Jane Merks

Nelson, BC

Jane Merks

Featured Sculpture

Jane Merks - Life Circles (Cotton fibres, various embellishments)

One of the goals of Sculpturewalk organizers is to introduce viewers to as wide a range of mediums as possible.

Jane Merk's brilliantly colourful entry is the second fabric-based sculpture to be included in the event. Teyana Neufeld displayed Notes of Nelson in 2015. The inclusion of both of these talented artists highlights the diversity of sculpture. They engagingly utilize different materials than the more traditional bronze, stone and wood mediums one tends to equate with sculpture.

Merks life has always been an artistic one.

"I've got lots of titles for myself," she says laughing. " Designer, craftsperson, artist, they are all interchangeable. I really don't concern myself with the hierarchy of labels."

"After this show, I guess I could add sculptor to the list but really, it's neither here nor there. What is important to me is creating work that appeals to people and imparts some sort of meaning for them."

Merks has always been keenly interested, and involved, in fibre arts. At the age of nine she was displaying fabric creations to her family and friends; by thirteen she was sewing most of her own clothes.

"The many forms of fabrics and textiles, along with the accompanying skill sets, have always held great appeal for me," she says, matter-of-factly. "By the time I was eighteen, I'd learned to sew, knit, crochet, batik, macramé, tie-dye and pattern-making."

All of those skills were employed in non-traditional ways as part of her coursework while completing a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Fine Arts. Since her university days, she has worked in many fields - including as a communications design professor, and as a book artist - but has always returned to using fabrics and textiles in her art.

Merks and husband Peter Bartl operated PB +J Studios - a craft printing press that specialized in letterpress hand printing, often of catalogues of exhibitions by Merks - from their home in Balfour for a number of years.

When they moved to Nelson a few years ago, Merks decided her days of working for money were over. "I just decided I'd work at what I wanted to, not on projects for remuneration."

Her talent and creativity is often deployed, voluntarily, in costume design for productions staged at the Capitol Theatre in Nelson. A May, 2016 feature in the Nelson Star glowingly referred to her as the theatre's "fairy godmother", honouring her as part of its Above and Beyond series recognizing exemplary community services. Her fabric/textile skills are critical given the costume challenges the theatre regularly faces.

They are certainly on full display here. Inner Circles is a large, vibrant work that expresses her creative skills with great effect. Over 4000 crocheted hand-dyed circles are interspersed with embellishments to form a mosaic that represents life.

Randomly coloured circles represent the highs and lows of life, set against an elaborate array of same-coloured ones. It is grand in scope and form, accurately summarizing what life is - unbroken regularity interjected with, as Merks says, "highlights of wow!"

Viewers will go wow also, marveling at the effort and inventiveness of her work. Inner Circles displays her industriousness and talent in a glorious burst of colour and meaning.

Artist's Sculptures