Jane Irish, 2011 Pew Fellow. Photo by Colin Lenton.
Jane Irish, Banyan Overdoor, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Locks Gallery.
Jane Irish, The Waterfall Plunges in the Mist, 2010. Painted in Sa Pa, Vietnam. Photo courtesy of the artist.
"The overall intent of my work is to develop a visual myth about the build up and aftermath of war."
Jane Irish (b. 1955) works at the intersection between the decorative and the political, deploying both art and craft with equal engagement (and abandon) to create paintings, sculptures, and objects that stand alone, or are part of elaborate installations. The tension in Irish's work arises from her genuine love of all things Gilded Age—the porcelains, tapestries, and gleaming interiors—and a resistance to the very systems of power that this imagery represents. A monumental painting of an ornate, rococo interior reveals, upon closer inspection, anti-Vietnam war texts embedded in the surface texture. These texts come out of a long-term project Irish initiated in collaboration with the activist group Vietnam Vets Against the War.
Irish's formal art education began at the Barnes Foundation in the early 1970s. She received her B.F.A. in painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1977 and her M.F.A. at Queens College in New York in 1980. She moved through the East Village scene before settling in Philadelphia, where she has been an exhibiting artist since the 1980s. Philadelphia's Locks Gallery has presented two solo exhibitions of her work within recent years: The Home Front: Jane Irish's Art of War, in 2011, and Sông Hương: Withdrawing Room, in 2013. "Withdrawing Room is at once deeply satisfying to look at and equally tricky to understand," wrote The Huffington Post. Another solo exhibition, War Is Not What You Think, was on view at La Salle University Art Museum and the Connelly Library in Philadelphia in 2012.