PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOSHUA BERRY
Janelle Fritz is a painter whose almost-nomadic lifestyle has taken her across the country, from Massachusetts to Texas to Madison.
Fritz said she found her focus as an artist during her years in Madison, and she has left her mark in a visible way through her latest project: a mural on the exterior of the former long-time local boutique, Crossroads. Fritz said the mural says a lot about her as an artist: It represents the most developed version of herself and also shows her willingness to further discover and develop herself.
Fritz said she mainly sticks to paint as her medium of choice, though the mural was her first foray into spray paint, which she has come to enjoy. Though her medium remains constant, Fritz said she has developed her process; it is her process that has changed the most over the years. “I found that I either do a free-flow approach, or now I will do a very concentrated, planned approach,” Fritz said. Her development in process was put to the test by the mural, which she described as “particularly challenging in terms of scale. I don’t think I’ve ever had to use math and equations. I had to block it out, and I had to get tape measurers, and all of that.”
A characteristic of Fritz as an artist is her tendency to draw inspiration from many subjects, and the mural is no exception. A couple of Fritz’s inspirations include writers and rock-and-roll.
In one section of her mural, a bird in a cage was inspired by both Maya Angelou’s poem “Caged Bird” and Charles Bukowski’s “Blue Bird.” In line with her affinity for rock-n-roll, Fritz took from Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen,” specifically the reference to the white-winged dove, when she painted white birds into the mural. “I have a rock-n-roll soul, like classic rock,” said Fritz, explaining she uses lyrics in her pieces when she is inspired by music.
One of her pieces features skulls and broken halos surrounded by bright greens and yellows, which is a reference to a quote about broken halos by Keith Richards.
“I’m kind of a dichotomy because I’m very religious, but I also have this rock-n-roll soul,” Fritz said.
Fritz divides her artwork into four categories: narrative, spiritual, archived and social art. Her narrative art includes the mural, which tells a story over the three walls it spans. Her spiritual art comes from scripture and other aspects of her religion that inspire her. The archived art, Fritz said, is a hodgepodge of past projects that do not fall under her more focused categories. Finally, her social art category is a response to social topics, like something going on in the community or in politics.
With an educational background in social work and psychology, and with her passion for art, Fritz said she is a supporter of art therapy. In fact, she is even interested in pursuing a Master of Social Work degree, which would allow her to facilitate such programs.
Fritz said she is not a supporter of art therapy only for others but also for herself. “I regard the dark parts of myself and the dark parts of people, yet I also want to let the light into that space,” Fritz explained. Art is a way for her to process tough moments. “I don’t want to dwell on all of that, but I also appreciate that it is there.”
This sentiment pervades some of her art, including the mural. It’s full of life and joy, as seen in the wildflowers and doves, but the caged bird, Fritz said, is the acceptance of her darker self. It represents the cages people put around themselves and others.
Though Fritz might sometimes be hindered by her cages and broken halos, she said is still an artist with ambition – with a lot to say.