Janel Houton - Artist Showcase Feature

Light Space & Time Online Art Gallery is pleased to announce that Janel Houton is the gallery’s newest featured artist. 

Janel Houton is a Massachusetts artist, who paints and draws nature, landscape and animal themes on canvas and paper using a variety of wet and dry media.  Born in Boston and grew up on the North Shore, Janel left New England for twenty years to study and work in New York, Philadelphia, Hawaii, and Japan, before returning in 2007 to raise her daughter close to family.

A student of Art History and Historic Preservation-and nearly ten years living and working as an Asian Art dealer in Japan- Janel returned to Boston to enroll in classes in painting and drawing at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts School and has been actively working ever since.  Reawakening her passion for art, her interests in American History, Landscape Architecture, Art History, and Japan, as well as Buddhism, nature, climate change and the environment, provide rich themes and subject matter to explore.

Speaking about her time abroad, she reflects

“After graduating from college and studying a history of Art largely focused on Western culture, and then doing a Master’s thesis on 19th century American history, I found it really refreshing to be immersed in a completely different place: the art and culture of Japan.  I threw myself into learning as much as I could while I was there, studying Japanese language and for close to ten years specializing in Japanese art- during which time I had a break, so to speak, from Western culture.  Japan is a highly refined and aesthetic culture-and the Japanese aesthetic sense is very much a part of daily life - life IS art in Japan, and there is a great appreciation of every kind of art and craftsmanship.  Tremendous value is placed on having an earnest devotion to one’s work, and artists and craftsman are greatly respected.  One can see expressions and references to art everywhere in popular culture and advertising from the most famous historic artists to bawdy local traditions.  The way that the Japanese embrace the spectrum of arts from the most ancient to highly contemporary without judgment is something that made a deep impression on me. When I returned to the US I felt like I had adopted the positive aspects of these views, which in turn enabled me to see things freshly- and I think today my aesthetic sense is truly an amalgam of Eastern and Western views. I think it freed me up a lot to pursue the themes I am interested in as an artist.”

Since that time Janel’s work has covered a number of themes, some in series, including historic trees, and climate change.

“Studying historic trees I have explored old literature, discovering which trees are still standing, then studying and painting their contemporary form.  In doing this I discover what has been lost and what is valued culturally.  When I read a book from a hundred years ago about historic trees in New England, I discovered that most of them, sadly are gone.  (I painted some that remain.)  Meantime I recall that in Japan-where there are very complicated and contradictory dynamics operating around natural conservation-there exists the ancient native “Shinto” animistic religion which believes gods (kami) exist in many places in nature, so famous rocks or very old trees contain gods and become actual shrines.  I have painted this in a few paintings.  Historic trees in America are beloved but it is not quite the same. I like exploring these subjects in my art.”

Since 2010 Janel has been exhibiting locally, nationally and beyond, with a number of shows in healthcare settings including the Mass General Cancer Center in early 2015.  Speaking at the reception she commented about making art and exhibiting in sensitive settings:

“For those of us creatively inclined, it is hard to summarize the role that art plays in our lives.  I am primarily a landscape and nature painter, and I paint as a vehicle to express the joy and wonder I experience from the natural world.  Beyond this, it is an extraordinary gift to be able to share the visual journal of one’s life with others, most especially in settings where people find themselves at challenging points in their lives.  While the world we live in offers near endless distraction and enticement to be carried away in busy-ness, art is an invitation to step back and in quiet, to consider varied perspectives, many times offering viewpoints that we might overlook, and reminding us of a “bigger picture”.  As artists, we learn to stop and see and consider many possibilities.  I find enormous comfort and grounding in the natural world, and my hope is that my art will provide a similar reminder of those opportunities that are available to all of us, at any, and every moment.”

While Janel’s future plans include active exhibiting, including an exhibit this fall around the theme of Climate Change, she would welcome expanding into illustration in publishing, and recently did a book cover for an author in Brazil.   She’s an enthusiastic supporter of the arts for everyone and believes that people often undervalue their own abilities and interests.

“We live in a culture caught up in goal making, and don’t seem to prioritize the value of enjoying our lives, often completely having forgotten our basic love and need for “play”.  When we watch children they don’t think about playing, they simply do so at any given opportunity, and they flow into whatever direction it takes.  Art and creative pursuits can be the same way, yes you can strive to master something creatively, but at the same time, most people aren’t just making time to enjoy it.  And “art” isn’t limited to what’s in the museum- art is accessible to everyone-it’s a living thing and energy and it feels great to do it without expectation or seriousness.  I hope to remind people of the value of bringing more play into their lives-whether with finger paints, making music, dancing, cooking, sculpting, writing, gardening, whatever makes people feel the joy and freedom that creativity can offer us.”

A member of The Artists Group of Charlestown, the Newburyport Art Association, and the National Society of Painters in Casein and Acrylic, she has been exhibiting in the Boston area, nationally and beyond since 2010.  She’s always open to new projects and her website is at www.janelhouton.com


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