Under The Canopy of Heaven
Sarah Spurgeon Gallery
Central Washington University
Ellensburg, WA

Essay by Janet Marstine, for Jane Orleman
January , 2000

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The Sarah Spurgeon Gallery is proud to debut a new series of paintings by Central Washington University alumna and accomplished Ellensburg artist Jane Orleman. Orleman has exhibited widely throughout the Northwest since the 1970s, including solo exhibitions at the Henry Art Gallery, Eastern Oregon University, Boise State University, Portland State University, the University of Montana, Washington State University, and Whitman College, among others. In addition, her artwork has been selected for juried and invitational exhibits at venues including the Tacoma Art Museum, Bellevue Art Museum, Cheney Cowles Museum, ARC Gallery in Chicago, and Matrix Gallery in Sacramento, Calif

Along with Orleman’s many professional accomplishments, she and her husband, reflector artist Richard Elliott, have also turned their home into a work of art. Dick and Jane’s Spot, a whimsical sculpture garden at 101 N. Pearl St., has been an ongoing project since 1982, and attracts thousands of visitors each year





When Orleman isn’t working on art at home, she’s showing her pieces. In February and March of 2007, Orleman’s 30-year retrospective exhibition took place at the Sarah Spurgeon Gallery. One third of the artwork featured in that exhibit was from a series of over 350 paintings titled Telling Secrets: An Artist’s Journey Through Childhood Trauma which she created to address childhood rape and physical abuse.

A book by the same name was published by the Child Welfare League of America and fully funded by a $100,000 grant from the Paul Allen Foundation. Catalyzed by the sudden death of her mother in 1989, Orleman broke the silence of her past experiences and embarked on a difficult path to explore and release her emotional demons through painting, writing, and psychotherapy. An example of work from the series is Go Make Your Daddy Happy from 1991, which Orleman painted from the perspective of herself as a child. In the image, a young Orleman reluctantly clings to the doorway while her mother roughly encourages her toward her father, who scowls at them from the opposite side of the room. It is through revisiting and recording such childhood trauma that Orleman sought to transform herself from a victim to a survivor.

Her most recent body of work, Beneath the Canopy of Heaven: Paintings by Jane Orleman, features vibrant dreamscapes filled with goddesses, potent symbols of the feminine and masculine, and Asian religious icons. Clearly a departure from the psychologically tense and often graphic depictions of her abuse in Telling Secrets, these new works are reflections of the artist’s current spiritual and psychological journey. The 14 large-scale oil paintings that range in size from 42 in. high by 38 in. wide to 92 in. high by 356 in. wide were created between 2004 and 2007.

Dreams have always been an important source of inspiration for Orleman who has kept a dream journal since she was an art student at Central Washington University during her late twenties. However, it is misleading to interpret her paintings as visual retellings of those recorded dreams. Instead, Orleman’s dream imagery provides a jumping-off point for the transformations that take place in her artwork when mortals become gods, waking reality bleeds into the unconscious, and domestic relationships take on universal qualities. These transformations also serve as a metaphor for the artist’s own creative process.

Jungian archetypes play a vital role in Orleman’s mythological landscapes, which are populated with images of herself as the elemental earth goddess, the mystic yogini, and the clever juggler. This mirroring process where she sees the goddess in herself and herself in the goddess is most clearly articulated in Timeless Spring from 2004. This painting is the earliest of the series and sets the tone for her later works. Here Orleman has created two self-portraits: one of herself as the artist and creator, seated on a wooden stool and dressed in her everyday garb of jeans, long-sleeved blouse, and vest, who is engaged in painting a second, standing figure, with leafy tendrils and flower clusters spiraling up her partially nude form. The verdant goddess smilingly admires herself in a hand mirror, from which the cosmos is reflected.

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