Jan grew up mainly in Austin, Texas, with an interest in all the arts: playing the violin, being a dance lead in three Austin Summer Musicals, acting with high school theatre, singing in school and church choirs and with Longhorn Singers, taking modern dance classes, and graduating from the University of Texas in January of 1970 with a BFA in Art Education All Level. Jan taught high school art for three years in Texas City and Galveston, then children’s classes at the Galveston County Arts Academy, while putting her husband through medical school.
Jan was married to Lee Burke for twenty-four years and lived mainly in Salt Lake City where Lee became a cardiologist, and together they enjoyed camping, hiking, skiing, and sailing in the Carribean. They had two lovely and talented daughters who continued Jan’s interest in art and dance throughout their school years. While in Salt Lake City, Jan was active in Utah Designer Craftsmen and Utah Watercolor Society. She had three successful exhibits at Edge of the Cedars Museum in Blanding, UT, showing her growing interest in painting watercolors of the Southwest.
In 1999, Jan left family behind and camped out on her land in northern New Mexico for seven months while her straw bale house was being built. As she had studied with a Hopi trained shaman while in Salt Lake, she also had an underground kiva built on her land in the shadow of Cerro Pedernal, where she did many pipe ceremonies for the community. Living in Georgia O’Keeffe country had become a reality, and her paintings flourished with many exhibits, three in Abiquiu Inn gallery/restaurant.
Since she never found just the right gallery there for her work and making a living as an artist was so difficult, she sold her beautiful home and headed for the Four Corners in 2008. Finding a Terra Dome construction home with an earthen roof on thirty-five acres overlooking the Mesa Verde Range led her to Mancos, Colorado. Even with major remodeling to do, she immediately began exhibiting in the artist co-operative Artisans of Mancos as well as at the Lodge at Mesa Verde National Park. Her art career began taking off at age sixty-one!
It was her opportunity to become Artist in Residence at Mesa Verde National Park in October of 2012 that Jan felt her art became more creative and professional. The experience of focusing two solid weeks on artwork while exploring such a rich cultural heritage of the Ancestral Puebloan people seemed to intensify her color palette, increase her technical skill, and deepen her honoring of the Ancient Ones in her paintings.
Jan has exhibited her watercolors in over thirty exhibits throughout Utah, New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado. Her watercolors of Mesa Verde could be seen from ’08 to ’14 in the Far View Lodge lounge at Mesa Verde National Park. Her paintings are in permanent collections of the Salt Lake County Fine Arts Collection, First Security Bank of St. George, UT (now Wells Fargo), the CEU Prehistory Museum in Price, UT, Petrified Forest National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, and the radiology department of Southwest Memorial Hospital in Cortez, CO.
She has published two sets of ‘Hands of the Ancients’ Medicine Cards, divination decks of her watercolors of rock art, artifacts, and dwellings of the Southwest and the Four Corners that offer inspiration guided by The Ancient Ones through her paintings and written words.
Jan exhibits currently at Artisan of Mancos (www.artisansofmancos.com), as well as periodic juried and membership shows with Durango Art Center. Jan teaches watercolor classes in her home studio privately and for Mancos School of the West (www.schoolofthewest.org).
Watercolors by Jan Wright
Southwest watercolor artist Jan Wright has created her own unique approach to watercolor by glazing or layering washes, which gives a glow to her paintings, and by adding more detail than a lot of splashy, expressive watercolors show.
Often she adds a bird, animal, or Native Kachina figure to her landscapes, hidden within the shadows, textures, and reflections. “It’s like seeing images in the clouds,” Wright says, ” they’re in the stones and cliffs too.” Her sensitivity to the landscape may have been influenced by studying with Native based shamans, certifying her in the healing arts, though at present her artwork has taken precedence.
Jan Wright lives in an earthen roof home overlooking the Mesa Verde Range and calls Mancos, Colorado her home. Her love of the desert, canyons, ancient ruins, and rock art is evident in her intense and vivid watercolors.
As Mesa Verde National Park’s Artist in Residence in October of 2012, she gained a deeper understanding and respect for the Ancient Ones and where they lived; she now coordinates the program. She exhibited watercolors of the area’s ruins and rock art for six successful years in the lounge above the famed Metate Room at Mesa Verde’s Far View Lodge.
Jan has done over 22 one-woman shows throughout Utah, New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado and her work is in permanent collections of the Salt Lake County Arts Collection, Wells Fargo Bank of St. George, UT, Petrified Forest National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, CEU Prehistory Museum in Price, UT, and in many private collections throughout the country, Europe, Australia, and South Africa.
Besides exhibiting at Artisans of Mancos (www.artisansofmancos.com) and Taylor Raymond Gallery in Durango (www.taylorraymondgallery.com), Jan shows her watercolors in periodic shows at Durango Art Center, Cortez Cultural Center, and with the Mancos Valley Arts Council. Jan teaches watercolor workshops through the Mancos School of the West (www.schoolofthewest.org).