Visiting Jan

October 6, 2009

Monday was one of those Monday-ish Mondays. I dripped toothpaste on my kakhi sevens. I hit myself twice in the forehead with my car visor. I had to pee right in the middle of taking my spanish test...


I think I vented to poor sweet boyfriend for 45 minutes after work about all the things that went wrong - people who didn't pick up their phones, inspiration I didn't have, concepts on my Spanish test that I didn't think would be there, lack of sleep, the way I miss Washington...he was very great about all of it, telling me I should go work with orphans over break, and that he would help me get there.

I probably really don't deserve him somedays.

But anyways...

I was kind-of...grumpy? I sat at Flower Garden in between work at the newspaper and my interview with local artist Jan Kapple Klein and - I'll say it - an innocent bystander in the immediate vicinity probably could have accused me of sulking.

(photo via Jan Kapple Klein Gallery)

The sulks fled as soon as arrived at Jan's house. She opened the door and my inner artist started skipping and doing cartwheels.
"Want a beer?" Jan asked, and I knew I wasn't working anymore.

We chatted, more than interviewed, and I felt  privileged to be inspired by her ideas and thoughts. By the time I left we had covered everything from the turquoise rings we were both wearing, to politics, and Glass Beach in Fort Bragg.

(the following as written for the Auburn Journal).

Driving up Aeolia Drive to interview Jan Kapple Klein, I was delighted to find that her house is one I have noticed and fallen in love with several times over.

Her self-designed abode looks like a big, white Mexican villa nestled on the edge of the American River Canyon. She smiled at me as she opened the door, laughing, talking and asking me if I wanted iced tea all at once, while telling her brother where to put the Italian Cypress trees she purchased to make her home look more “Mediterranean.”

Jan has designed posters for the Auburn Community Festival, Auburn Wine & Food Festival, Foothills Farmers Market, Mountain Mandarin Festival, AgroART Festival, Loomis Eggplant Festival and Think Auburn First. Though she was raised for most of her life in Southern California, she said Placer County has always felt like home. The community here, coupled with the nature she has spent years putting on canvas, has convinced her that Auburn is her forever home.

I knew I loved her when she started telling me stories. She pointed to the turquoise ring I was wearing and said, "I need to show you something." Coming back with a dish full of rings, she told me about an old man she drove to the train station downtown. After complimenting her blue turquoise ring, he asked her to hold out her hand, and gave her a large, green ring, without explanation. She dropped it into my hand and smiled, “Isn’t that amazing?”

As she told me other stories, I found that being with Jan meant seeing Auburn in a new light. Her pastels have put the town on canvas, but it was her words that made the town vibrant for me. She painted a picture of opportunity and dreams, attributing her success to the way the town has embraced her and provided a place for her to bloom.

"I feel blessed that this is the place destined for me to lay down roots," Jan writes in her blog. She referred me to it while sitting on her veranda, ice tea in hand, and showing me the "Auburn eagles" (otherwise known as Turkey Buzzards) circling over her back yard. "Here, close to family and friends, my community has held and nurtured me to bear fruit, literally, through art.”

I asked her to be specific how she has been nurtured.

“I think you can chase your dreams in Auburn the way you can’t other places,” she said. “Almost everyone I know here is an entrepreneur, just because they are inventive people who have dreams and goals. My daughter and son-in-law, for instance, just started Secure Record Storage.”

When I asked her about inspiration, she smiled, and started talking about local nature, things like the rocks at the American River and the succulents in her yard. She said a friend who travels said Auburn looks like Southern France. “Southern France, in my backyard!” she laughed.

Picking up a few rocks she gathered at the American River, she put them under her fountain, so she could show me how their colors deepen with moisture. It was then that I realized Jan doesn’t just make art - she lives it. The stories she told, the way she laughed and took interest in my life, the spots she pointed out where deer walk through her yard, were all are living pieces of art, one after another, that Jan set out for me to enjoy.

I asked about recent opportunities, and she said that her latest work has included a wine label for Duarte Family Vineyards, and a logo for Rosie O’Donnell’s XM Siriusly ROSIE Radio Show. She is also in the process of putting several pieces into local art galleries.

When I asked her what the future holds, she assured me that, regardless of any new opportunities, her heart is committed to continuing the mutually beneficial relationship she has established with Placer County. She talked about blogging, and said she’d like to start putting more of her work online. She mentioned that she might try a few portraits of her family, and said she would love to do a series of local wine labels as well. Though she plans on continuing her festival posters, she talked a lot about painting for her own enjoyment.

“I’d love to do a series just on rocks,” she laughed. “Or a huge painting of just a chair. I think a lot of times that’s where artist’s heads are at. We see something cool and think ‘maybe someone else will think this is cool!’ Or we see things maybe people don’t notice because they are going too fast."

Helping me to see little things I hadn’t noticed was exactly what Jan did for me, the whole time I sat and talked with her in what she calls her dream home. Popping in her latest favorite music (a soundtrack from the motion picture, “A Good Year”), and bringing out her lime green parrot to enjoy some fresh air, she set up a succulent for me to look at, and pointed out the way it filtered the evening light.

“I’m always drawing stuff in my head,” she said. “Those fine details are so cool.”

(photo via Jan Kapple Klein gallery)