Centre professor draws on her experience as a painter

October 17, 2004|KATIE McBRIDE

Janet Link may not always have wanted to teach, but she is glad to be joining the art department at Centre College. She will be teaching the drawing and painting classes this year while Professor Sheldon Tapley is on sabbatical.

Link says that Danville is a "nice in-between" when compared to other places she's lived. It is larger than some towns but away from the "hideous traffic" of Baton Rouge, La.

She received her bachelor's degree in studio art with a minor in art history from Meredith College, a small, liberal arts school in Raleigh, N.C., which is similar to Centre. "It's like coming home," she says.

Meredith offered a study-abroad program that allowed Link to study in Paris under American artist Ben Long. She describes it as "an eye-opening experience." "It was my first time around someone who made their living as a painter rather than an academic."


After college she pursued painting, certain she didn't want to teach. But as a painter she needed to have a side job, and she realized it should be about painting. When a friend asked her to help him with his painting, she gained a different perspective on teaching.

"It forced me to articulate things about painting that helped me to understand these things more deeply."

With her husband's support, she went back to school at Louisiana State University to get her master's degree. Graduate school gave her a chance to paint for herself again. Painting has a "mercenary quality," she says, because the artist is "always working with the vision of what someone else wants."

Using what she learned in Paris

Primarily she paints still lifes and some portraits, working mostly with oils. Traditional methods and tools she learned in Paris still influence her art today.

One interesting technique she uses is installation. Instead of merely painting a portrait, she may arrange the paintings with various other items to bring the work to completion. For example, Domus is a mixed-media installation/performance art piece. Hanging on the display wall are a self-portrait and a portrait of her husband. Lying on the floor beneath them are their two dogs, and in the middle is a doll. A checkerboard theme is used throughout the piece in the portrait backgrounds, the doll's dress and the dogs' pillows.

Link has had the opportunity to work on many intriguing projects throughout her career. She has done an altar piece, frescoes and various murals, including working on the design team for Wall of Hope, a 30-foot by 90-foot outdoor mural commissioned by Hopeline Inc. as part of a fund-raising project. Bookbinding and calligraphy are other interests of hers.

Link does not focus on creating a specific message in her art. "What makes art exciting is that it represents the sum total of my existence at the moment - and then someone looks at it, bringing their total existence at that moment."

Infusing too much of what she means would rob the moment, she notes. Although a piece has a personal meaning for her, she wants her viewers to have their own interpretations it. She has little patience for what she calls "artist's statement kind of stuff."

Her work has been on display at a variety of museums throughout the country. The Unitarian Universalist Association awarded her the Stanfield Scholarship in 2002, a noteworthy achievement capping her early penchant for and lifelong commitment to visual art.

"As long as I can remember I was always drawing something," Link noted. "Being a painter is what I am, rather than what I do."

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