Cultural Quarterly
Spring 2008
Volume XXI, Number 2
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Finding Inspiration Wherever She Goes,
Janet Gold Creates Immensely
Appealing Art

By Holly Strawbridge

Janet Gold picks up a decades-old book and gently opens its stained cover. She smiles when she finds the inside of the hard cover has peeled away, leaving a colorful pattern. Carefully turning the brittle pages, her smile broadens when she uncovers browned, cracked parchment inserted to prevent the ink from smearing onto the illustrations. When she discovers a small pencil drawing the owner made on one of the pages, her smile turns into a grin.
Janet Gold -Book Collage
“I can use all of this,” she says with delight.

In seconds, the artist slices off the hard cover and splays it flat on the table to expose its battered, torn and discolored beauty. One by one she separates the pages looking for printed illustrations and personal doodles. In a book someone else might toss into the trash, Janet sees a wealth of colors and textures that can be incorporated into an endless number of collages.

“I am inspired by the color and the shape of books. The older, moldier and more water-damaged they are, the happier I am. I look for color and texture in the covers. I look for papers that are yellowed with age that break instead of tear,” she explains.

She searches every part of the book for harmonious colors and shapes. Sometimes she rearranges the parts of a single book into a collage. More often than not, she integrates pieces of other books, fabrics and found objects such as pieces of rusty metal, tar paper and cement chips. Jane Gold -Book Collage Items

Through careful consideration of the elements she incorporates, Janet creates works with distinct personalities. One work with lace and red polka dots appears feminine. A darker collage that includes bits of broken cement, roofers’ tar paper and a piece of her son’s old shirt is clearly masculine.

There’s even a bizarre collage of small, chewed objects the artist pulled from the mouth of her puppy, Dylan. Oddly, they actually appear to belong together.

Like Dylan’s collage, all Janet’s works are small gems that entice and intrigue the viewer to wonder how the artist was able to integrate incongruous things so effortlessly and seamlessly.

“I enjoy the act of continually solving visual imagery issues,” she says. “I arrange the images by pushing, pulling, playing and placing the fragments together to set up a sense of fluid motion within the piece. It’s all about the manipulation of text and texture, color and composition to create a flow.”

The finished works are immensely appealing and earned Janet her second $15,000 award in the South Florida Cultural Consortium’s Fellowship for Visual and Media Artists competition.

A study in contrasts
The fact that Janet creates beautiful works of art from moldy books is completely in keeping with her life, which is a study in contrasts. An exuberant, energetic and Janet Gold -artworkpassionate woman, her outgoing personality would appear to lend itself to large canvases or sculptures. Yet Janet’s collages are not much larger than the books themselves.

Visitors to Janet’s 1,500-square-foot studio in Fort Lauderdale’s trendy Third Avenue Art District are immediately impressed by its cleanliness, tidiness and organization. Although Janet works on multiple projects simultaneously, there is no mess. Boxes full of book parts, scraps of fabric, found objects and other collage possibilities are neatly stored on shelves. Works under way are placed in neat piles on a cloth-covered table. Soft music and incense contribute to a feeling of serenity.

The artist leads a unique and fulfilling personal life as the wife of Coral Springs City Commissioner Roy Gold. The Golds have two grown children, a dog, a house in the suburbs and a station wagon – not exactly the Bohemian ideal, yet it suits Janet perfectly. She is fully supportive of her husband’s career, accompanies him to political events and is active in the Coral Springs community.

“A life of art and politics makes for an interesting dichotomy,” she says.

The artist as teacher
Janet has taught for 30 years – longer than she has been an artist. Seven years after she earned an M.Ed. in art education from Florida Atlantic University, she was hired at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, where she has been ever since. While teaching at the Art Institute, she obtained an MFA in Visual Arts from Miami International University of Art and Design.

“Art and teaching is the perfect combination. I love the Art Institute. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would still teach there,” she says. The admiration is mutual: in 2000 the Art Institute named Janet “Honored Faculty.”

The Art Institute could hardly have hired a teacher with more impressive credentials. Winner of multiple awards as an artist, Janet has also been both a judge and a curator. Her works have been displayed at major museums throughout the country and abroad and have appeared in Rag Magazine, City Link, The Best of Photography and Contemporary Color Theory, and were featured on the cover of Miami Magazine.

Teaching creativity
Janet Gold -photoAt the Art Institute, Janet teaches design, drawing and perspective, and a class she developed called Creativity: Thinking Outside the Box, which explores the concept of creativity in the areas of art, psychology and design.

Her workshops have influenced her creative process, as well. The first time she taught a collage workshop to the faculty of the Fashion Department, they brought out their needles and thread. Janet was fascinated when they started stitching on top of the fabrics they chose for their collages to give them added dimension. She was so taken with the approach that she used an art award from the National Association of Women Artists to buy a sewing machine for herself.

“A minimalist in every medium”
The collages, oil pastels and photographs on display in Janet’s studio reflect her experience and growth over three decades, yet nothing looks dated. There is a sense of continuity, a feeling of creation by the same hand, uniting her body of work.

“It’s all about color, composition and design. I’m a minimalist in every medium,” she explains.

Janet started her creative career as a photographer for a music magazine and has maintained her interest in the medium. Framed portraits of musicians, politicians and family members fill one wall in her office. Her fine art photographs of torn posters, peeling paint and broken-down buildings hang on her studio walls. Oil pastels, the medium that earned her first South Florida Cultural Consortium Artist Fellowship in 1999, have the same design, balance, composition and artistic sensibility as the photographs and collage.

Like many artists, Janet has moved from one medium to another in search of artistic expression. She began as a fiber artist, then moved to watercolor, then on to pastels. When she tired of breathing chalk dust, she took up collage. Quite naturally, she began to incorporate fabrics in her collages.

“I feel I have come full circle,” she says.

As for the Artist Fellowship, Janet took an unconventional approach.

“I pin the information on upcoming shows and projects on a specific wall and intentionally hung a rabbit’s foot on the Fellowship application. I was quite surprised when it worked!” she says with a laugh.

“I can’t thank the Broward County Cultural Division enough for this extraordinary opportunity. I am proud to have achieved the highest art award in the State of Florida. I am honored to be chosen alongside so many talented artists in the group, and equally as honored to be chosen by the judges.”