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 Jane Riles  (1939 - )

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Lived/Active: California/Missouri      Known for: coastal view, landscape

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Jane Riles was born in the winter of 1939 in St. Joseph, just north of Kansas City, Missouri. Jane's father was a country doctor and a local surgeon and her mother, a former school teacher. They had vacationed in Florida when Jane was 8. The warm Florida winters beckoned. In 1952 Dr. Riles bought a medical practice in Fort Lauderdale and with his wife, Jane and her younger brother, moved to Fort Lauderdale.

In early 1957 Jane entered Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, because of its emphasis on foreign languages and its proximity to Washington. The capital's cosmopolitan and international character appealed to her. She was interested in a career in the Foreign Service. The study of foreign languages appealed to Jane because it opened up the door to foreign travel and adventure. Mary Washington gave Jane a degree in French and a big start as a painter. The noted German-American muralist and illustrator, Emil Schnelock taught at Mary Washington from 1938 to 1958. Jane's creative life was born the day she walked into Schnelock's elective art class in the fall of 1958. Although she majored in French, she took art courses throughout her years at Mary Washington.

Jane returned to Florida in December 1960 at the end of her college program and took a job teaching world geography at a Fort Lauderdale Junior High School. With her college roommate, the first edition of "Europe on Five Dollars a Day" and the money from teaching, Jane made the "grand" tour of Europe in the summer of 1961. She returned in September with a diary, sketches and the memory of the major works of the Louve, the Prado and other European museums. Next, Jane taught two semesters of French in the high desert community of China Lake, California. After finishing the term at China Lake, Jane married Bill Wamsley in June 1962. As the wife of a mining engineer, she knew that she would be living in remote and exotic areas of the world.

In 1965 Bill was given his first overseas assignment in the very remote Amazon jungle location of Moengo, Suriname (Dutch Guyana). The hot steaming rain forest, the driving rain on her tin roof, the far off sounds at night of native drumming, the screeching and low moans of jungle animals and the constant rumble from the big bauxite crusher just down river combined to energize Jane's imagination and drive her passion to paint.

In the late summer of 1966 Bill and Jane returned to a new job in Peoria, Illinois. Annelise, the first of her two daughters, was born in Peoria that November. The family then moved to Portland, Oregon, where Marguerite was born in the spring of 1969. That summer of 1969 the Wamsleys were transferred to Danville, Illinois. They lived in Danville for three years from 1969 to 1972. Danville was close to the University of Illinois and to the vibrant Chicago art scene. Jane painted almost full time, up to 100 canvases a year and she established herself as an artist of repute by winning many awards at art shows and fairs across Illinois and Indiana. The impetus for this burst of painting was her continuing art education at the Graduate School of Art, University of Illinois, Urbana and the Peoria Art School in Peoria. During this time she studied with many of the major Chicago School and Illinois artists including Nicola Ziroli, Glen Bradshaw, Jerome Savage and George Foster. Ziroli, an Italian-American artist of the Chicago School with a national reputation for his landscapes and figure painting, was Jane's great influence. Ziroli taught Jane an appreciation for the aesthetics of painting.

In 1972 Bill was asked to head ESCO's European Division and the family moved to Lyon, France. The Wamsleys lived in a flat in the center of the city, but also purchased a small country farmhouse in the mountains that in time they restored. They traveled frequently to the company sites in Africa, the Middle East and of course, all over Europe. She painted in oils and sketched on all of these trips. Jane established her own art studio in Lyon.

Her paintings were exhibited all over the Lyon area including the prestigious SALON 75 of the Societe Lyonnaise des Beaux Arts in April of 1975 and also at the SALON D'AUTOMNE a year later. During this period Jane had 3 one person shows: at the U.S. Consulate, at L'Institut de Pasteur and at the Hotel Sofitel.

In 1979 the Wamsley's left France, going home around the world, visiting Turkey, Iran, India, Hong Kong, and Japan before reaching Portland, Oregon, the headquarters of ESCO. On arrival in Portland, Jane immediately began art courses at the Pacific Northwest College of Art and for the first time she began to paint in acrylics. This new medium freed her stylistically to be a lot more spontaneous.

The return to Portland also coincided with some new career directions. The energy and the passion that she had for so long devoted to her art she now directed toward teaching French on the secondary level and getting a Ph.D in French literature from the University of Oregon. Working for a cooperative of all public Oregon universities, from 1984 to 1987 Jane directed the "Oregon Center For French Studies Abroad" a program based in the old university town of Poitiers, France. She sketched a lot but painted infrequently during these busy years in France. However, her impressions of France and her memories of faces and friendships became the raw materials of her art when she did begin to paint later. For a year Jane lived in New York City where she directed a student international exchange program. But the call back to the Middle West was strong and she accepted a teaching job in Kansas.

In 1994 Jane moved into a house on the rim of a canyon over looking the city of San Diego and for two years she renovated inside and outside, established a French style garden and arranged an art studio. Just after her move to San Diego, her oldest daughter, Annelise, now a law professor, gave Jane the tuition at the Athenaeum School of the Arts in nearby La Jolla as a birthday gift. She took these courses and in early 1998, she was accepted into the San Diego Museum of Art Artists Guild. She joined the San Diego Art Institute, the La Jolla Art Association and the San Diego Watercolor Society and her paintings were accepted for nearly every show. In May of 1998 she won First Place in the Spring Show of the San Diego Watercolor Society; in June of 1999, an Honorable Mention in the same group; a Best In Show at the Fall Awards Show of the Watercolor Society in 1999; a month later the First Place in the Watercolor Society, and the Juror's Choice Award at the San Diego Institute of Art in 2000.

In October of 1999 Jane traveled to remote Bangladesh and this trip resulted in 12 large acrylic paintings that were exhibited at the La Jolla Art Association Gallery in February 2000. Although she resides in San Diego, she is generally in the south of France or in Paris, or anywhere else in the world, about 3 months of the year. Jane makes regular one month teaching trips to the south of France every June. She takes six to a dozen art students to the Nice area. When not traveling in the local area, she conducts daily art classes in a rented villa.

By: J. S. Dietz, Artist Representative

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