano Bar has hosted local artist Janette Hopper’s series “Dancing Through My Blogosphere.” Hopper’s work comingles her passion for music, dancing and art. Traversing concepts of nature and society through hand-carved prints, paintings and sketches, the three-chapter visual blog is cleverly bound by its title and content; each entry is filled with gesture, movement, light and drama. All drift as one through the dance of life.

The Old Place - 2009 - 24 X 30 - Oil

DANCING BRUSHSTROKES: Hopper’s oil painting, “The Old Place,” will hang at Costello’s as part of “Into the Cloud! Vaporware.” Photo courtesy of the artist

In a mod nod to the gothic yesteryears, Hopper’s first chapter, “Medieval Nastygrams (the foibles of men),” comprised a collection of hand-cut linoleum prints that depict our current society through the scope of the seven deadly sins. The second chapter, “Nature the Killer App,” included paintings of the artist’s favorite nature escapes, including mountains, beaches and black water swamps—all offering a downloadable sense of solitude and preservation.

Hopper’s third chapter emphasizes clouds in all formatons: looming overhead, moving, swirling and burning with light. Probing the top-most layer of the Blogosphere (and a possible cure for “Text Neck”), “To the Cloud! Vaporware” insists we peel our eyes from our devices, tilt our heads back and enjoy nature’s screensaver while we still can. 

“The sky seems most untouched by man,” Hopper muses. Nature and the environment are the seminal factors guiding her life and artwork. “I hope representing the clouds with the motion and mystery of light will make people want to save this earth and its atmosphere for our grandchildren.”

Recalling her entire body of work, Hopper says clouds have been the most dominant and recurring theme in her paintings. While earning her MFA at University of Oregon, Hopper studied methods and modes of English romantic artists and concentrated on the works of J.M.W. Turner and John Constable. Both influenced her style with their fluid brush strokes and billowing cumulous clouds.

In a landscape filled with big, white, one-dimensional cotton balls, Hopper is the streak of golden light slicing through the marshmallow monotony. 

“C’mon you don’t just have to make a bright blue sky with still-white clouds,” she exclaims. “Who cares about that, right?” 

Traveling the U.S. and abroad since a young age, Hopper has spied some of the world’s best atmospheric offerings in the Caribbean, America’s coastal plains, the foothills of Idaho, and Germany. When painting a scene on canvas, her method mimics her flair for dramatics.

As the series’ name whimsically implies, Hopper enjoys dancing. She met her husband Charles while contra dancing in Wilmington and is a fan of the Argentine tango. True to gestural form, she swings her entire arm when she paints. Every brushstroke becomes a dance move: some rhythmic and intentional, others purely accidental. Suddenly, a ruffled skirt rippling above the dance floor reflects cirrus vapor streaking across the horizon line. 

“When that kind of magic happens, you think, ‘Oh, I can paint,’” she jokes. “Once in a while, one little brushstroke does more than any of the rest.”

Working side-by-side with Mother Nature for many years, Hopper understands there’s no time clock, so she isn’t always punching in on location. The brilliant sunset scene in her piece “The Road Home” presented itself in her rearview mirror one evening as she was driving home to Wilmington from Robeson County. Stopping on the side of the road, she snapped a photograph and made some notes so she could work on it later. 

“Photos provide topography and patterns,” she says, “and once you’ve mastered planar painting, you can do better work in the studio.” 

Though her paintings depict clouds, they also consist of abstractions employing lines and composition. 

Developing color relationships and paint-layering are also important parts of Hopper’s cloud-building process. Instead of using black tones, she achieves perfect levels of darkness and shadow, with warm and cool grays, or a mixture of other colors. For texture, Liquin is added to create a thin and thick layer of continuity throughout her pieces. “Paintings aren’t all about the subject,” she states. “A good painter knows expression and paint application.”

Like the sky, Hopper’s work constantly shifts. She is currently planning an extension to her show, a fourth visual blog entry called “Bytes and Bits.” Composed of ink drawings and prints of nature abstractions, she seeks to explain how technology is not here to destroy, but to aid in creativity and help humans work together to mend our broken planet. Perhaps one way to begin is to stop and look at the clouds. 


Into the Cloud! Vaporware

Paintings by Janette Hopper
Hanging through August
Costello’s Piano Bar • 211 Princess St.

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