Evey Jones in her Placitas studio with her monotype: Leaving And Parting, 27-1/2" x 30", on rag paper —Photo credit: Oli Robbins
Passage Horizontal 2, 30" X 40", monotype on rag paper, by Evey Jones
The personal mythology of Evey Jones
We experience many different phases in life—the wonders of childhood, the excitement, discovery and optimism of youth, the humbleness that accompanies adulthood when one grasps the ephemeral nature of life, and the humility that emerges when one recognizes that they have become the elder, and that they may have questions that will never find answers. This later stage, and the various awakenings that come along with it, informs the recent work of Placitas printmaker Evey Jones. “I have a question, and there’s no one left to answer it” is the title of an exhibition, showcasing the work of Jones and Harriette Tsosie this month at the Harwood Art Center. The show describes Jones’ journey, following her mother’s passing, when she realized that no one remained from the older generation to teach her about her family, her past, or herself. Says Jones, “it started over two years ago—this sense that the heart of the home is gone.”
Usually, when someone must pack up the belongings of a loved one following their passing, they comb through clothing, books, and trinkets while remembering and longing. Such was the case for Jones when she went to Florida in 2010 to clear out her mother’s home. But upon returning to Placitas, she found that she couldn’t sketch. The process was too intimate, too specific, and she wanted space. Before Florida, Jones had visited Documenta, Kassel’s renowned International Art Show, and the work she saw there encouraged her to create on a large scale. The art at Documenta was “not on the walls anymore.” It was “entire rooms, environments and sensations.” Needing to be physical with her art, while at once working through the death of her mother, Jones found inspiration in the boxes brimming with her mother’s old things. She slit them open, lay them flat on the floor and played. “I would just play on the cardboard. And I started to see things. That there was a richness, a story evolving... I would do a box, and it would be my sketchbook.” Says Jones, “The boxes contained my stories, all of my mother’s things, my childhood. What we brought back wasn’t the house, but our memories, the things that were important to us.” She used the boxes in place of her sketchbook, and the prints that followed resonated to Jones “as journeys and passages.” She understood that the passage wasn’t her mother’s, but her own, “into the next space.”
Jones has lived and breathed art for nearly six decades. Many artists think back on childhood and realize that they’ve always, in some way, been an artist. But Jones, who grew up outside of Manhattan in Queens, began serious artistic training while still in Middle School. Her mother nurtured her children’s visual education early on, introducing them to all that New York had to offer. As kids, Jones and her sister Daisy—also a Placitas artist—went to the Metropolitan Museum of art, the opera, and ballet. Jones took art lessons from a neighbor, who urged her to try out for New York City’s School of Industrial Art. She got in, and with the support of her mother, who acknowledged that her daughter was inclined artistically, Jones began treading through the New York art world. “From the day that I went to high school,” says Jones, “art was totally a part of my life. Four hours of art in the morning, lunch, and enough academics to go to college.” Following high school, Jones continued her art education at Cooper Union, where she eventually majored in painting. “My life and my education—they were never separate things from art.”
New York’s dynamism is inspiring, but the competition that permeates the city’s art scene prompted Jones to escape for periods. She spent her college summers outside of New York, first in California, and then in New Mexico. Jones had a romantic view of the West, which she envisioned as the land of Roy Rogers, Bonanza, and Billy the Kid. Thinking back, she remembers wanting to be “where the cowboys were.” Finding respite in Albuquerque, she enrolled in a drawing class at UNM and found that she loved the landscape here. “You could see weather—really see things you couldn’t in New York. The color, and light here is so stunning.” After graduating from Cooper Union, she got an assistantship at UNM, where she began working on an MFA.
Finding it difficult to be female and also treated seriously as a painter, Jones switched directions, and got a degree in art education. With her husband Wayne and daughter Kira, Jones went back to New York to teach for a couple of years. But she missed New Mexico and came back, finding the Placitas home that she resides in to this day, and teaching at Cibola High School, where she instructed for twenty years.
It was through teaching that Jones eventually found her way to Italy, which continues to capture her spirit and fuel her creativity year after year. Jones would take her students all over New Mexico to see art. One day a student jokingly commented that it would be great to go beyond New Mexico, and Jones took this prospect to heart. She orchestrated a trip to Paris, Florence, and Venice. For years to follow, Jones took class after class to Europe, playing the role of organizer and tour guide. She found Italy to have a unique “lightness, air, and delicacy.”
Retiring from teaching did not mean discontinuing her love affair with Italy. Now Jones simply has more time to spend abroad each year, and her journeys are often artistically fruitful. Drawn to the beautifully-aged architecture and streets, she often photographs windows, doorways, and cobblestone, later altering the photos and sketching from them. “For many years,” says Jones, “all of my imagery came from those trips. It had to do with stories, stories of homes.”
Jones refers to her monotypes—which usually evolve from her sketches—as her “personal mythology.” The chairs and windows that can be found in many of her prints are products of her emotional responses to places. “I personalize these objects and combine them into my own life, my own landscape, my own place of moment. It’s my story.” Jones explains that these objects become “personalities of sorts,” sometimes intimately engaged, sometimes distanced by tension. Jones’ most recent work appears more abstract but, resulting as it did from the passing of her mother and her own subsequent passage into a new pocket of time in which the past is remembered and the present is savored, it is still very much her narrative, her personal mythology.
Jones work is on view at the Harwood Art Center May 3 through May 30, with an opening reception on May 3 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.