Earlier this year I attended a wonderful exhibit by an emerging queer artist, Janie Stamm, who showed her work at the AdventureLand Gallery on 1513 N. Western Ave. The exhibit featured "works on paper featuring relics, specimens, and curiosities from travels to islands within the deep folds of the mind" and announced Stamm as an important voice in Chicago's queer art scene.
The Q List sat down with the effervescently buoyant Stamm at Edgewater's Metropolis Cafe to discuss the exhibit and unpack the personality behind the pictures.
Nico Lang: How long have you been creating art?
Janie Stamm: I've drawn ever since I could remember. I began taking watercolor lessons in second grade and did that for 10 years. I'd get in trouble in school a lot for doodling all over my homework and notes.
Nico Lang: As a young artist, what motivated you to be creative? Do you find any of those same patterns in your work today?
Janie Stamm: I have an overactive imagination and a desire to live in a world where I can talk to animals. This has led to my obsession with drawing imagined creatures and beastspicturing how they sound and move, what they eat, and how they interact.
Nico Lang: You came up through the Savannah College of Art and Design [SCAD], and you've mentioned your relationship with SCAD was often rocky. How did your experiences in the institution of academia change you as an artist and what did it tell you about yourself?
Janie Stamm: I originally went there to study stop-motion animation. As a student, I was really unhappy with the animation department. After taking an intro to printmaking class, I realized that I was born to be a printmaker. I decided to double major in printmaking and animation. Printmaking came very naturally to me and it just felt right.
Nico Lang: In working with printmaking, what speaks to you about the medium of print? How does it fit your creative mind?
Janie Stamm: While I was at SCAD, I had a drawing professor tell me that I should look into the printmaking department because of my mark making skills. When I draw, I tend to make a lot of hatch marks and aggressive lines. This translates really well into printmaking, specifically etching which is now my specialty. Also, printmaking is attractive to me because it is so process driven. It requires a lot of concentration and following precise steps. I find the repetition in printmaking very therapeutic.
Nico Lang: Your recent exhibit blended your background in print and animation. Archipelago: Lost Islands of the Atlantic featured sketches of animals and islands of your own creation, a manifestation of your own fictional universe. What comfort do you find in creating these worlds? As an artist, why do you need them?
Janie Stamm: The islands that I create are places of sanctuary. They are isolated from the rest of the world, inhabited by my creatures, and have yet to be discovered. They're placessafe spaces in my mind for me and people like me, my friends. I need them because they take me out of reality. They give me hope that there are places that might never be discovered. Somewhere that people can't destroy.
Nico Lang: While attending the exhibit, I gleaned a very positive reaction from the audience, who lingered in the gallery for much longer than traditional artgoers do. It was more like a party. What was the experience of exhibiting in that environment like for you?
Janie Stamm: Since this was my first solo show, I honestly wasn't sure what to expect. The show was in a fairly unknown gallery and it was the middle of January. I was elated when I saw how many people showed up and stayed. The gallery was packed the entire time and everybody seemed happy and appreciative of the artwork.
Many people were coming up to me and talking about how they felt, how the work made them smile and reminded them of their childhood. I noticed that people spent a lot of time with the art, and revisited it several times throughout the night, rather than quickly looking at it and moving on.
Nico Lang: How do you personally hope to be transformed through these dialogues with an audience? What do you get out of it?
Janie Stamm: It makes me want to create more art knowing that I can make other people happy. I want to make art not just for myself but to stimulate other people's imaginations. I had conversations with people from different generations, especially older generations and it was comforting to hear that they felt the same was as I do about the work. I hope to inspire other people to create their own worlds.
Nico Lang: As you move past your most recent exhibition, how do you hope to push yourself as an emerging visual artist? Where would you like to see your work take you?
Janie Stamm: I would like to have at least one solo show a year. I want people to know my work but still have it be accessible and affordable to everyone. I want my work to promote inclusivity in art without being pretentious. Even though everybody at the show was very impressed by my work, it was sad to see that none of the critics who were invited showed up. I was even stood up by one critic from New City who left me waiting in the gallery for hours. Most critics don't support emerging artists or give them the press that they so desperately need.
Nico Lang: What projects are you currently working on?
Janie Stamm: At the moment, I'm creating an archipelago called the Lost Islands of Lake Michigan. Each island is inspired by the childhood of a different queer person in Chicago. I'm trying to create an archipelago of queer people who have impacted my life since moving to Chicago almost two years ago. Some of the people included in this project are Joe Varisco, Jesus Plaza, Mar Curran, Lindsey Dietzler, Jessica Neria, Jeremy Sorese, Kiam Marcelo Junio, H. Melt, Cassandra Warren,and several others who I have yet to interview. I'm planning to exhibit this project in late fall or early winter.
Find out more about Stamm and her work through her website, www.janiestamm.com . For contact and inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org .