In her last collection of paintings, called “Reveries,” Jana Renee captured the hazy serenity of her sleeping female subjects. One woman, generously tattooed, slumped over a sofa above a sea of clouds, while another lay like a napping Alice dreaming on a field, encircled by white flowers.
A sense of impending fantasy unites all of the artist’s work. Her pastel, naif world evokes the blurry, offbeat nostalgia of a Virgin Suicides, quasi-innocent girlhood. She's painted more lips than a veteran makeup artist: pretty mouths in pink frames, exhaling smoke or licking lollipops — a surreal, pretty mouth biting down on a large, dark house.
Her sculptures of plump peaches are sexed up with lacy underwear and mounted onto wood — like a hunter’s conquest. Renee swears, however, that she wasn’t attempting a critique on the male gaze. The sculptures were born when entertainer Ronnie Heart invited Renee to participate in his Magritte-themed party.
“It’s definitely supposed to be very silly,” she says of the peaches. “It was kind of about innuendo, a bit tongue-in-cheek.”
Renee’s currently sheltered in place with her partner in Fort Worth. She missed her friends, so she began asking them to send her photos showing their individual experiences in quarantine.
“I was seeing a lot of my friends were kind of feeling stir-crazy and getting bored and I was wanting to do a project and trying to get people involved,” Renee says. “I tried to make it like an activity that my friends could do and give everyone an excuse to dress up and get creative.”
Her friends obliged, sending pictures of themselves in scenes made up of different states of intimacy: sitting on a toilet (but holding a cat); in bed, wearing a hat with mouse ears; or sitting naked in the living room, protected by a small fortress of books.
Renee began drawing these photos, which she intends to eventually turn into paintings. “For now I’m doing studies,” she says.
Just a few months ago, she painted some murals for McFly's, a Back to the Future-themed bar in Fort Worth, which was set to open right before the quarantine started. Renee’s path has undulated but never steered her off course.
Her first art dream was to illustrate children’s books, but instead she graduated in 2015 with a BFA in painting from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
When she returned to Texas to visit her family, Renee’s ambition was to move to London, but the domestic art scene proved more exciting.
“I ended up canceling those plans and getting into the art scene here and kind of falling in love with it,” she says of Fort Worth, which she found held an “all-inclusive” charm.
“I got to see all these non-gallery small art collectives emerging in Fort Worth, and I just felt like I could be a part of this. Everyone was like, ‘We’re making Fort Worth artsy’ and I was like, 'I’ll be a part of that.'”
Renee is an oil painter, but beyond that, there’s a precise definition she favors to classify her work, though she’s drawn a blank on what that is.
“There’s a specific terminology I like to use,” she says, before excusing herself to check her website. “I don’t have the best memory,” she adds with a laugh.
The term she was thinking of is “Fourth wave feminism.”
The last iteration of the movement includes social media activism, and it’s a fair descriptor. Renee isn’t shy about her love for Instagram.
“A lot of my inspiration I get from perusing other people’s art accounts,” she says, calling the platform an “artist community that I enjoy.”
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With her newest project, Renee is also inspired by photos and finds it to be the closest thing to visiting her friends.
“It’s kind of like a collaboration — they're giving me their images from their own creative minds, and it kind of forces me to step into their environments, which is what I liked about it,” Renee says. “I was like, I miss my friends, let’s get creative together … without any contact.”