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Cover art by: Jana Renee

There’s nothing ironic about Jana Renee’s feminine/pink/candy-laced creations. Her paintings often depict women in various states of bliss, whether licking lollipops, floating in a cloud with a halo of chocolate confections, or lounging in pastoral settings. Good vibes pulsate throughout her largely oil-based output, and that’s the idea. 

“I paint the things that make me feel happy and peaceful,” she said at her Fairmount-based studio. 

After several months away from painting, Renee is back on the scene. Last weekend, she unveiled four large oil portraits as part of I’d Rather Be With You, a group show co-curated by fellow Fort Worth artist Jeremy Joel and opening for the second and last weekend 12 p.m. Saturday at the newish Fairmount-bordering cultural space Mañanaland. The quartet is part of her Sweet Tooth series, which includes an amalgam of lip portraits and images of candy and ice cream in various stages of being gobbled up. But whereas her earlier works in the series largely fixate on one object, the new additions give more food for thought. 

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One work, unnamed for now, shows the figure of a young brunette, her eyes barely cropped out. Warm purple and orange hues hint at a golden hour twilight beyond. Her left arm frames the bottom of the image and leads the viewer’s gaze toward a tall cocktail glass (center left), itself projecting toward the subject’s mouth by way of a yellow crazy straw. A large lock of curly brown hair, which fills the right third of the painting, guides the viewer downward where the cycle begins again. For all the soft undertones with which Renee imbues her delightful works, there’s a palpable kinetic energy to her images. Part of that engine is fueled by suggestions of flirtation — that uniquely human form of bodily communication that says, “Hey. You. Why don’t you come a little closer?”

Michelle Kirk, Mañanaland’s cofounder and the current show’s co-curator, said Renee offers a feminine perspective and all the complexities that entails today.

“She is traditionally trained in oil painting, but her content is completely modern and personal,” Kirk said. “She is an intellectual and a dedicated artist but is living in this weird modern world [that shapes] how we view ourselves as women. That’s just complicated.” 

Renee: “I’m 29, but I thought I would be further ahead by now. I think it’s more important to do things thoughtfully.” Photo by Aston Evada.

Renee learned during her several-month break from painting how much creating work meant to her. She described that period as feeling “disconnected” from the art world.

“Now,” she said, “I want to start going to businesses to talk about murals and public art. For the last two weeks, I’ve been getting back to painting. I’ve missed it.”

When she isn’t crafting medical devices or working on private art projects, Renee is an art assistant for Billy Hassell, a Texas native and oil painter who has built a sizable reputation with his distinctive landscapes and nature depictions.

“He was inspiring me to work on more landscapes,” Renee said. “It’s very different from my style. He asks me about my techniques. He is very respectful and gives good advice.”

Hassell may have unwittingly unleashed a new movement within landscape art. Renee showed me two unfinished works that are part of a new series. The aptly named Bootyscapes features detailed landscapes that are photobombed by female derrières. One painting features a desert canyon background. Filling the middle third and obscuring the landscape (or enhancing it, some would say) is a perky rear end encased in tight-fitting shorts. Her hands rest at her sides, fingers mimicking guns ready to be drawn. There’s a brash, devil-may-care feel to the piece. Is the work erotic? For those with a pulse, probably yes. But there’s also humor galore. Renee said she is frequently asked why she doesn’t paint landscapes and still lifes, i.e. more “commercially friendly” and sellable paintings. Bootyscapes allows her to give in to mainstream advice. But on her terms.

“OK, I’ll paint a landscape for you — with a butt in front of it,” she said with a laugh. 

While Instagram and Twitter await the looming wave of #bootyscape postings, Renee is mapping out her 2019 projects. She plans to continue pursuing mural work while leaving open the possibility of collaborating with local sculptor and neon light installation artist Austin Fields. Renee isn’t ready to unveil her plans for a massive “Rococo-themed” art project yet, but she hinted that she is looking forward to making works that reflect her first love, Renaissance art.

“I’m still trying to figure out how to be a happy artist and how to make it a career without putting myself in a box where people only want paintings of lollipops,” she said. “I’m 29, but I thought I would be further ahead by now. I think it’s more important to do things thoughtfully. All I know is that I enjoy making art, and people really like my art. It’s a fun way to interact with others.” Follow Renee @thejanarenee. 

I’d Rather Be With You

12-3pm Sat and Sun only at Mañanaland, 2812 Stanley Av, FW. Free. 504-810-9218.

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