VISUAL ARTS | Of “terra-ists” and “terra-ism”

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Jane Evershed’s artwork makes you think. Whether it’s women carrying their houses on their backs or a woman leaping triumphantly across a chasm, Evershed has a recognizable style. She paints with bold colors and strong images. Always, there’s a political theme—about respect, about the treatment of women, humanity, or the planet.

The political is personal

Evershed’s artwork has timeless messages-messages that gain even more meaning as time goes by. Her environmental paintings, including her “scarred sacred earth” series begun in the 1980s, express her concern for forests and water. These concerns continue as a theme in her artwork today.

Her “power of women” paintings speak of her belief in the need for women’s voices to be equal with men’s. Evershed wants women to prepare themselves to be seated at the table of global consequence. “Humanity is hopping along unbalanced on one foot, with 90 percent men ruling the world. Women aren’t there,” she said. “We need a larger percent.”

Global shaping

Connecting nature and women’s voices in global contexts has deep roots in her life. Evershed has been shaped as an artist by her experiences in many parts of the world. She was born in England and at age 9 moved to South Africa. Growing up under Apartheid “had a profound influence on me,” she said. “All of my art has a social justice connection because of my experiences in South Africa. I realized the debasement of a beautiful culture by the white supremacist elements of my race. I was jailed for protesting. I didn’t want to be a part of it [Apartheid].”

Evershed has a vivid memory of writing an imaginary letter to friend when she was very young. The letter was made of curves and lines rather than words. She credits her Auntie Rene, who lived in England, as having a profound influence on her. Her aunt sent art supplies to South Africa to encourage the young Evershed. “She said I would be a famous artist, and I believed her. She was my saving grace and mentor.”

In 1984, as a young wife and mother, Evershed was on the move-to London, to West Virginia and then later to Minneapolis. It was a troublesome time in her personal life. “I realized that my marriage was not working out and I had to find a way out,” she said. “Art was the only thing I could do well.” Her way out was to develop a line of art cards and posters.

“I felt welcomed and am thankful to people in Minneapolis who helped get me started on my path as an artist.” She credits Scott Cramer at Northern Sun Merchandising who was the first to invest money in getting her cards and artwork printed. And over 20 years ago, Karen Hanson, owner of Avalon gift shop in St. Paul, was the first to carry Evershed’s cards, and still does.

Earth as home

A strong focus in her artwork today continues to be nature and Evershed’s concern for the earth. “We’ve come so far away from nature [as a society],” she said. And, as the founder of “terra-ism,” she calls herself a one-woman art genre to help people find their way back home to nature.

Evershed considers the planet earth to be her home. “I’m an ‘earthling’ by the river,” she said, describing her current home in the woods of Wisconsin. “Home is a place where one’s purpose is fulfilled. Home to me, is where one can be an ‘earthling.’ Home is where we can eat and talk,” she said. “People confuse having a house with a home. Our home is this earth, and we all need to realize that pretty quick, lickety-split.”

Evershed’s home is in a beautiful setting, but it lacks the space needed for her artwork. While it’s being rebuilt to add studio space, she’s perching with friends. She has a vision of turning her home into an affordable retreat space for artists and writers so others can join her for a time and be inspired by nature, to join her as “earthlings.”

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