Artist of the Week: Jan Severson makes fine art baskets.
By S. Derrickson Moore / Sun-News reporter
Posted: 01/10/2010 01:00:00 AM MST
What: Fine art baskets
"Love of Art" Artists of Picacho Hills Exhibition, Noon - 4 p.m. Feb. 7, Picacho Hills Country Club, 6861 Via Campestre 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturdays, Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market
Online at www.janseverson.com
Info: (575) 640-3268, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
LAS CRUCES - Jan Severson's creations transcend the realm of basketry- even fine art basketry. Each one seems to become its own little multimedia world.
Their names are poetic, evoking everything from seasons to celestial bodies and Borderland sensory experiences.
"Blue Moon" incorporates an antler in a globe girdled with shades of blue and cream. "Tequila Sunrise" scintillates with waves of maroons, oranges and desert sage. "Las Cruces" features beaded crosses on a field of rich, deep brown. "Salsa" offers a rhythmic fiesta for the eyes as spicy as the dances and sauces of the same name. The colors and motion of autumn leaves are reflected in "Fall's Coming."
Other baskets have more enigmatic names that invite contemplation, like "Brilliance," "Bolt of Lightning" and "Follow Me," which exposes some of the basket's internal structure and seems to invite other artistic souls to join in what is clearly an adventurous journey for Severson.
Even a basket in a simple form with more traditional beige hues that Severson christened "Nothing Fancy," really is fancy, the viewer discovers, when examining the intricate
patterns and rippling textures in the piece. "I can't go by a stick in my backyard or see a bead or yarn without thinking, 'What can I do with that?' Baskets are kind of funny because they kind of create themselves. They tell you what they want to be," said Severson, who is a relative newcomer to the art of basketry.
"It was really quite a fluke that I found my passion for basket weaving. I belong to a knitting group called KNIT WITS. One of our members who is a wonderful weaver of reeds and fabrics offered to give us all a class in basket weaving. My first basket was a wine basket, and that experience kind of lit a fire under me," she said.
That was about two years ago, and a misdirected e-mail also lured her to a basket weaving group and an artistic departure from a long career in computers.
"I spent my professional life with a major computer company as an education consultant. My job took me all around the United States as well as Canada and the Caribbean. When I retired, I continued to work with individuals and companies as a computer consultant," she said.
After retirement, she and her husband, Larry, "made our way from our home state of Oregon to Michigan and then on to Florida. We climbed into our RV in search of adventure and sightseeing. We saw all the states including Alaska and even made our way to Nova Scotia."
In the process, they discovered Las Cruces, "a place we didn't know existed" and in 2005, after three years on the road, they decided to settle here.
The couple still travels and she supplements the dyed reeds that are her basic basket material with finds like palm fronds collected during annual trips to Florida.
"I like natural colors, but sometimes I get whimsical," she said, noting that each basket takes from eight to 30 hours to complete.
"I find the process very relaxing. I love making baskets."
She also weaves wall hangings and sculpture pieces and welcomes commissions.
She has exhibited her work as part of gardening association tours and with a new group of 50 artists who live in Picacho Hills and plan their first public show during February's For the Love of Art Month celebrations.
See Severson's works most Saturdays at the Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market on the Downtown Mall, where winter hours are 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
"My husband and I looked forward to our Saturdays and the vendors around us became good friends. It is like family down there and the response from the patrons was wonderful," said Severson, who plans to take a break from the market for a few weekends to get ready for the premiere Artists of Picacho Hills show from noon to 4 p.m. Feb. 7 at Picacho Hills Country Club, 6861 Via Campestre.