About the Artist
Janis Provisor was born in 1946 in Brooklyn. She grew up going to museums with her mother and excelling in art classes. To please her father, who was a lawyer, she enrolled in pre-law at the University of Michigan, but at the moment of committing to the program broke out in hives. She took this as a sign that she should study art instead, and went into the School of Architecture and Design at U. Michigan.
After further study in art at the College of Art, University of Cincinnati, she went to the San Francisco Art Institute where she gained both a B.F.A. and (in 1971) an M.F.A. In 1978 she was included in a show of six artists at the New Museum called "Outside New York." This led to an invitation to join New York's prestigious Holly Solomon Gallery.
The Holly Solomon Gallery was the focal point of the art movement called Pattern and Decoration, and Provisor, though more rooted in nature than some of the artists involved, was sympathetic to that approach. As a writer In ArtSpace said in 1990, "Provisor's is a romantic vision, but it is not dewey-eyed...It is both decorative and psychologically resonant, evoking in painterly terms the harsh beauty of nature viewed up close, and the quiet terror such intimacy inspires."
In 1989 Provisor made her first trip to China, traveling to Hangzhou and Shanghai with her husband, Brad Davis, to participate in the Crown Point Press woodcut program there. She and Davis have in common a love of Chinese painting and Chinese culture, and in 1993 they made the big decision to move to China with their (then) six-year-old son. They went back to Hangzhou and eventually they moved to Hong Kong. Their life in China stretched to nine years before they returned to New York in 2002.
Hangzhou is a center of the Chinese silk industry, and Davis had the idea that he and Provisor should design a silk carpet for their home and have it made there. This, wrote Steven Henry Madoff in a long article in the New York Times Magazine Design Supplement in 2003, "was a little like saying, 'Well, I'm in Texas, so I may as well drill an oil well.'" The project took years and involved rescuing a bankrupt rug factory, but now Davis and Provisor design, produce and sell silk carpets under the name Fort Street Studio, carpets described by Madoff as "silvery in the light, beige like suede or the resonant blue of night skies, with drifting brushstrokes or soft squares like tiles worn by age and weather."
There is a list of celebrity purchasers: Madonna, Elton John, Tom Clancy. Provisor and Davis, as Madoff concludes, have joined "the long history of artists crossing into craft, from William Morris to the Bauhaus and beyond."
Beyond that, Janis Provisor continues to pursue her paintings and prints. These come, she says, from a "more personal place" than her design work, and consequently are different. But she and Brad Davis, living now in New York, have put into action the ideas of William Morris and others, including the Pattern and Decoration artists of our time, that art, in addition to creating something new, should be beautiful and integrated into life.