Jan Nelson: artists are “Re-Born”

Jan Nelson is an American painter with an artistic path really out of the ordinary. He began his career in the 70s, reaching the highest levels, and meeting Don Eddy, who became mentor and friend to him.
Shortly thereafter, the vicissitudes of life interrupted his artistic career, but his passion never stopped and led him to take up the artistic discourse he began many years earlier.
From another age, and with a completely different artistic scenario, thanks to his innate talent, he returns to the top of the scene in contemporary realism, collecting great satisfactions.

His works are strictly related to his personal life and point of view: subjects as piles of wrecked cars, litter, debris, abandoned factories or demolished buildings are the symbols of a changing society in which he used to live and grow up.

Jan explains this and his other artistic experiences in this excerpt from the interesting interview for Hyperrealism Magazine #2: 

I was born 7 years after the end of World War II, a time when the Industrial Age was in full steam, mass production of consumer goods meant more folks could access “things” than before as costs were lowered. This rise of consumerism, a strong economy and a fresh national automotive-focused infrastructure in the United States provided Pop artists with a lot of subject matter that delved into the objects, banal and seemingly never-ending. Coming of age in the late 60s meant living through some turbulent times, civil rights marches, assassinations, Vietnam to name a few, along with the beginnings of awareness that the planet was a closed ecosystem with finite resources. The lens I saw through showed me an end to the Industrial Age, the folly of a throw-away society and a need to consider how we marshall and manage our finite resources on “Spaceship Earth”.
I took the imagery that surrounded me, shooting photos as my sketchbook, helping me navigate as I explored how I felt and reacted to the directions I felt we were heading toward. This early environmental awareness was political and social in its roots and the imagery you mention flowed out of that experience. And so, there are piles of wrecked cars, litter, piles of debris and silent factories in my work that reappear across the decades. Many of the images are personal to my experience, rather than sought out, e.g. a wrecked Camaro in a field being in a junkyard where I pulled parts to repair my first car as a teenager, or a debris pile from a demolished building in my neighborhood in New York City where the litter is added to by the police.
However, there are other works that look at my relationships: wife, brother, sister, mother, father, friends. They are traditional portraits in many cases, other times are images that tell stories about those relationships that may not include faces, e.g. “Jorge and the U-Haul Trailer”
(below), a work that depicts a wrecked car and has a backstory about my younger brother and a bad experience pulling a trailer. Those continue today. 

My career as “Artist Interrupted” has had its moments to be sure. I think that most of us have stuff thrown at us that is unexpected, my story is just one among billions, many whose experiences are much harsher. Those moments of hardship have served as times of reflection of what is really important. Those reflections have not been instantaneous, with decades lapsing before my renewed awareness of how forces in life can push and pull one away from original intention. I think you are correct, the challenges have served to hone my passion and my intent is to continuously seek out a path that I define, rather than being moved around like a game board piece by external forces.

You can read all the Jan Nelson’s interview in the 2nd issue of Hyperrealism Magazine:






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