An Interview with Jana LaChance

Jana LaChance is a working artist from a coastal town in southern New Hampshire. She earned a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA from Savannah College of Art and Design. Her art is inspired by the dichotomy of New England’s inconstant natural landscapes and the muted experiences of every day life. Her work has been exhibited in an assortment of galleries and printed in several publications.

Art Editor Kristin LaFollette  recently interviewed our featured artists Jana LaChance about her portfolio, presented here in Issue #52.  Here is what Jana has to say about art, perception, and understanding.

You titled your portfolio Trap Tides. How does this title represent the works included in the portfolio? What unifying theme do you see coming through in the images?

Sometimes I go for the same walk or run in an area in nature or near the ocean and simply look closely within that day, and then the next day, and so on. I travel to the same places and spots, suspended somewhere between meditation and a pilgrimage. I have overarching undulating thoughts, perceptions, and ideas when I spend time near nature, a scope or window unlocking briefly. I’ve always had this peaceful way of detaching from the material of self, disembarking from the physicality amongst natural elements. I’m comfortable in my identity and expressing myself how I wish, but there is a certain constringency to identity itself, being part of society’s limits or limitedness, for everyone.  A sense of identity as well as the freedom to change and the autonomy to be nuanced is an important truth for anyone, and always has been, but is becoming, hopefully and currently, more recognized, if not enough. In nature and other places I and probably others have a sense of letting oneself go, psychologically afloat above that shared trap, living in another mind space only. However this is only a moment in time, such as daily changes, a small fleeting sea breeze. Sometimes my ideas are spurred by seeing a low tide revealing a lobster trap hidden under layers of water and currents or a high tide lapping with swiftness and vigor at a precipice of rocks, caught in singularity. Brevity in brevity, tides change everyday, stop, move in space, much like people, even be it minutely, enclosed and changing.

I’m especially intrigued by Temporal Tidepool and the interesting textures, color blends, and almost 3D nature of the piece. Can you talk a bit about your technique/approach?

I may be preoccupied tactically and with form, an adult absorbed in merely gazing at water and a small piece of earth. I speculate upon this little tide pool, with its tiny pebbles and larger stones, always here, an open aperture and microcosm of life. I think about how the tide pool came to be, perhaps there was a strong storm that pushed and pulled waves over the crevice. The storm then planted a certain amount of rocks, sand, and long blades of grass, now preserved in place with sun dried salt water. When I first sketch the structure of the pool and the stones and grasses I look at their shape, how they sit and insulate each other, and then I stop. After examining the pool I loosen my wrist and begin to wind my fingers around the contour of the drawn or painted rock with a brush or pencil. I’ll complete that specific object depending on what feels right within the whole of the work, revealing the disposition of each individual natural object. After finding the shape, I’ll attempt to uncover the essential color and let it rest. The shadows and cracks that suggest a 3-D element help mold the work into an overall entity, plant the details in sunken solidity. The painting is nearly the size of the actual tide pool I studied, making the space of the piece one to go into. Standing beside the work perhaps sharpens and cleanses the impression.

Your artist statement says you “gather inspiration from the dichotomy of [your] every day environment accompanying the polarity and difference [you] feel in nature.” Talk about how you see this coming through in your portfolio. 

It’s becoming a staple of clichéd and common truth that many people’s daily lives are perpetually wired with busy. Small blocks of time are full of stress or interacting with lots of other people to answer whatever needs to be resolved. Numerous happenings befall us in a single day to process or recover from. ‘Safety Bubble’ is my literal wish to pocket the peacefulness of a natural landscape, as if I could position a bubble and preserve it so it stretches and hypothetically holds that serene time in a single spot. However there’s a realization that it looks slightly unnatural and irregular, a static shape against the somewhat dimensional form and reflections of the water. The flatness echoes how strange it would be if a person could actually keep a moment, as if some of ourselves don’t quite fit in. Sand Spots and Lobster Glow are reminiscent of searching through identity again, there are portions in Lobster Glow that look like a variety of human parts, and vise versa in Sand Spots, some fragments of these works are reminiscent of nature, transcending gender, individual, or visible definitions of self, and some are otherness of invention. What we designed for ourselves to live in daily is becoming increasingly fast, hectic, sometimes chaotic or we are simply playing catch up. We enjoy our urban jungles and aspects of our busy lives but especially with the pandemic may have realized how dissociated we’ve become. Possibly we question what we need and the reasons for all we do. A lot of my work plays with the idea of becoming part of nature as well as our simultaneously feeling apart and detached from it, and wondering why and exploring how self-identity changes or remains the same when released from these external pressures.

You mention being mesmerized by “looking at the ocean, tide, the stretch of natural fragments.” How does that come through in these pieces? How do you decide what to represent in your artwork?

I’ve been watching the ocean closely my whole life and intently observing nature and people. I no longer know when I take something that’s visually rooted in my mind and alter that memory, and if others then know what and why I made those choices, but art means something different to everyone. I could utilize almost anything within these visual categories and paint through my perception. I observe, but a lot of my understandings, in unexpected ways, are partially my daydreams. I find details and restructure them. Some of the colors, movement and the atmosphere may be relatable and recognizable as a seascape or a figure, but other qualities become exaggerated, new, or enhanced; I infiltrate the work with hidden and new pieces and add questioning.

Do you exclusively work with oils? What determines whether a piece is painted on paper or canvas?

If I could find a piece of paper as tall as myself and as a thick and dense as 400 lb. cold press watercolor paper I’d be delighted. Perhaps eventually I’ll garner inspiration from Hockney, when he stacked canvas on top of canvas for his plein air paintings during his exhibit ‘A Bigger Picture,’ and eventually I’ll find a way to stitch together several pieces of watercolor paper to make one large work. The smoothness of watercolor paper and my understanding of its properties, albeit significantly altered when covered in gesso, allow me to invent my own textures, surfaces, glow and opacities. However I do chose and also appreciate canvas. Using canvas I can layer endlessly in some expanses as well as finish with one stroke of the brush in other areas. I also developed an early kinship to using watercolors. Watercolor permits so much control and so much release of that control within various techniques. I’ve continued using watercolor but I realized I wanted to make oil paint my own as well.

You graduated from Rhode Island School of Design and Savannah College of Art and Design. What were those experiences like and how did they help you grow and transform as an artist?

I was a person that came from a small town in New Hampshire, fascinated by art, and suddenly I’m in a school with others who went to art high schools. Or summer art school. Such things exist? I explored a great deal and was a very open book. I was invigorated living in a small city as well as seeing the arch and range of innovative young artists’ work through each class. I eventually realized concepts and perceptive insight are truly the artistic drivers. Somehow by senior year after a handful of discerning professors and my own insistent will I was developing a direction and had a collection of work. In grad school my interest in literature instinctively converged with art and nature and one of the series of works I created during my second and final year was based on the work ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Reading Henry James, William Faulkner, and Virginia Woolf, among others, while taking literary classes and earning my Concentration in English in undergrad also made me think, and paint. Certainly my work is inspired by my surroundings as well as from my every day insights, and these authors might feel alienating due to their datedness. However, I have a sense the writers’ works are ingrained in ordinary human occurrences.  Despite being rooted in another time, their profundity creates clear connections.

Tell us more about yourself. How did you become interested in art? What artists/creators have impacted your approaches to creating artwork?

I can remember loving art at a young age like many artists or creatives do, drawing things I saw, writing and illustrating books from my imagination. I shared my work with only myself for a time. Growing up in New Hampshire I sensed enclosure by its tranquility and hidden narrations of the past of New England. The Transcendentalists, the many artists across decades working in Maine, and its unique history, allows for a willingness to be curious of the world surrounding you, and art is a vehicle to do just that. In high school I remember studying the Renaissance and other art periods/movements that introduce a student to art’s history in general. Each new bit of information I consumed about art seemed to me like the utmost form of freedom, expression and human evolvement of thought. Art alongside literature seemed a veritable never-ending field of methods of learning to be discovered. I could also ruminate too long about how many artists have made an impact on me. I gain creative energy from what I see in Georgia O’Keefe quietude, Lois Dodd’s blissful singular stillness, Louise Bourgeois’ perception and truth, Helen Frankenthaler and Paul Gauguin’s color. I analyze Peter Doig’s mystic-numinous quality, Hockney’s autonomy, the echoed and dense ‘looking’ of Giorgio Morandi, Kim Dorland’s relatable visions and radioactive appealing nightmares. I also wonder about strange, centuries- old work I find in art books, as well as a plethora of contemporary painters whose art has a resonance, whether similar to my own, or sometimes more interestingly, not like my own.

Do you have a studio space? What is it like? How do you prepare for art-making sessions?

I have one room dedicated to making art. When I paint I invite some element of nature in. The windows are thrown open; if I’m lucky bird song comes through, there are a few plants nearby. I’ll change from sitting ,and then standing near, then standing farther back from my paintings and setting my canvas on my easel or floor. Sometimes I start right away, other times I hold back and let the painting idea simmer, maybe seeing if it sticks, or what shifts, sharpens or becomes ambiguous. Occasionally I’ll see something or be inspired by an artist, person, piece of nature, words, a shadow, or an object in motion to tag a few muses. I’ll tuck away the visual foresight in my mind, or take a picture to remember and I also have a collection of inspiring material digitally and printed. Of course if the weather is nice, and even sometimes if it is not, I like to work outside. I spread my supplies out or start working in the setting of inspiration. Producing drafts on location that aren’t completely self-aware always come out the best.

Where can readers find more of your work (online or out in the world)?

I have my website and Instagram under my name Jana LaChance, One of my drawings was recently in a traveling art show however it just came to a close! In any case, we will see what further ventures this year continues to bring and how I can contribute and collaborate within the art community.

What projects are you currently working on?

There are a few ideas for work that are far beyond my artist’s safe haven, in a good way. I am creating several large watercolors and oils as well as stewing on too many ideas to finish in a timely manner, as always.

By Elaine Pentaleri

Elaine Pentaleri is co-editor-in-chief for Mud Season Review. She lives on 23 acres of field, woodland and stream in Starksboro, Vermont. Elaine holds advanced degrees from both Alfred University and the University of Vermont. A poet and teacher, she is currently board co-chair of the Burlington Writers Workshop and president of the board of directors of the Willowell Foundation. Elaine’s work has appeared in small press publications, including Off Channel,, New Milennium Writings, ZigZagLit, Cold Lake Anthology, The Black Mountain Press, and elsewhere.