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Art & Life with Jill Mahanna

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jill Mahanna.

Jill, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I grew up on the east coast, in Delaware, and began studying with a local artist when I was 13. During my first lesson, she gave me a photograph of a rabbit in underbrush and asked me to copy it. I’d never done anything like that, and the joy and amazement I felt at what I created and how I seemed to dialog with the piece as if it were speaking to me, I will never forget. I worked consistently on my art through high school, winning awards in local and state contests. I knew that art would be a huge part of my life always and decided to pursue this dream in college. After graduating from Duke University with degrees in fine art and art history, I lived a number of years in Durham, NC, working as a book designer and painting and drawing the figure.

In 1992, my partner and I loaded a VW microbus with art supplies and traveled throughout the U.S. for a year, crossing the country a number of times and visiting so many of the beautiful natural places. Lured to the Sierra foothills, we fell in love with the landscape and the vibrant community, and decided to put down roots. I worked as a graphic designer and painted consistently, studying at Sacramento State with Oliver Jackson. My focus shifted from the figure to landscape. Many years and two children later, I continue to be enamored of the land that surrounds me. Parenting and painting are my dual full time jobs. I could not be more fulfilled and grateful.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I am an oil painter, with the landscape as my subject. I have been painting the land around me for 20 years, largely en plein air. My work is colorful and dynamic, expressionistic and abstract. I prefer to work large so that it is easier to get lost in the painting. Because of how connected I feel when I am in nature, much of my work comes from a devotional place. This is also a childlike place. The child in me paints the places I want to play in, and creates joyful, spontaneous worlds in which to move, wander, and climb. My hope is that my viewers also lose themselves in the painting, forgetting time and their responsibilities for a moment, and return feeling inspired and enlivened.

Much of my work is concerned with paths and with destination. I began to notice that all of my landscapes contained a path, whether I intended one or not. More recently, my inspiration comes from what’s inside me rather than from life or photographs. I continue to use the landscape motif that I know and love so well. The paths in my paintings are a metaphor for the ways in which we wander through our lives, the choices we make, the obstacles in our way, and where we may end. Is there a destination? How do our life journeys look, what paths do we take, and how do we move through the world, and through our lives?

In addition to this uniquely personal work, I also do landscape commissions. I call them Nature Portraits. I have found that, like me, many people have special places in nature to which they are deeply connected—the meadow where they were married, or their favorite tree in their backyard, or the beach where their family vacationed for generations. I paint these places for my clients, in my own nature language. I love connecting with people around their connections with nature.

What responsibility, if any, do you think artists have to use their art to help alleviate problems faced by others? Has your art been affected by issues you’re concerned about?
I think one significant role of artists has been consistent throughout history. Art provides a reflection of the human experience—in all of its permutations. The work I do is nature-inspired and about internal experience, but the events and issues in the external world affect me, and so indirectly contribute to my paintings. I have been drawn to nature, to the wild and intimate places outside of current events and issues. That inspiration helps to balance me in an inconstant world.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
Artwork can be seen and purchased on my website. For the most current images, follow me on Instagram, and I welcome purchase inquiries there, as well. My newest work is being exhibited at Avanguardia Winery in Grass Valley, CA. I am also a resident artist at ASiF, the Artists’ Studios in the Foothills, and my work may be viewed at my studio there. I will be exhibiting at the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival on September 15 and 16, and at the San Carlos Art and Wine Fair on October 6 and 7. There is a lot going on in my life, as well as in my paintings!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Paul Harton

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  1. Augie Kreivenas

    July 16, 2018 at 22:03

    Beautiful and personal and unique expression in your art! Love it.

  2. Judith M. Ashley

    July 16, 2018 at 23:37

    Hello Jill,
    I’ve admired your artwork for several years now and see from the pieces exhibited above that your work is evolving as you evolve.

    With respect and admiration,

    Judith M. Ashley

  3. Paul Harton

    July 17, 2018 at 02:15

    What beautiful art. I love seeing your new work and how it is evolving. Keep it up! So inspirational.

  4. Angie

    July 17, 2018 at 03:28

    Your work opens my heart and evokes emotion. I’m grateful to own one of your small works in which I see the Desolation Wilderness in summer. I always enjoy seeing the two small pieces my sister owns when I visit her. My favorite piece to date is the dancing trees which takes my breath away every time I see it. I love your work Jill.

  5. Julie

    July 17, 2018 at 05:40

    Wonderful article. I love learning more about one of my favorite artists.

  6. Karen Stone

    July 17, 2018 at 05:41

    Hi Jill, I LOVE seeing how you have changed and evolved in your art…i have always loved your work, thank you for including me on your list.

    • Jill Mahanna

      July 17, 2018 at 16:12

      Thanks, Karen! I so appreciate your kind comments.

  7. Katherine Schad

    July 17, 2018 at 16:20

    Wonderful write up of a wonderful person and artist. Congrats Jill!
    I love the childlike whimsy often captured in your nature paintings!

  8. Jill Mahanna

    July 17, 2018 at 21:45

    Hi Karen! Thanks so much for your kind comment. xo

  9. Claudia Green

    July 18, 2018 at 01:20

    I love this evolution of your work! The dancing colors, textures and depths are so comfortable and playful!
    I am so excited for you and this next path to your visions coming true!

  10. Robert Totoonchie

    July 18, 2018 at 17:15

    Jill!!! This is awesome! I’ve never seen your paintings, they are beautiful!

  11. Sarah

    July 18, 2018 at 17:23

    Great interview! I loved reading about how the little rabbit in the underbrush captured you. It’s so fun to see where your work is going, I feel uplifted and spacious when I look at the new pieces you’re creating.

  12. Gwen Eymann

    July 18, 2018 at 21:06

    Hi Jill, I always took you for a VW Microbus kinda gal. I love your work, the colors and the feeling of laughter I get when looking at it. Great website and interview, too. Thanks for sharing this. Gwen

  13. Mollie Gallagher

    August 3, 2018 at 22:33

    Hi Jill,
    We are so glad that you included us on your mailing list. We have always loved your paintings, thank you!
    Mollie & Kent

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