Born in 1945 on a snowy November day in Lincoln, Nebraska, Jane Morrison Fletcher’s family soon moved to Alexandria, Virginia when her father’s job transferred him to Washington, D.C. Since her father worked a few blocks from the Capital Mall and all of the national museums there were free, the family often spent outings there. When she was five, her father took her to the National Gallery to indulge her child’s love of pictures. When they arrived before Renoir’s painting “Little Girl with Watering Can” she became transfixed and he could not entice her to move on. Of course she was enchanted by the little girl about her own age, but it was the layers of paint and beautiful colors that really captivated her. She decided in that moment that she wanted to paint beautiful paintings like that.
Aside from those books and occasional visits to the National Gallery, Jane’s early exposure to art consisted primarily of fairy tale and Golden Book illustrations, Norman Rockwell illustrations which were appearing in magazines, and comic strips. She was especially fond of comic strips as she got to sit next to her father on Sunday mornings as he read the strips to her while she enjoyed the drawings. Sundays were also special because the comic strips were in color on Sundays. She was fascinated by the colors and how the registration between the drawing and color was often just slightly off, which she thought added interest. This phenomenon also often occurred in the prints on her mother’s dresses and fabrics on bolts in the fabric stores. Newer production techniques soon eliminated these interesting accidents.
Other childhood secret amusements consisted of tensing the muscles in her eyes so the small black and white bathroom floor tiles jumped focus between the black patterns and the white patterns. She later wondered if the Op artists had gotten their ideas that way. She also spent considerable time studying the variety of colors in her eyes and skin, noting the blues, greens, pinks and yellows which radiated through her thin and pale white skin and which reminded her of the Renoir painting. Not really narcissistic, it was just that no one else would sit still for her to study. Later, as an avid swimmer who fortunately tanned easily, she lost these beautiful colorings but the lessons remained. Color was so important to her that it caused some friction at home as she insisted on certain colors for her bedroom, etc. She was keenly aware of how she reacted to certain colors but loved them all and enjoyed visiting her florist grandfather’s greenhouses with their multitudes of vibrant blossoms and earthy smells.
Always preoccupied with the visual and being raised Catholic in time when ladies were required to wear hats to church, boring Sunday mass became tolerable by concentrating on the wonderful array of inventive and sparkling hats that peppered the church. She especially loved the sparkling ones! Television was just developing and Milton Berle hosted one of the first television variety shows. When his guests came on the screen with their glittering sequined dresses Fletcher’s heart leapt out of her chest! Although TV was only black and white at that time, the constantly shifting shimmer was intoxicating, never mind whatever they were singing. Also fascinating and reminiscent of the cartoon and fabric mis-registrations, were the stiff strapless gowns which stayed in one place while the performers twisted inside them.
Fletcher spent her childhood drawing cartoon strips, inventing fashion designs, and consumed with existential questions. She wondered if red would look the same if she could see it through someone else’s eyeballs. Had we all just agreed on a name for something that may or may not actually appear the same to each of us? Did God love us so much that he gave us life only to challenge us in ways that we would surely fail? There was no one with whom to discuss these things.
She had no art training outside of the minimal exposure provided by public school, but by the time she was 12, she could hop onto a 15 cent 40 minute public bus ride to the National Gallery, the Corcoran Gallery, the Phillips, and other museums in Washington, D.C. and often spent days wandering there. By high school, she wanted to expand her museum experiences and had some money saved from various jobs she had held. To the utter dismay of her parents, she decided to spend a few days exploring the museums in New York City. She took a Greyhound bus from Alexandria to NYC, booked a room at the YWCA, and spent days hiking NYC seeing all the museums that she could and nights seeing small, inexpensive off-broadway plays. On the last of these high school adventures in the summer of 1963, she stood in a long line to see a traveling Van Gogh exhibition and began talking with two men in line in front of her. They turned out to be art professors at Ohio University where Fletcher was enrolled to begin the following fall. She already had classes scheduled with both of them!
Always taking high school art classes when available, she was fortunate to have a few high school art teachers who were also professional artists. One was an illustrator and cartoonist for the New Yorker Magazine who drilled his classes on work ethic and continuous and demanding drawing exercises. She loved it! Another was Thomas Downing - a member of the Washington Color School with his better known friends, mentor Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis. Both teachers were very beneficial influences. Downing was fairly quiet and mysterious, but his unusual color vision was akin to Fletcher’s and she found him supportive. When he included a portrait she had painted of a woman with violet tinged skin in an art show, her confidence soared. They didn’t always agree on everything however. He assigned a Christmas project in which Fletcher included a cross. Downing confronted her on the inclusion, asking whatever did a cross have to do with Christmas. Intimidated, Fletcher was unable to answer but realized that he simply had no understanding of the religious interpretations of the purpose of Christ’s life on earth.
In addition to basic academics, her first year of college was filled with various drawing exercises which were enjoyable but not challenging. She especially loved the new opportunity to draw from live nude models and found a deeper love of form. Oil painting was allowed in the second year and Jane was filled with eager anticipation. Students were taught how to stretch a canvas but little else. The professors set up a still life for the first semester and one did what one could. It was the 1960’s and one was supposed to “express oneself.” Fletcher had no idea what that was supposed to mean. She wanted to paint like Van Gogh or Renoir, but this was the age of Hoffman, DeKooning, and Pollock. Of the three, she favored De Kooning. Nevertheless, her grades were good and she was placed in honors programs. This required her to invent a project and write a thesis each year for which she did numerous experimental paintings with materials like enamel house paint, etc., dripping and splashing in an abstracted realism style. Then she photographed each, writing about the how, what, why, etc. Oh, if only she had had a cell phone camera then!!
Fletcher graduated cum laude in January of 1967 with a BFA major in Oil Painting, minor in Art History, and Special Honors in Painting. Shortly after graduating, encouraged by her new husband and expecting nothing, Fletcher entered the Upper Ohio Valley Regional Art Show competing against college professors and other mature experienced artists. To her complete surprise, she was awarded First Place in Oil Painting. This led to an invitation for a one woman show at West Liberty State College in 1970.
Although untrained as a teacher, she accepted a position to teach art to all grades 7-12 in the Bellaire, Ohio school system in the 1967-68 school year. In the fall of 1968 she returned to Ohio University to work on her MFA but dropped out when she learned that she was pregnant and that the chemicals in her work might harm her child. Since she couldn’t paint during her pregnancy, she bought a piece of pine and began carving it with a Speedball carving set she had from high school. She highly recommends this activity to any pregnant woman because it strengthened her abdominal muscles so much that delivery was a breeze!
In 1971, Fletcher moved with her toddler daughter to California and, determined to stay home with her daughter until she was at least three, continued to paint. However, there had been no education about how to survive with her credentials and she soon discovered that she would need to sublimate her creative drive to practical needs.
Although she never stopped making art, she found success in the business world working for an employment agency, manufacturing plants, becoming the first woman in management at a major television manufacturer in the 1970’s, owning a hearing aid center, selling life insurance and finally becoming a Registered Investment Advisor. She sold her hearing aid business in 1984 with the intention of once again upgrading art to her full time profession and learning about money as her hobby. Her husband’s job required considerable travel and Fletcher often accompanied him, enabling her to visit art museums and architectural sites throughout Europe, Scandinavia, and Russia. She later expanded her travels to Spain, China, Southeast Asia, South America, and North Africa. She says she has not finished traveling yet!
Although Fletcher considers herself a painter, like many artists she has been seduced by other art forms as well. In 1991, an acquaintance saw a carved wood folding screen that Fletcher had made for herself and asked her to make a double front door set for her multi-million dollar La Jolla ocean front home which was being remodeled. Fletcher had no idea how to make a door but loved the idea. The carved both sides 6 inch thick double door was installed in early 1992 but was temporarily removed later that year and entered into the prestigious and highly competitive Design In Wood show at the San Diego County Fair where it received an Honorable Mention - unheard of for a beginning wood carver. Soon the neighbor across the street from Fletcher’s first door client called Fletcher to make her door and the referrals started coming in. One of the contractors who installed some of Fletcher’s doors suggested she design and sandblast a large window on one of his projects and lent her equipment. Soon she had her own equipment and more projects. Always painting, Fletcher began to get requests for doors and then glass projects. Since she also often embedded glass and/or colored glass in her doors some people got the idea that she could also do leaded and/or copper foil stained glass. Glass was another area where Fletcher had no expertise but her intense curiosity and extensive museum experience gave her confidence.
Painting all the while, Fletcher showed her work at several galleries in the San Diego area including Galleria Jan in La Jolla. Galleria Jan also referred commissions to her and hosted a one person show for her in 1998 with great success. In 2000, Galleria Jan submitted Fletcher’s paintings to The Art Contrast Show, a competitive satellite show at the Basel Art Fair in Basel Switzerland. The Basel committee responded with a glowing letter about Fletcher’s work and accepted seven pieces for the show. Fletcher spent an exciting 10 days at the art fair in Basel!
In the mid-1990’s Fletcher formatted her Mosaic Series. This series was intended to have a strong identifiable signature. She chose to construct lyrical compositions seen through multi-color grid structures. The grid structure creates an image reminiscent of mosaic tiles and somewhat akin to the mis-registration sometimes seen in block printing sequences. The grid also induces some distortions to the lyrical shapes, reminding us that we all see everything through our own lens and none can be sure of accurately seeing reality. Sometimes the grid is subtle, other times it obscures and distorts - just like our prejudices and preconceptions. Today there are almost 80 paintings in this developing series.
In the 2000’s Fletcher’s paintings were often hung in the San Diego Art Institute, Museum of the Living Artist, and the Riverside Museum, among others. In 2008, Fletcher was awarded second prize for her painting Summertime (Mosaic #2) at the Riverside Museum in Riverside, California.
Usually avoiding vanity shows and unsolicited competitive art events, Fletcher, for the first and only time (so far), entered paintings into the enormous San Diego County Fair Art Show in 2010. She won the Peoples’ Choice Award for her painting “Joy” and First Place in the Alternate Materials category for her painting “Basic Cat.”
From 2000-2015 Fletcher was an invited demonstrating artist for the annual La Jolla Historical Society’s Secret Garden Tour. In 2007 and 2009 her paintings were elected to represent the tour and were used for the advertising posters and program booklet covers. She was unavailable in 2016 due to hip replacement surgery.
In 2016 and 2017 Fletcher was invited to display one woman shows at the Regina Cole Artist’s Space and the Dove by the Carlsbad, California library association.
In 2011 and again in 2018, Fletcher and her daughter traveled to Asia. Entranced by the glittering Grand Palace in Bangkok, Asia lived up to her expectations. She felt as if she had been there before, placing mirrored tiles on those amazing mosaic walls! She purchased a towering gold dancer’s hat and brought it home, placing it on an alter table in front of her painting Break in the Clouds (Mosaic # 8). This painting has large areas of various shades of slightly metallic gold. Gazing admiringly at the hat and its twinkling little mirrors, she wished she had more sparkle in that room. It dawned on her that she had always loved sparkle - from the time she saw those hats in church and those gowns on TV - and that she was prejudiced against it in art. It brought thoughts of paintings of Elvis on velvet. Determined to overcome such narrow-mindedness, she decided to create four small paintings - two for each side of “Break in the Clouds” using glitter in some way in order to make the dancer’s hat more at home. Thus, the Sparkle Series was born which today includes about 50 paintings, and growing.
By early 2019, the Sparkle Series was beginning to bleed into the Mosaic Series. After an exuberant beginning, the sparkle in the Mosaic Series has become more subtle and more like spice in a tasty dish. Who knows what is to come from this multi-talented, adventurous, and prolific artist?