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 Fay Jones  (1936 - )

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Lived/Active: Washington      Known for: mod figure and genre, collage

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
"Willow Ware Dancing Fool"
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Excerpted from the introduction published in the "Fay Jones - A 20 Year Retrospective" exhibition catalog, 1997, by Sandy Harthorn, Curator of Exhibitions, Boise Art Museum.

"When Fay Jones speaks of her family, her eyes glisten. The eldest of six, Jones grew up in a household, which she describes as "well versed in chaos." The equilibrium of homelife was compromised by the fact that her parents owned and operated a hotel, restaurant and bar, and as a young woman, it was her responsibility to maintain order for the younger siblings. Fay considers the escapades of the quirky hotel family in John Irving's novel Hotel New Hampshire as being somewhat reminiscent of her own. Jones' impressions of her atypical family life laid the groundwork for imagery than later surfaces in her art.

Jones decided at an early age to become an artist, and entered the Rhode Island School of Design at seventeen. She met her husband, painter Robert Jones, at the school, graduated at twenty and had four children before she was thirty. When her husband was appointed to a teaching position at the University of Washington Art Department in 1960, their family moved to Seattle. As Jones' children grew older and departed, she converted the living room into a studio and began painting in earnest.

Jones readily acknowledges that her images are semi-autobiographical; they are not literal, yet they hold an essence of truth. For example, references to the sea, pools, and water reoccur in numerous paintings. Jones, who has always lived by water, finds both romance and danger connected to images of the sea. She explains that her ancestors include seafaring people and that she is instinctively drawn to places near water. Conversely, the artist nearly drowned as a child, and water has since symbolized an element to be overcome.

Jones takes full advantage of the use of personal symbols as a means to express emotions on paper. Unpredictably, Jones inserts palm trees, fish, houses, clocks, sailors, boxing gloves and other details in her compositions. These images represent ideas about far off places, nourishment, domesticity, history, romance and marriage. It is a language, once recognized, that gives you a key to the work.

From 1977 to 1980, Jones became a socially conscious observer, moving beyond the personal views of a diarist. Her paintings grew in scale, while background landscapes and vestiges of atmospheric perspective were eliminated from the compositions. The figures became more prominent, assuming greater than life-size proportions.

During the 1980s Jones developed contrived fictions of painted stage sets in which all real space disappears and the artist incorporates theatrical devices. Figural gestures in the paintings are those of actors or mimes; there is a distillation of events or activities, and reoccurring symbols function as props. Diverse and conflicting figures lay one upon the other, overlapping like cutouts or paper dolls. Rendered in a geometric framework, they gain a sense of monumentality and take on the rhetoric of the stage. Jones talks about her eyesight playing a role in this imagery: "I have flat vision." This way of seeing opens up unique possibilities for juxtaposing characters, resulting in a style that has become a signature for the artist.

Along with her visual approach, Jones believes that the power of works to evoke images is equally important. The artist creates with the spirit of a writer and conceives her painted figures as if they are fictional characters developed in an author's imagination. Inspired by writers such as Marcel Proust, Emily Bronte, Jack Kerouac, John Updike and Betty Friedan among others, she composes a visual poetry to portray complicated emotions and associations.

In 1984, Jones was awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship Grant from Washington State Arts Commission to make a series of twelve paired book collages that are both autobiographical and about her own reading history. From this period onward, Fay Jones increasingly uses literary sources, such as Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Sam Shepard's Motel Chronicles, as the basis for narratives of caustic commentary that are meant to question values and assumptions. In these, as in recent works, Jones demonstrates her innate ability to suggest dynamics between her characters through the nuances of looks and gestures.

During the 1990s, Jones has incorporated a lighter, brighter palette and a bolder rendering of shapes; she has found elegance in the simplification of forms and a directness that is poised and assured. In the framework of her paintings, Fay Hones has chronicled her lifetime of impressions, observations, and reflections, all peppered with brilliant imagination and wry humor. What we are drawn to in the magnetic appeal of Fay Jones' art is her understanding of the mysterious nature of relationships and the complexity of human emotions."

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