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"I have learned that the hungry eye is always rewarded. I take multitudes of photographs, which I later weave together into more complex images. I have found that photographing and then merging images taken from several angles and perspectives gives a closer echo of the experience then a single recording of it."
"Discovering the universal in the mundane is always a delicious experience. It often hits me suddenly, in the disjointed positioning of my children's bodies, the folds of a piece of cloth, or the sound of the dishwasher. Catching me unguarded, I become paralyzed with awe."
Though she began her career as a painter and sculptor, Catherine Jansen did not feel as though she was truly expressing herself until she began using cloth and photography in her work. Jansen refers to her multi-media work as soft sculptures. She begins the process of creating a soft sculpture with original and found photographic imagery that she copies on a color Xerox machine and then assembles to create visual collages. Jansen then prints the images onto heat transfer paper and applies them to cloth. Cloth is an especially significant material for the artist. She states:
"Men, and especially women, have been working with cloth since the beginnings of civilization. Next to food, cloth is the most intimate of the things we use on a daily basis. It's the first thing we're wrapped in when we're born, and the last thing on our bodies when we die. We wear it, walk on it, sit on it, and sleep on it. In most cultures it has been women who have made these cloth articles, and with the scraps they had left over they made their art. So when I work with cloth in my home, I feel that I am a link in a long chain of mostly anonymous female artists."
Jansen treats these images on cloth in a variety of ways, often times sewing them into soft stuffed replicas of the original copied items. Her first soft sculpture, a bedroom installation titled Stuffed, Stitched, and Sewn has been displayed by the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York and was reproduced in the book Frontiers of Photography, part of the Time/Life series. She later created Blue Room in 1970, another soft sculpture that utilized full-scale photograms of people and furnishings in a manufactured bedroom environment in which the majority of the objects were created out of fabric. The work has been widely exhibited both in Bucks County and throughout the country before becoming a part of the Michener Art Museum's permanent collection.
Jansen's earlier work typically depicted domestic subjects such as her home, children, and gardens, but her subject matter has evolved over time, reflecting changes in the artist's life. Her later work includes photographs of people and environments taken during Jansen's many international travels. Through such photographs she allows the viewer a glimpse of her own wandering lifestyle and of varied scenes from all over the globe. In expanding the scope of her photographed subjects Jansen has in turn expanded her own domestic space to include many places far beyond Bucks County.
In addition to her photography and soft sculptures, Jansen has created costumes for stage productions. Most notably, she coordinated and designed the costumes for the play Copernicus written by the artist's close friend Robert Marcelonis and performed at the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in June 1994. Her created costumes are very sculptural in form, include contemporary photographic imagery, and have been displayed in museums such as the Painted Bridge and the Owen Patrick Gallery, as well as at the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
Jansen has been exhibited in Parting Gifts: Artists Honor Bruce Katsiff, Director/CEO, 1989-2012 (2012), Creative Hand, Discerning Heart: Story, Symbol, Self (2012), and Catherine Jansen: Images from the Mind's Garden (1993) at the Michener Art Museum. The Blue Room was shown for the second time at the Museum in the 2017 exhibition Light and Matter.
Video by Jim Thornton for the Michener Art Museum, Creative Hand, Discerning Heart artists videos (2012).
M.F.A. Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1976
Certificate, Academia di Belle Arti, Rome, Italy, 1972
B.F.A. Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, 1971
Connection to Bucks County
Catherine Jansen currently lives in Wyncote, Pennsylvania. She taught for many years as a fine arts professor at Bucks County Community College in Newtown, Pennsylvania. She has also done work at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Photographic Resource Center, Tuscon, Arizona
High Museum of Art, Honolulu, Hawaii
Michael Kohler Art Institute, Sheboygen, Wisconsin
Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania
Owen Patrick Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1989, 1995, 1998, 2005
Fine Arts Museum, Melbourne, Florida, 1999
Villanova University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1997
Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 1994
Moore College of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1991
Spaces Gallery, Cleveland, Ohio, 1988
Photographic Resource Center, Boston, Massachusetts, 1987
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, 1985
Hicks Gallery, Bucks County Community College, Newtown, Pennsylvania, 1984
The Center for Creative Photography, Tuscon, Arizona, 1983
Creative Hand, Discerning Heart: Story, Symbol, Self, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 2012
Parting Gifts: Artists Honor Bruce Katsiff, Director/CEO, 1989-2012, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 2012
An Evolving Legacy: Twenty Years of Collecting at the James A. Michener Art Museum, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 2009-2010
Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu, Hawaii, 2006
Alternative Photographic Processes, Boston, Massachusetts, 2004
The Women's Eye, Owen Patrick Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1998
Complexity and Contradiction, Paley Design Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1996
The Camera Rediscovered, Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1995
Wave of the Cloth, Painted Bride Gallery, New York City, New York, 1993
Contemporary Quilts, White Museum, Alberta, Canada, 1991
Contemporary Photographs, Allentown Museum, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1991
Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 1991
The Definitive Contemporary Quilt Show, Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, New York City, New York 1990
Conspicuous Display, Rutgers University, Rutgers, New Jersey, 1989
Prospectus, Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1989
Mermaids, Maritime Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1986
Photograms, Michael Kohler Art Center, Sheboygen, Wisconsin, 1985
Photographic Alternatives, Hong Kong Art Center, Hong Kong, 1984
Lensless Photography, Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1983
Uniquely Photographic, Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu Hawaii, 1979
Breath of Vision, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1977
Three Centuries of American Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1976
Stuffed, Stitched, and Sewn, Museum of Contemporary Crafts, New York City, New York, 1973
Unique Photographs; Multiple Sculpture, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, New York, 1973
Professor Emeritus, Bucks County Community College, Newtown, Pennsylvania, 2003
Cultural Incentive Grant, 1982, 1995
Individual Artist Grant, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, 1981, 1988
Individual Artist Grant, National Endowment for the Arts, 1983
The Blue Room
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