A creative and powerful sleeper wave, Jann Nunn works quietly and seemingly without the gravity and physics that limit most people. While Jann herself is diminutive in stature, her work is massively powerful in concept and execution and has reached enormous audiences, speaking volumes about a great number of political, social and spiritual concepts. Her work manifests in the form of sculpture, site-specific installations, and performances and gets to the heartbeat of the issue, place, or space at hand. Leaving no stone unturned, Jann does the research and soul-searching exercises to eloquently convey significance through symbolism that communicates ideas with authenticity and relevance.
A.S.: What do you do?
J.N.: I am an artist and educator. I create sculptures, installations, drawings, and performance pieces using a variety of materials in varying scale – from minute to monumental. My artwork typically responds to “place” in the larger sense. It is a synthesis of my head, heart, and gut – combining research with intuition – selecting just the right material and method to convey my idea. Sometimes my work is personal, sometimes political, but always poetic.
I am also a professor at Sonoma State University where I teach all levels of undergraduate sculpture, including installation, bronze foundry, and public art.
A.S.: Why do you do what you do?
J.N.: That’s a great question! One I have asked myself many times. I have no idea except to say that for as long as I can remember I always made objects and images. As a child I didn’t understand that being an “artist” was a viable occupation until my second grade teacher passed out small reproductions of paintings by Brueghel and Raphael. I held onto those pictures for years. They were the portals into my future.
When I started high school I declared studio art as my major. I also began taking private painting lessons. I had my first solo exhibition in a “real” art gallery when I was 17 years old. In college I was forced– against my will – to take a sculpture class to satisfy BFA graduation requirements. To my surprise, I was immediately hooked. I learned to weld and sew the first semester and created a monumental-scale architectural sculpture made of steel and fabric. I started doing performance, sound, and kinetic sculpture. I was fascinated by the limitless possibilities of working sculpturally. I changed my major to Sculpture and kept going. I eventually ended up at San Francisco Art Institute where I earned an MFA in sculpture.
A.S.: What drew you to American Steel?
J.N.: When I took a sabbatical from teaching a couple of years ago I needed to move out of the fabulously equipped sculpture studio at Sonoma State and set up shop closer to home. Finding my ideal studio was quite the process. I needed one to match what I had become accustomed to at Sonoma and allow me to expand. As soon as I toured the studios at American Steel with Sally I knew I had found the right place – one with vitality and an opportunity to engage with other artists.
I also live in Oakland so I wanted a studio close to home. Oakland is a hotbed of creative individuals and the city seems to be doing more to recognize and support artists. Art Murmur is an essential part of putting Oakland “on the map.”
Community is important. As artists, our individual solitary endeavor is a given. We spend our lives engaged in fulfilling a vision that few will see or understand. Yet simply having the opportunity to be in the presence of other “maniacally obsessed” individuals mitigates the isolation that comes with the territory of being an artist. We validate each others’ existence.
A.S.: What’s your favorite part of being here?
J.N.: I’m always excited to see the work of actively engaged artists. The exhibitions and events in the Poplar Gallery are a brilliant way to showcase the talent of the artists / inventors here at American Steel Studios. Proximity to the Bay Bridge and the major freeways facilitates easy access for my suppliers and studio visitors. I especially love being close to Ace Markus Hardware and Fastenal in Jack London Square.
A.S.: What is your next big adventure?
J.N.: I am currently involved in co-curating an exhibition with Nick Dong, another American Steel artist, at Mercury 20 Gallery on 25th Street in Oakland.
For this show, “Transformation of Connectivity: Conversation, Confluence, Collaboration,” we asked gallery artists to invite another artist to collaborate with them in some way. Artists not only chose other artists and photographers but also writers, musicians, fabricators and choreographers with whom they would make art in collaboration or association. The exhibition is on view from January 16 through February 22. The public is invited to the artists’ reception on Saturday January 25, 4-6 PM.
I am collaborating with Lynne Todaro, a San Jose-based sculptor. We are each making individual wood sculptures based on crutches that when shown together will create a singular installation.
Additionally I’m curating a sculpture exhibition at Sonoma State University featuring current work from SSU Sculpture alumni that opens in the spring.
A.S. : And, as if that is not enough…
And I am preparing for a solo exhibition of my sculptural installations and works on paper at Mercury 20 Gallery in July 2014.
My work can be seen on my web site—www.jann-nunn.com—or on-site at Paradise Ridge Winery and Sculpture Grove in Santa Rosa (through May 2014) and a permanently sited Holocaust & Genocide Memorial on the campus grounds of Sonoma State University.
I am also available in my studio by appointment.
A.S.: Jann, it is always a pleasure to watch you interpret and create. We look forward to your upcoming shows and watching you move through your creative paces here at American Steel!