(1923 – 2010)
"A GIFT TO THE HOMELAND"
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 Institute, The 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".
The artist's interest in Lithuanian folklore and her collection of ethnographic art have naturally led her to folk art as a source of universal wisdom. Janina Monkutė-Marks: "I began to explore my roots, Lithuanian folklore, folk songs, and folk art. My oil paintings based upon mythology are especially colorful and poster-like. I enjoyed using rich colors and interpreting playful themes. So much wealth can be found in folk mythology!".
Many of these "folk art" paintings are reminiscent of the mandala, the visual symbol of the universe created by Hindus and Buddhists. As in traditional mandalas, the artist divides a circle into four parts. Instead of placing a square inside the circle, she frames the circle with the square. Deities, mythological beings, and ornamentations flank each of the circle's four projections. Even the recognizable figures acquire the quality of an ornament because of the endless rhythm of circular repetition.
Linoleum block print is my favorite printmaking technique. I approach it as spontaneous knife drawing.", - Janina Monkutė-Marks.
Some of the artist's prints imitate the compositional scheme of traditional folk art ("My Road", "Angel"), but much more significant is the influence on Janina Marks of one of her teachers, Viktoras Petravicius. Like Petravicius' prints, which are considered classics of Lithuanian art, her linoleum block prints combine the rough shaping of individual forms geometric ornaments – are substantial and generalized, represented not only by a contour line but also by entire silhouette. The artist fully employs the deep contrast and intensity
characteristic of linoleum block printing. Black and white spaces seem intertwined and equally important in Janina Marks' prints on rice paper.
Some of Janina Marks' most beautiful prints include symbols, which laconically suggest pre-Christian wisdom. These symbols unite floral anthropomorphic allusions, geometric abstractions, traditional ornaments and the artist's original motifs into a mysterious magical world.. The large size reveals the outstanding compositional skills and sensitive printing technique (she often uses a simple table-spoon) of the artist. The artist's proofs are hand-painted in watercolor. The combination of solid black lines and silhouettes together with bright, warm colors results in a stained glass like effect.
By Danas Lapkus
Numerous art critics have suggested that many of Janina Marks' 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. Janina Monkutė-Marks: "I wanted to touch the textures of thread; ornament and color no longer satisfied me. The very process of weaving enchanted me. It is a very exacting and time-consuming task, but I felt it suited me well. I am happy to be able to express joy and pain and a part of myself in weaving. To me, weaving has become a language that I use to tell stories of the sea, land,
sunrise, everyday life, and dreams".
The motif of road and journey is one of the most significant in the art of Janina Marks. Journey is interpreted as a quest for the meaning of life and soul-searching. Many of the artist's tapestries and rugs are created as abstract decorative accents for architectural spaces, inspire viewers with their intensity of colour, different textures and geometric designs.
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. 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.
Produced by Gertrūda Žiliūtė, the Curator of Janina Monkute-Marks Museum -Gallery