P O W E L L, W y o. - "Vignettes," an exhibit of mixed-media creations by Boise artist Jeanju Clifton opens Tuesday, Jan. 29, with a 7:30 p.m. reception in Northwest College's SinClair Gallery.
Clifton said her work is based upon Victorian die-cut chromolithographs, or "scraps," which the Victorians used to decorate just about everything in their lives, from greeting cards to home furnishings.
"I am especially inspired by Valentine and Easter images," Clifton said, "which often include colorful flowers, glistening fruits and anthropomorphized animals whimsically clothed." Her interest in these scraps sprouted from the fact that so many of them remind her of the symbolism found within Christian art.
"For example, a disembodied hand (blemish-free, of course) holding out a wreath of daisies calls to my mind the pristine hand of God showing off a sign of purity and innocence," Clifton said. "A rabbit in a long dress carrying a basket brimming with fruits and flowers is, to me, the representation of St. Dorothea, who is often portrayed in paintings holding a basket of roses and apples."
She keeps these things in mind as she creates her own "personal brand of scraps." Using acrylic paintings and colored-pencil drawings, her goal is not the "too-forced sweetness typical of the Victorian sentiment." She says she retains the use of Christian symbolism, but chooses symbols that inject a bit of bitterness, revealing her "sometimes cynical attitude toward love and living." As an example of this injection, she may replace two "lovey doves in a nest" with a raven, the Christian symbol for solitude. An adorable kitten becomes a leopard, emblematic of cruelty.
"I am attracted to this process," Clifton said, "because it allows for a sweet-and-sour layering of symbolism, melancholia, prettiness and silliness. Perhaps the Victorians would not have approved, but they did not approve of much anyway."
Clifton holds a bachelor's degree from the Memphis College of Art in Tennessee and a master's degree in painting and drawing from the University of Idaho.
Her "Vignettes" will be displayed in SinClair Gallery through Friday, Feb. 22. Located in the Orendorff Building at Northwest College, SinClair Gallery is open from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays. Admission is free.