Jana Cruder, Artfinder artist, reveals why she is challenging Barbie and Ken and why being an artist was the only option...

by Poppy Rooney

This week we spoke exclusively to Jana Cruder, an emerging contemporary artist based in Topanga, California. Jana spoke about her love affair with photography, coming from a community of ultra-conservative Jehovah's Witnesses to becoming an artist represented by JoAnne Artman Gallery and managing a successful commercial photography business. We at Artfinder are constantly amazed by the talent and originality of our artists. Discover the work of Jana Cruder, and you’ll be amazed too!

On becoming an artist

"I was raised in a creative family outside of Pittsburgh PA on a chicken farm. My grandfather was an inventor, my father was into photography and wood carving and my mother (a farm girl from up-state New York) loved drawing and painting. I grew up in a community of ultra-conservative Jehovah's Witnesses, and therefore observed how religion has historically shaped out roles in society and how it continues to do so today. This inspired my latest work, ‘Spirit in the Sky’.

My love of photography began in the 10th grade, when I took my first photography class. I learnt about Joyce Tenneson and fell in love with the magical worlds she created with her light paintings. I thought early on that if she can do it, so can I! My family always pushed me take over the family business of fire protection, they never expected that I’d now be a full time artist.

In high school, I was an athletic trainer - wrapping ankles for the football team. Then in my senior year, the head trainer visited my first exhibition at the local civic centre. She said she would never forgive herself if she didn’t say something and went on to tell me that she felt there was something deeper in my photography. I never went back to athletic training. I went on to study the history of art, traditional darkroom photography, sculpture and ceramics at Rochester Institute of Technology.

After college, I worked in commercial photography and then at the age of 26 I naturally started to create for myself."

'Spirit in the Sky' by Jana Cruder

On JoAnne Artman

"Becoming an artist is truly supported by JoAnne Artman. JoAnne first discoverd my work at a group show and then we finally met through fate. We set up a meeting and after seeing more of my work she offered me gallery representation. JoAnne manages my Artfinder shop.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to show my work to a larger audience. After some success JoAnne continued to invest and support what I was creating. I am very much looking forward to showing my work in New York soon."

'Glimpse of the Kingdom' by Jana Cruder

On being an artist

"About three years ago I re-launched myself as Jana Cruder the artist, from this moment onwards I began to identify as an artist. For me, an artist should bring the unseen to the seeing.

At the moment I’m describing myself as an ‘experiential artist’; I don’t pressure myself to stick to one medium, I am emotionally and spiritually driven and therefore just use the best way to express the concept. So perhaps you could describe me as a ‘conceptual artist’."

'The Witness' by Jana Cruder

On work

"My work is a an examination of the importance that society gives to appearance. My photographs explore the societal roles of woman, man, husband and wife through icons such as Barbie and Ken, I am exploring how these influence today’s media and shape culture.

In this series, Barbie becomes ‘Working Barbie’ and Ken enters the story. Since the economy is down, Ken who is un-employed, assumes the role of ‘Domestic Ken’ and spends his time entertaining himself at Barbie’s expense. As Barbie gets deeper into her career she notices Ken’s increasingly distracted. Conflicted himself, he finds he enjoys spending his time with his new BFF Joe. The story of these three plays out through a seres of vignettes into the subtle dysfunctions of seemingly perfect relationships."

'Working Girl' by Jana Cruder

On the studio

"My studio is in Topanga, CA, an area rich in nature but conveniently close to LA, a city I find an endless source of inspiration.

I’ve lived in both Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but Topanga - located in the Santa Monica Mountains - is most similar to my roots in the western PA woods. I love nature, I need it. I need silence, I’m very sensitive to sounds, so living in Topanga helps me create. My studio is in a large rustic, open-plan home with lots of outside space and areas to meditate."

Jana working on ‘Spirit in the Sky’

On inspiration

"The intersection of nature and people is where I find my inspiration. I also love going to art fairs and observing that particular pulse of the art market.

I love Christo and Jeanne Claude’s work, Tim Walker’s elaborate sets, Claus Oldenburg’s monumental sculptures, the purity of Marina Abramović and Ulay and the photography of Alex Prager and Cindy Sherman. The feeling of being inspired can not be forced, it comes when it comes - and when it does, I listen."

'Forbidden Practice' by Jana Cruder

On challenges

"This year I exhibited one of my pieces - ‘Way of the Modern Man’ - at The LA Art Show. The work consisted of live performance and prints. It was a challenging project and I learnt that I had to trust my instinct and let go. Being an artist isn’t easy, but I have learnt to be adaptable. For example, in the past I have sublet my studio to take ‘gypsy adventures’ as I call them. Financially, it is very interesting when you’re starting out as an artist… You really have to invest and trust in your passion.

Like many artists sometimes I feel complete and creating is bliss! Other times, I hate everything and I want to burn it all. I cope best by meditating, chanting, trips, exercise and sometimes I just take breaks and go do something else. Learning I can’t force anything and that I can’t create on demand is what separates my commercial works from my fine art."

'Tree of Knowlegde' by Jana Cruder

On other artists

"I think what the Dean Collection, by Swizs Beatz are doing in the art world is monumental. I hope to get their attention and collaborate with them soon. I admire the works of Donald Judd and The Chinati Foundation, the contemporary art museum that he founded. I love the fact that he saw potential after WW2. Similarly, I love Ai WeiWei and the organisations that are supporting his work; he is doing something very important by bringing political ideas and environmental issues together."

On life

"I live by the idea that I create my own reality. Within the last year my life-long mentor George Kamper (a photographer in Florida) gave me the best advice, ‘persevere and never give up’... cliché but so true! I was trying to work out what to do - to continue as an artist or give it up and go get a job somewhere. Luckily, he told me that I wouldn’t survive getting a regular job, my dream is to be a full time artist and therefore I had only one choice - to persevere."

Jana Cruder's work can currently be seen at JoAnne Artman gallery in Laguna Beach, USA.

'Genesis' by Jana Cruder

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