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Hancock tapestry artist discusses most recent collection “When I Grow Up I’ll be a Painter too" 

  • Janet Hulings Bleicken’s feature piece in a collection titled “When I Grow Up I’ll be a Painter Too” that’s now on display at the AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon. Bleicken is pictured as a young child surrounded by artists that she admired growing up and two collectors who supported her works and allowed them to continue. Courtesy

  • Janet Hulings Bleicken’s art is on display at the AVA Gallery & Art Center in Lebanon until Oct. 6. Courtesy photo—

  • Janet Hulings Bleicken’s art hangs in her Hancock home. Bleicken’s art is on display at the AVA Gallery & Art Center in Lebanon until Oct. 8. Photo by Megan MacLaren

  • Janet Hulings Bleicken’s tapestries hang in her Hancock home. Bleicken’s art is on display at the AVA Gallery & Art Center in Lebanon until Oct. 8. PHOTO BY Megan MacLaren

  • Staff photo by Megan MacLaren—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Staff photo by Megan MacLaren—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Photo by Megan MacLaren

  • Janet Hulings Bleicken works on tapestries in her Hancock home. Bleicken’s art is on display at the AVA Gallery & Art Center in Lebanon until Oct. 8. Megan MacLaren / Monadnock-Ledger staff



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, September 21, 2017

Janet Hulings Bleicken’s most recent completed collection, called “When I Grow Up I’ll be a Painter   Too,” consists of nine tapestries that depict five famous artists who influenced Bleicken’s work, two collectors who made the work accessible, and Bleicken herself as a young girl.

Bleicken, who lives in Hancock, said the idea for the collection came about after she was asked in an interview what artists she admired as a child. Bleicken said that her parents used to take her to art museums when she was young, and she would collect small postcards of her favorite works from each exhibit and plaster them across her bedroom walls. But that was a long time ago, and Bleicken, who is 70, told the panel that she would have to think about it.

“I went home and dredged up memories,” she said about the process of creating the collection, which is currently on exhibition at the AVA Gallery of Art Center in Lebanon, running until Oct. 6.

The research led her on a deep dive into the lives of the painters and collectors who have influenced her work as well as her own childhood. And when one of Bleicken’s friends made a comment about Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who was only 4-foot-9, Bleicken started thinking.

“It occurred to me that I was going to be showing all of these artists standing there in a big group and that if I showed one taller relatively to someone else, I mean that was kind of an insult,” she said.

Bleicken found each of the artists’ heights and planned where she was going to arrange them on the canvas.

Then she had to decide what each was going to wear.

For some in the picture, she chose the clothing based off an interesting pattern or design on an outfit that she found. For others in the painting, more went into it. She put Pablo Picasso in a Harris Tweed jacket because Paris was known for being cold and at the time most people didn’t have heat in their apartments or homes. The tweed jackets were supposed to be the warmest garment a person could find, and it is said that Picasso took all the money he received from selling his first painting and put it toward buying one of the coats.

“So the complication just goes on and on,” Bleicken said.

She added that researching details has become one of her favorite parts of the project.

“It makes it real for me,” she said. “I don’t trust my own imagination. I’m not going to invent Picasso, I need information about him in order to do that.”

In each of the nine paintings from the collection, Bleicken has portrayed herself as a young girl.

“That was the worst part,” Bleicken said with a laugh.

She said the process required rummaging through old boxes of things that she had kept but never looked through after her mother died. In the box, she found the postcards that she had plastered over her bedroom walls as a child. Those helped jog her memory of what age she was when she discovered various artists. From those, she estimated what age she was when she discovered the artists and painted herself through her youth.

“So many artists do self-portraits and I had done one years ago, but I was never compelled to do that,” Bleicken said. “And then to have to do that, because I had made the decision this is how I was going to manage this, I found that really painful.”

She said it was hard to paint herself as a youth.

“I would work and work and work on these paintings and my husband would come downstairs and say, ‘You didn’t look like that,’” Bleicken said. “So I tried, I tried.”

She said the painting where she is 12 years old is likely the most accurate depiction. She thinks that’s because she can remember what she looked like at that age.

“Who in this world ever has a realistic idea of what they look like because you never see yourself in motion,” Bleicken said.

She said she likely won’t do any self-portraits again.

“It was too hard,” she said.

When asked why she likes the process of excavating details of others lives, but not her own, she said, “it probably means that the portraits I do of others are probably just as dishonest, I just don’t know it.”

 Bleicken will give a gallery talk on Sept. 30 at 3 p.m. at the AVA gallery.

(Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.)