VMFA fellow Jane Winfield tries to understand the world through abstract painting

by | Jul 10, 2017 | ART

This is the first in a series of articles featuring the 2017-2018 VMFA fellowship recipients.   

Jane Winfield has always painted.

Some of her paintings takes years to make, some only days. All of them make you pause and think, though.

Winfield, a current VMFA Fellowship recipient, paints mostly large-scale abstract paintings. She said she uses her art to suss out spatial incongruencies.

“I think it’s when things confuse me, like if a shadow looks heavier than an object or a telephone pole is blocking somebody at the same pace that they’re walking towards you,” Winfield said. “I just like it when I don’t understand something because it means I can fill in the blanks. I can just make it all up, which is all I ever wanted to do.”

Photo by Jane Winfield

Winfield utilizes whatever materials she can, some traditional and others not so much, making for a wide range of surfaces.

Winfield’s husband Gabe has brought home things like concrete and tar to experiment with, she’s also used a baby bath sponge, and even improvised with flour and food dye when she’s run out of paint.

“I like that paint can go on anything, it’s so malleable and it’s so sexy but also forgiving,” Winfield said. “It can do anything you want it to do. The great thing is it’s just chaos and my job is to attempt to control it. I never really succeed but I love seeing what happens.”

She says her process is messy, but that makes it all the more fun.

“Sometimes I’ll paint on something for a while then forget about it and then go back years later and paint again,” Winfield said. “Sometimes I’ll leave it outside then I’ll paint over it, giving it a new texture. I feel like there should be no real limitations on what it is.”

After Winfield received her MFA from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2012, she taught painting and drawing classes at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. More recently, Winfield has been teaching drawing classes at her alma mater VCU since moving back home to Richmond.

Winfield’s had her first solo exhibition, “Signs of Life,”  in Savannah Georgia, showcased more than 10 of her original paintings, at the end of last year. Currently, she’s working on another exhibition that will be in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ Pauley Center in August.

Winfield said she’s grateful to be an artist, getting to do what she enjoys day in and day out.

“I’m allowed to experiment where a lot of people don’t get that opportunity because they have to go to work and grind it out,” Winfield said. “I don’t know, maybe they find the same kind of love, but I feel like I’m learning all of the time and that’s what I love the most. I never feel like I’ve got it. I never feel like I’m winning so I’m always trying harder.”

And things have been a little harder, at least time wise. The Winfield family has doubled over the past year and a half with 18-month-old Rocko and one-month-old June.

  Photo by Jane Winfield

“Before the babies, it was just painting all the time and working,” she said. “Now I hustle around the house then paint whenever I can, which has been really interesting because you realize your limitations are just as much of an excitement.”

Winfield said she paints in bed every night. She even has a piece in progress over her bed right now.

“Sometimes the painting just hits you right and they’re done,” Winfield said. “The one I’m struggling with right now, I have over our bed because that way it’ll bug me every morning and antagonizes me until I get it right. It’s been driving me crazy for about a year now.”

For Winfield, art is about better understanding the world and receiving satisfaction through that.

“Above all else, art should not be cynical, especially when the impulse is so readily available to be that way,” she said. “I think things should be about hope because it’s hard. You have to do it because you want to do it and not to teach people a lesson. It’s about joy.”

Lana Ferguson

Lana Ferguson

Lana recently graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree in journalism. She served as editor-in-chief for the university newspaper, The Daily Mississippian, her final year there. She is a Mechanicsville native, but her work has taken her all over the United States' Southern region, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Sri Lanka. When Lana's not in the office or on an interview, she's probably with her black lab Cooper, eating local food, or seeking adventure elsewhere.

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