Interview: Jan Walsh


A view from below one of Jan’s untitled projects from this year. Photo courtesy of Jan Walsh.

A view from the side of one of Jan’s untitled projects from this year.  Photo courtesy of Jan Walsh.
]1 A view from the side of one of Jan’s untitled projects from this year. Photo courtesy of Jan Walsh.
The Mac Weekly sat down with senior Studio Art Major Jan Walsh to talk about his work as a Studio Art major.

Do you have any nicknames?

Well Jan is my name. Some people call me Janny, but nothing crazy special.

Where are you from?

Paris, France.

Do you have any other majors and/or minors?

No, there was going to be a Chinese minor, but I just couldn’t fit it in because I decided to study abroad and study architecture instead of Chinese.

Are you involved in anything else on campus?

Well two years ago I founded Team Asia, which is a dance group. And we dance to Asian music, Chinese, Korean and Japanese music.

Do you have any favorite artists, musical, visual or otherwise, that inspire you in your work or that you just like to look at?

I don’t do favorites at all, so I mean, I personally don’t like to look at other artists and get inspiration from them, unless it’s some sort of technical work, which I like to copy and study. But if I’m trying to do some sort of work which is mostly conceptual, then I’ll try to find some more authentic means of getting inspiration, like my own feelings. I feel like I can use these authentic feelings to try to convey some sort of feeling through art. Of course though, there’s nature, there’s geometry, there’s trying to find rules around us…

Could you describe what you will be doing for your seminar project?

Well yeah, actually I don’t really like to go into very specific details and messages or concepts. I like to keep it very open ended because I much prefer studying abstract art or rather abstracted art. So the work that I’m working on now is very abstract. There’s geometric forms, organic shapes­–hopefully they’re not going to be referencing anything that you might know. It was based off my interest in lighting that I discovered while I was studying away. But more conceptually it kind of turned into this thing about people having a lot of personalities, having a lot of identity, not necessarily as a sickness but just as a way of being, that you know we live with all these conflicts inside us and that we have to progress in life and keep going. And it also has to do with truth about that identity. what are we at the core? What is truth at the core? Can we find it? And that’s what I’m hoping to suggest.

What materials are you working with?

I’m working with foam core, wire, a lot of pieces of reflective paper, including some gold origami paper. I’m also working with cellophane, which I am melting. It’s really fun and toxic. And of course a $50 lightbulb.

A view from below one of Jan’s untitled projects from this year. Photo courtesy of Jan Walsh.
]2 A view from below one of Jan’s untitled projects from this year. Photo courtesy of Jan Walsh.

When did you first become interested in art?

Well I’ve always sort of been interested in expressing myself in artistic ways I guess. But I never considered myself an artist until I came here, took a couple classes and was like, “this is actually really interesting.” I was always really interested in architecture since I was like coming into middle school maybe or to high school. And the approach was like science plus art equals architecture approach. I don’t buy that right now I’m not planning to study architecture, maybe I will do it in the future, but that was my plan as I came to Mac. I’m going to do art because I did a lot of science in high school and then approach architecture.

Why did you come to Macalester?

I was looking for a diverse student body, international diversity. I was looking at good language programs and I was initially looking at a good math program and I think that’s why Macalester took me and then I was like “oops, sorry, not doing that.” And there was one more thing…yup, financial aid.

How do you view your role as an art student in relation to the Macalester campus, i.e. how does your art interact with the immediate surrounding communities?

I don’t expect my art to interact with my immediate communities. A lot of my art I think is more personal art which I try to make a little bit broader. A lot of my art in the past is just experimenting with materials and much less conceptual. It’s only like this year that I’ve started going into more serious subjects and recurring themes. I mean some people start a lot earlier with that in their art degree. But I was like “I kind of want to explore all these different materials and learn how to perfect that skill first.” In terms of concept and interacting with other people that came in much later. Interaction of viewers with my art work is usually not important to the meaning of the work, but it is important for me to know how people react to what I make and what I make them think of.

How do you see art taking a role in your life in the future?

I plan to go teach English in South Korea, China or Taiwan and I’m planning to do that for at least a year but hopefully two or three years. And I’m eager to be able to incorporate a sort of a semi-artist life in there. But eventually I will consider graduate school and beyond art as simply an artist. I am much more interested in urban design, and not directly architecture but things that are related to it, like urban planning, urban design or landscape architecture.