Saying goodbye to Janice
Rest in Peace, Janice On Sept. 23, Chico lost one of the good ones. On Sunday morning, local artist and teacher Janice Porter died after a long battle with breast cancer.
I know I speak for a lot of people in Chico, and back in her old stomping grounds of Minneapolis, Minn., when I say that Janice was one of those people who made the world feel brighter just by walking into the room, and that the light has dimmed for many with her passing.
For the past decade, Janice has been one of the more active members of the local art community, showing her paintings all over the North State, working with 1078 Gallery and Chico Art Center and teaching art classes at Chico State and Butte and Shasta community colleges. And before she came to Chico, she was similarly busy in Minneapolis for twice as long—showing and teaching and advocating for art and working as a graphic designer for roughly 20 years. And, along the way, she found the time to also publish 29 illustrated children’s books.
I loved Janice’s voice. It was so singular that I’m actually having a hard time describing it. It was “light,” but not airy, and full of warmth and energy, and she always said interesting things. I can hear her right now, as I read through some of her words on her website:
I live in a space where the physical and non-physical meet. Everything is alive. Everything trembles with frequencies of emotion.
That is a nice idea to imagine right now, one that was manifested beautifully in one of the most inspiring local art shows I’ve ever been to: Jtown. In the fall of 2009, Janice had taken over the 1078 Gallery and turned it into her own invented town filled with her art on the walls, buildings constructed by local artists, and brought to life through a series of public events and performances. Jtown was born in the wake of Janice’s being diagnosed with cancer, and I remember being struck at the power of the idea of inventing a world filled with art, friends, ideas, food and community to exist alongside the unpleasant reality of sharing her life with a disease.
Jtown rose out of my desire to enjoy and create community while making art, or as a result of the art. It also rose from the fact that I like simply being as much as I like making things, so I needed to come up with an art form that would allow me a rich platform for hanging out. Jtown’s guest artists, performers, and visitors created a living, breathing, alternate universe.
And as I sit here thinking about Janice, her three sons and her husband, CN&R columnist Anthony Peyton Porter, it’s comforting to imagine her both still with us in some form and in that alternate universe—“a space where,” as she put it, “the physical and non-physical meet”—pain-free and painting the scene as she goes.
• Youth & Music III: Skateboarding, live music and burritos! What better way to celebrate a hot autumn weekend. Hit the ramps of the portable skatepark and then hit up the taco truck at the Terry Ashe Park in Paradise this Saturday, Sept. 29, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
• TOTR shout outs: A follow-up to my review of Theatre on the Ridge’s excellent production, The Diviners (final showings this weekend). Props need to be handed out to choreographer Conan Duch, who I neglected to recognize for his badass contributions to the trippy final sequence, as well as to sound tech Billy Whiteman, who was not listed in the program.