Jane Olin’s Photographic Journey – Monterey Herald
Like many of us, Carmel Valley photographer Jane Olin goes out into nature to find solace and rekindle her spirit. She also hits the trails, including Garland Park, not far from her home, for artistic inspiration.
During our recent walk together, she told me, “Long walks in nature calm me down and allow me to access depth. In the forest, I deal first with what is not art. By listening, I honor whatever comes. After about 20 minutes I move to a larger place, I move on to inhale. Time passes and I think about my artistic creation.
When Jane Olin was growing up, nature was right outside her door. “As a child, I was nourished by the forest where my sister and I played every day. I didn’t know that we took forest baths, but we were. The woods became his playground and his refuge. The only time Jane got lost on earth was when she leaned against a tall pine tree. It was after dark that her uncle found her there, sound asleep. Once lost, she knew that she could trust the trees, that they were her protectors and her comrades. That Jane is inspired by trees is not only evident in her being, but in her new exhibition, In the Company of Trees, presented at the New Museum of Los Gatos until June 5.
Jane didn’t say the trees spoke to her; what she revealed was the meaning of the relationship she feels with them. When a person spends a lot of time with such magnificent beings, the connection is cellular and primary. New research tells us that trees communicate with each other, are cooperative, sending moisture to nearby trees that need food the most, and more. So, knowing a person as a parent, could trees communicate in a cross-species way?
Look at Jane’s new work and I think you’ll agree there’s more to it than observation, craftsmanship, technique and inspiration. His sight work is a kind of conversation. The large black and white photographs are unlike anything I have ever seen before. In front of the images, it is as if one were penetrating into the soul of the arborescence as if one were penetrating into the essence of these great beings to see their heart. She calls this work “Process Photography”. After taking photos, it is in the darkroom, for many hours and through various processes, that she develops the work into what it becomes, or rather, she engages in the process to give birth work, and Jane can spend a month working daily and end up with a single image that speaks to her, that resonates.
Walking through Garland Park with Jane, listening to her talk about her art, it was obvious that I was with an artist who is not only deeply committed to her work, but truly breathes it in and embodies it. But this has not always been the case. As is the case with all mothers, and especially those who work outside the home as Jane did for many years, her life was full and all-consuming daily. However, the question “What is my passion?” found its way and didn’t let go.
When her son was in high school, his art teacher, recognizing this student’s talent, met Jane who then talked to her son about pursuing a career in art. However, that was not his interest. During their conversation, Jane had one of those flash moments: “I’m the one who wants to be an artist!”
“Women have a third chapter in our lives. I was 49 or 50 when I realized this, and I have never looked back! Once she retired from the family business and her children were launched, Jane retired from household chores and began to focus on study and creating art.
Of course, it was not easy. For most of us, the artistic path is not, especially not in the beginning. It means following an inner saying, doing something that most likely won’t bring you paychecks, and having to be with the most intimate parts of yourself day in and day out, asking questions, trying new things, not finding that sometimes Success. It took time for Jane to develop and grow, but “Once I really identified as an artist, I felt, I knew creating art was something I had to do.” Over time, she realized, as all artists should, that her vision “is as valid as anyone else’s.” I learned to hold my own power rather than projecting it onto anyone.
And if this is the essential issue for any artist, there is a significant aspect that is specific to women. It’s only relatively recently that we’ve started to see women’s art receive a lot of attention and recognition, but I wonder if there will ever be fairness. Consider that in 2018, data from the National Museum of Women in the Arts reports that only 27% of solo exhibitions feature women artists. About 25-35% of artists represented in galleries in the United States and the United Kingdom are women. In 2020, only 11% of acquisitions made by major American museums involved works by women. Compare that with the fact that 51% of all working visual artists are women! The truth behind such numbers can only seep into the consciousness of all female artists. But the statistics wouldn’t stop Jane.
Locally, since 2011, of the Monterey Museum of Art‘s 103 main gallery exhibitions, 23 featured the work of female artists and 36 featured the work of male artists. The remaining 44 shows featured two or more performers of both genders. In exhibitions called Currents + FLUX, a museum gallery devoted to the work of emerging and evolving Californian artists, from 2018 to 2021, 27 of the 41 exhibitions were made up exclusively of female artists and eight of only male artists, the remaining were mixed. Of course, as our understanding of the genre evolves and we recognize non-binary artists, whose work we see in art museums, the numbers will reflect that.
But what is more important than any statistics (thank God!) is the vocation of the art. Jane told me what I know but need to hear again and again because even though many artists work alone, we need each other, we need that sense of camaraderie: “A some magic happens in the creative process. If I stay away from creation for too long, my mood changes and I can become anxious or even sink into depression.
“I decided a long time ago that I wanted to make art that stems from a deep place within me, work that I identified through my intuition. Above all, I make art that I want to make, that I respond to, and if I make art that has a quality that a viewer can feel and react to, I’m happy.
Of her new show, Jane said, “My tree work pushes boundaries. I hope to inspire viewers to really look at trees and remember their connection to them. If you see In the Company of Trees, I’m sure when you come across trees, you’ll remember them.
For more information about the exhibition, visit https://bit.ly/35mPdLW