Back in February, local artist Janette Hopper opened an exhibition at Costello’s Piano Bar, downtown Wilmington. Unlike any other in town, it features Hopper’s work for six months, and every two months her work rotates between “chapters” she’s devised. Functioning as a retrospective of sorts, Hopper’s exhibition takes viewers on a rollercoaster ride through her expansive, prolific, and inspirational career covering prints, paintings and sketches.
Growing up in the Midwest, Hopper has traveled internationally with her career, teaching in Denmark and showing across the world and the United States. From woodcuts to nature scenes, she draws inspiration from her surroundings. In tune to the current of humanities vices and virtues, one of Hopper’s most recent printmaking endeavors explored the seven deadly sins in a contemporary context. It comically reflected how someone wholly removed from our society would be struck by our actions and attitudes.
While her self-reflective prints come down, Hopper next will hang a body of paintings titled “Nature the Killer App.” Her aim is “to glorify nature because nature is the ultimate,” according to the artist. “It offers our resources both spiritual and physical, the source of the planet and beyond.”
Nature is—and always has been—a major influence for Hopper. A visit to her tranquil backyard studio is illuminated by the sun and has its own natural ceiling thanks to a high frieze of trees. Her work establishes a sense of place. As a world traveler who has lived in Idaho, Columbia and Denmark, Hopper understands the importance of finding a home wherever you are.
“Each place is different and possesses different colors and feelings,” she says. “Sometimes it is our first home, but for me it turns into everywhere I go.”
Hopper says her work becomes a language to dictate and detail the area in which she resides. “I make a record of myself and space at that time,” she continues. “I am always trying to capture how a place feels.”
Through a comprehensive understanding of colors, Hopper’s sensitive and exquisite use of warms and cools reveal a sense of immediacy. With her paintings of Greenfield Lake and Bald Head Island, she has captured her place in Wilmington.
“In these pieces, since people will recognize the scenery, I want to focus on more of the detail and make people see what’s really beautiful,” she explains.
Hopper maintains an expansive knowledge and love for art history, as well. Her work contains references to those who created before her. Natural landscapes come inspired by a group of artists, American landscape painters, who don’t generally get much attention.
Working during the middle part of the 19th century, these artistic icons are always over-shadowed by their European counterparts, who were starting art movements such as romanticism, expressionism and impressionism around the same time. American artists on the other hand were beginning to expand as a country and push toward the West Coast. Exposure to this new frontier welcomed a whole new world. Hopper refers to them as visionaries.
“They had a mood to their painting, and they tried to capture exactly what they saw,” Hopper says. “Through these works, we can feel their sense of wonder and awe, exactly what they were feeling.”
Hopper goes on to note that landscape painters are unique in the realm of the artist because the idea of a sense of place is so important to them. “Take Georgia O’Keefe, for example,” Hopper says, “she left a bustling art career in New York to move out to New Mexico and make her home there. She was so drawn to the western US that it was only there was she able to create the truly iconic works of art she is known for.”
It is this dedication and inspiration in a place that also fuels much of Hopper’s landscape painting. Not forgetting the European forefathers, Hopper notes almost all great art movements were started by a landscape painter.
“That dedication to taking the natural world and challenging the way we see it has been the precursor of every revolutionary art movement,” she says.
Cezzane, the mysterious member of the impressionists, almost feels out of place when categorized with others’ works. A fanatical painter, particularly of Mount St. Victorie in southern France, his fanaticism paid off and eventually led to the development of cubism and the birth of Picasso as one of the world’s greatest artists. This artistic shift was the product of a landscape artist who saw the world in a different way.
Hopper’s strong opinions about the historical importance of landscapes are also reminiscent of her personal beliefs. “There is something very primitive in ourselves,” she states, “that wants to connect with nature.”
In a world filled with iPhones, TV, instant gratification, and endless bounds in technological advances, Hopper is reminding us that nature and our surroundings are the original “app.” Nature has the power to change a mood, views and impress itself heavily upon a memory of place.
The second chapter of the overall, aptly titled, “Dancing through my Blogosphere,” by Janette Hopper will be on display at Costello’s through the beginning of June.
Nature the Killer App
Second chapter of “Dancing Through My Blogosphere” By Janette Hopper
Hangs through June
Costello’s Piano Bar
211 Princess Street
Mon.-Sun., 7 p.m. – 2 a.m.