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April 17, 2008 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Jane Mudd’s Orr Street studio is filled with expressionistic canvases that disregard obvious color choices. Rivers aren’t just painted blue; the waters flow with sapphire hues, tinges of Kelly green and scarlet red. Bridges have thick maroon outlines and flowers are never just one color. Mudd, a Fulton artist and professor at William Woods University, brings her canvases to life with rich colors.
One work, High Waters at Boonville, shows a Boonville railroad track with surrounding foliage almost taken over by a flooding river. The river is a murky mix of blue, violet and green, which reflects the lush landscape it threatens to overtake. In real life, this same river was more menacing to the artist, even if the waters shown seem calm in the oil painting. The painter braved dangerous conditions to complete her landscape even as the river eclipsed the banks. Many artists would see this weather as a deterrent, but Mudd has no qualms about straying from her comfort zone for the sake of her art. “To me, success is just doing something that I haven’t done before or accomplishing a composition that I’ve tried before and couldn’t do it,” she says, “but now I can.”
The assistant art professor is expanding the themes and look of her work through her most recent portraits in which she uses glazing — a technique that requires an artist to apply numerous thin coats of paint and allowing each coat to dry between applications. Mudd has changed her color palette to a combination of darker, more subtle tones, and the process of glazing builds upon each layer of paint to create deeper tones of color on the canvas. There are still hints in her new work of the bold, striking colors that made her previous work so memorable, but the slowing down of her painting process has lent Mudd’s current style a clarity and realism her expressionistic paintings lacked.
Mudd has been drawing and creating art since she was a kid growing up in St. Louis. Even with a master’s degree in fine art from MU, she has learned that it is difficult to make a living as an artist. “If I had to sustain myself, I would just have to spend 90 percent of my time marketing and trying to move the work,” Mudd says. To support herself, she has worked as a social worker and spent time as the director of the Callaway Action Network — a Fulton agency that provides emergency services to low-income families. Currently, Mudd’s tenure at William Woods has given her a more profitable profession that relates to her passion. It has also had an influence on her art. “My students have opened my eyes up to taking more risks, believe it or not, in my own work,” says Mudd. “I did a project with a student where we did a collaborative piece, and it really kind of got me out of my comfort zone a little bit, and that’s always good. We just kind of did contemporary imagery and kind of played off each other in sort of a spontaneous manner.”
Other Columbia artists admire Mudd’s talent. “She’s an excellent portrait painter,” says Mike Sleadd, chair of the art department at Columbia College and an artist who shares work space with Mudd at Orr Street Studios. Sleadd recalls the time Mudd painted a portrait of Sleadd, and he in turn gave her one of his self-portraits. “I think that I got the better deal,” he says.