Q-1/ How did you get started as an artist and Mensan?
Jana/ I got started as an ‘artist’ when I was around 7. My dad would take me and my brother to the bridge club, and while he played, we would color, play games, and reproduce the newspaper comic strips we liked. Later, I started reproducing Marvel comic book characters and scenes and I tried to make my own comic books. Seeing my drawings, my parents enrolled me into a high school with a visual arts magnet program. I was a Marie Walsh Sharpe scholar when I was 16. Then, I went to Washington University and later the Kansas City Art Institute to major in painting. (I also have a master’s in accounting!)
From first grade onwards, I was in the gifted program in Broward County, Florida. That is where I first learned of Mensa. While I knew I qualified, I never applied because I couldn’t access my test scores. Then, in 2018, I decided to take the Mensa admissions test, and here I am! I joined Mensa to meet and interact with more people (though I’ve been too shy to truly do that yet), and for more self-confidence.
Q-2/ Artists tend to be unique individuals. What makes your art unique?
Jana/ My art is unique because many people who paint portraits focus on either making something photo-realistic, or focus on more precise representation of color and form. My figurative oil and acrylic paintings are more about the psychological space, and connections between people and their environments. They are about the space between words and thoughts, about feelings, about social and physical connections, and about the pieces of people that are left behind as they try to interact with the world. Many of my paintings show people dissolving into their backgrounds, or disappearing because of lost edges. Some show pieces of the figures interacting with the environment/background. Sometimes most of the figure becomes disrupted, but other times, the figure is whole, but it is the background that becomes disrupted. While I’ve been painting in this manner for close to 18 years, there is a recent book by John Seed called Disrupted Realism that describes similar work, and a new wave of artists who chose to go beyond purely representational figurative art. (It’s an interesting read. It has interviews with the artists, and it’s intriguing to see the reasons each artist has chosen to paint in this manner.)
To me, while I deeply admire and respect the more representational paintings (and their artists), I do not want to make that art myself, because if I wanted the ultimate representation of someone, I would just take a photo.
Q-3/ If you were working at an office, what would you want others to know about you?
Jana/ I do work in an office as an accountant! I normally tell people that I’m left-handed, that I’m an artist and a CPA, and I tell them about my husband, step-son, my uniquely talented 11-year-old, and my problem-solving 2-year-old. Then, I also tell them about how I was born in California, and grew up in several cities in South Florida, moving almost once a year until I went to college. Then, I came to Missouri for college and never left.
Q-4/ If you could go deeper and wrestle with one question in your soul: What work would you be able to accomplish?
Jana/ This is a tricky one. I have lots of questions and lots of things I want to accomplish. If it were something that I could attain with hard work and with all other things, including finances, being equal, I would put more art into the world and I would help others express themselves with art. Art is a way you can say things that you can’t find the words to say. It can help with stress relief and self-expression, and it can be its own form of therapy. I feel like I should want to be doing something more grand than this, but unless I win the lottery, I will do what I can with what resources I have.
I guess my other answer is that I would want to work more with my autistic son, to help him understand and navigate the world better, so that he has more options when he’s 18. And, I am trying to help him grow his extraordinary talents and interests in music (he has synesthesia and perfect pitch and has begun to compose his own songs on a DAW), art (2-D and 3-D), and engineering so that he can work in what he loves when he grows up.
Q-5/ What is your mission toward other human beings and career goals?
Jana/ My mission towards other human beings – I guess that is to treat everyone as I would like to be treated, and to help people where I can, whether it be helping someone with a task, buying a needy family presents for the holidays, or just letting someone know that they matter, and that they can talk with me if they are feeling down or lonely.
My career goals are two-fold. On my accounting/CPA side, I would like to grow my career in corporate finance/accounting, and make my way to manager or maybe even director someday. However, I want to do this responsibly, and in a way that means I still can have dinner with my family every night. I’ve worked in public accounting, and I know there are roles that do not allow you time to fully participate in family life. I do not want a role like that – my family comes first. (I would also like a job that allows me time to still paint at night or on the weekends.)
In art, I would like to start showing in more galleries in Kansas City, and work my way to other major cities. Eventually, it would be amazing to have regular gallery representation, and to be able to show in galleries worldwide too. Since I have a day job, I don’t necessarily have to worry about how much money I am making on my art. I can make what I want and pursue the subject matters that interest me.
Editor’s note: If you are interested in learning more about Jana Duca’s artwork, visit her fine art website at: janaduca.com.