A Chat with Jan McCarthy, the multi-disciplinary artist behind the new print collaboration for VENIA’s S6 MNTL Collection

Last year, we met with our dear friend, Los Angeles based artist, Jan McCarthy, and began chatting about the importance of how fashion and art have the power to seamlessly and honestly showcase emotions. Throughout the cup of coffee, we also began speaking at length about the importance of positive mental health, a notion that seems fleeting in our age of technology and branding, but that is more important than ever to speak about.

Our print collaboration with McCarthy is rooted in the expressions of many emotions, founded in the ideals that all emotions, wild or vulnerable, are beautiful and essential to humanity. This print is woven in sustainable wood-based textile Viscose/Cupro and printed with our partners in Turkey. With the reality of the global COVID-19 Pandemic, creating awareness for mental health is paramount. In the dialogue below, McCarthy opens up about the deep meaning behind her art and how it sheds a light on the importance of mental health.

VENIA: What inspired you to make this print?
JM: Life, in its complexity. I am inspired by real life visuals, but that interpretation is of my own understanding of what life is about. Abstract, complex, irregular, light, beautiful, kindness, dark, soft, hard, edgy, bold, courageous, scary, insecurity. And even though most of my art is black and white, it points out the juxtaposition that life is not. There is a lot of messy and beautiful in between the lines and marks. The internal factors are just as important as the external. It’s not always what we see. It’s what inside, hidden in between the layers of mixed media, life and other materials. 
VENIA: What techniques were involved with the initial design, why did you choose those?
JM: I’m not proficient at some of the modern technology that allows a surface pattern designer to design and create, erasing a mistake or changing their mind with the swipe of a pen or other functions on a keypad. And some of the more traditional art techniques of underpainting, glazing, and building up texture weren’t applicable in creating this piece so I went “old school” in that I painted directly on the fabric (a raw silk). The beauty of creating this way is that the patterns and marks are authentic and perceived imperfections became imperfectly perfect, just like people suffering with mental health; just like all of us. 
VENIA: How does the print remind you of mental health? 
JM: I love painting abstract but many artists and even art enthusiasts say they have a difficult time with abstract because it isn’t based on something they can see, something concrete, tangible or recognizable. So, when we don’t understand something there can be a lot of misunderstanding, judgement, and/or carelessness in our conversation or critique around that subject.  Mental health is like that too. A lot of people don’t understand the secret turmoil, complexities or difficulties associated with mental health and so it gets a bad rap, shame and judgement. We have to open up the lines of communication, raise awareness, and stop being afraid of what we don’t see or recognize as “normal”.
VENIA: Artist mission statement?
JM: I am constantly deciphering and incorporating the abstract part of life in my work with the intent to evoke emotion, bring together community, unleash the imagination, stir thoughtful reflection and give way to images of something meaningful.
VENIA: What would you like to impart on people engaging with the clothes with this print?
JM: Be open, look at mental health and life through an abstract lens, be an advocate for everyone that needs a little extra compassion and understanding. Judge less and love more. Lean into the beauty of the art and what you don’t understand. Feel the pain that others are experiencing against the luxurious softness of the fabric and let it soften your heart. Be bold, confident and share your gifts with the world. The clothing design connects the patterns and marks together beautifully no matter which way they were originally created and that’s the magic. We can re-envision a different future where there is hope and together we can do what we can’t do alone. 
VENIA: What does art mean to you?
JM: I love this quote by Helena Bonham Carter and think it describes my feelings best.
“I think everything in life is art. What you do. How you dress. The way you love someone, and how you talk. Your smile and your personality. What you believe in, and all your dreams. The way you drink your tea. How you decorate your home. Or party. Your grocery list. The food you make. How your writing looks. And the way you feel. Life is art.”
Make sure you take the opportunity to check out Jan Mccarthy’s work on her website as well as our newly released pieces featuring her work in our shop section.