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Janina Monkute-Marks exhibition of tapestries “A GIFT TO THE HOMELAND” in Anyksciai

2018 November 7 @ 17:15 - 2018 December 15 @ 12:00

Opening reception: 5:15 PM, Wednesday, November 26
At Angels museum-Sacred Art center ( Vilniaus str. 11, Anyksciai)

(1923 – 2010)

Janina Monkutė-Marks was born in Radviliškis, on September 21st in Lithuania, passed away on November 13rd.

She studied in Pagėgiai Primary and Secondary School. In 1939 – 1941 she continued her studies in the High School, in Kėdainiai. In 1941 Janina Marks entered the drama studio in Kaunas Drama Theatre. While studying there she finished The Fifth High School in Kaunas.

In the autumn of 1944 Janina moved to Germany.

In 1945-1947 she studied archaeology, art history and Romans languages at Innsbruck University (Austria).

In 1947-1950 attended École des Arts et Métiers in Freiburg (Germany). There she acquired her skills in the visual arts: she studied textile with professor Antanas & Mrs. Anastazija Tamošaitis, drawing – with Vytautas Kasiulis and Vytautas Kazimieras Jonynas, graphics – with Viktoras Petravičius.

In 1950 Janina Marks emigrated to USA. Since 1956 she actively joined the artistic life of Chicago, studied and worked with the artists, such as Don Baum, Claude Bentley, Harry Bouros, Harold Haydon, Viktoras Petravičius. She was closely associated with Hyde Park Art Center and B.I.G. Arts Center in Sanibel (Florida). Since 1972 Janina Marks started organizing the popular annual members’ exhibition in Hyde Park Art Center. In 1974 the artist was one of the founders and leaders of the Lithuanian Woman Artists Association in Chicago.

Her works were exhibited in the Chicago Art InstituteThe North Shore Art League (Winnetka, Illinois), Dunes Art Foundation(Michigan City, Indiana), Sun Times Gallery (Chicago, Illinois), Old Water Tower Place (Chicago, Illinois) etc. she had more than twenty one-person shows. Janina Marks constantly took part in the exhibitions of the Lithuanian Art Centers, such as Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture, Čiurlionis Gallery, and Lithuanian Art Museum in Lemont. As Danas Lapkus admitted, “<…> in addition to her exhibitions in the museums and art galleries, Janina Marks also took part in various art fairs. Besides, she organized her own exhibitions in different schools and libraries. Such democratic approach reflects both artistic and life philosophy of Janina Marks – to share the beauty of art with everybody”.                                                                


Numerous art critics have suggested that many of Janina Monkutė-Marks’s paintings and prints would make excellent designs for tapestries. The artist has also admitted an ever-present inclination to return to weaving, her favorite subject in Freiburg. In 1970 she did just this. Textile intrigued her because of the opportunity to touch colors directly. The meditative work process also appealed to the artist. It offered a perfect example of nature becoming culture: animal wool turns into yarn, yarn – into colors, and the artist’s fingers weave colored thread into images reflecting human experience. The preparation before the actual weaving is no less creative and rewarding for Janina Marks. She enjoys finding threads of the right kind, color, and texture (for globe-trotting adventures see other chapters in the book). Almost every tapestry and rug has its own hidden story and meaning. Take, for example, one of Janina Marks’s first rugs, “Serbian Symphony.” It is woven of homemade Serbian wool given to the artist as a gift by a Serbian woman whom she sponsored to come to the U.S. The story of the rug’s origin explains the choice of colors and composition. It looks as if the bright red, blue and green squares were transferred to the rug from Serbian folk textiles and placed here in a random order. In exhibits, the artist displays the “Serbian Symphony” horizontally, as a runner and as a metaphor of new life of the Serbian immigrant, for whom every step here brings new combinations of colors but, at the same time, is perceived in accordance with a traditional Serbian point of view.

The motif of road and journey is one of the most significant in the art of Janina Monkutė-Marks. Journey is interpreted as a quest for the meaning of life and soul-searching in the tapestries “Man and His World,” “Longing for Freedom,” “Going Home,” and “My Road.” Existential meaning is imposed even on the tapestries based upon “real” travel, such as “Going to the Wedding” and “Left Behind.” Janina Monkutė-Marks often portrays the feeling of “being on the road” as a labyrinth. She presents the tapestry “My Road” as a map of life with lines marking the twists of fate like a fortune teller’s palm reading, bright and dim, light and dark spaces predicting upcoming success and failure. This labyrinth has no beginning or end, no strictly positive or negative zones. It is as though the artist suggests that there is no chance to predict an upcoming turn of the road or escape the labyrinth. It is only possible to experience it fully.

Many of the artist’s tapestries and rugs are created as abstract decorative accents for architectural spaces. The tapestry “My Last Fling” and the knotted rugs “Broken Circle,” “Six Violet Squares,” and “Violet Meeting Place” inspire viewers with their intensity of color, different textures and geometric designs. The knotted rugs, “Sand,” “Water,” and “My Children’s Jeans,” are especially original among the abstract works. As the title of the latter work implies, these really are the jeans of Marks’s children, only reshaped. Knotted together, scraps of jeans in different hues of blue create a playful impression of a fantastic fur. “Sand” was made out of Marks’s apartment draperies, which were faded by the sun.

The most recent tapestries use literary metaphors to reflect the artist’s personal emotional experiences. Clarity of shape and exceptional compositional stability also characterize these works. The feelings and thoughts of the artist are conveyed keenly and sincerely in “Don’t Fence Me In,” “Board Meeting,” and “Broken Branch.” The subjective point of view and the courage to open up her inner world are not only recurrent but also some of the most valuable features of Janina Marks’s art. Janina Monkutė-Marks attained an important place in Lithuanian and American art, especially for her work in the field of textiles. Recurrent invitations to participate in juried American and international exhibits are proof of her artistic success. But one needs only to look at the paintings, prints, and textiles where the ironic and the tragic, the religious and the liberal, primitive and modern are elegantly combined to really appreciate the importance of Janina Monkutė-Marks’s art.

                      By Danas Lapkus