Virtual Art Exhibit Leads to Real Friendship

Both artists agree – it’s ironic that social distancing would lead to deepening friendship. But that’s exactly what happened as they remotely built their virtual exhibit, Color & Clay – A Duet, a collaboration that integrates Joan Libby Hawk’s ceramics and Jana Millstone’s paintings. The exhibit was originally slated for Sarasota’s renowned Art Uptown Gallery on Main Street in May 2020. Covid-19 changed everyone’s plans. Tempted at first to shut the book on their concept. Instead, they joined forces, using innovative approaches rather than go dark. Their exhibit took to cyberspace.

Virtual art exhibit

“We went from plan A to literally Z ++,” they explained. “Without the bricks and mortar option of Art Uptown, we created a series of images, grouping ceramics and paintings along with brief conversations that people can enjoy throughout the month.

Moving the art to social media represented a small victory over this dark and threatening period. In Jana’s words, “Our show, Color & Clay—A Duet is a humble offering. We’re sharing arts’ emotional power.” Adds Joan, “Creative work is an amazing antidote, completely absorbing.”

While the project began before the need for social distancing, the artists surprised themselves as they traded ideas and visions to shape their unique installation concept. Jana’s paintings and Joan’s create a genuine ‘duet’.

The artists explain that they share an appreciation for the artful environment and wanted their collaboration to mirror the way people put pieces they love together in their homes. The Color & Clay images integrate the ceramics and paintings into stunning compositions, highlighting their intimate appeal. Joan continues, “I really responded to interacting with Jana’s art, even though a virtual experience.” As the work became good friends, so did the artists.

Artists usually work alone, so it is especially remarkable that during this time of isolation, Jana and Joan have discovered a meaningful bond artistically and personally.

Both women’s art defies easy characterization.

Seagrass-Seaworld

Joan continues to refine and simplify her porcelain and stoneware vessels eliminating what feels extraneous. Her connection to ceramics deepened when she lived in Oxford, England, studying at the Ruskin School of Art and Brookes’ University. Living abroad in Bangkok, Thailand and Phnom Penh, Cambodia provided a singular opportunity to study Asian art and ceramics. Interested in glaze science, her glazes can sing out or create a subtle tone poem.

Graduating from Pratt Institute, with studies at other New York art schools, Jana has an impressive exhibit record and numerous awards, including the statewide Florida’s Finest first prize. In addition to a life as a painter, Jana’s professional career in product development concluded as Concept Director for gifts and home décor at Lenox China. Over the years she was a designer of fashion, home, and business products that included graphics and illustration.

As the artists put the finishing touches on their virtual art exhibit, Color & Clay series, their thoughts run to the next phase. “We look forward to creating the actual, real-time, touchable Color & Clay—A Duet. We’re already thinking about new ideas, putting to work what we’ve learned through our virtual exhibit. We’ll be so excited to welcome everyone and toast our collective resilience and friendship.” Stay tuned.

Editor’s Note: Here’s Joan Libby Hawk’s interesting story from last year.

Photos from Joan Libby Hawk and Jana Millstone. Top photo – Rebound-Rejoice.

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2020-05-13