Janis Provisor’s paintings, William Peterson wrote in ArtSpace in 1990, “are both decorative and psychologically resonant, evoking in painterly terms the harsh beauty of nature viewed up close, and the quiet terror such intimacy inspires.” Provisor’s paintings focus on continuing personal dialogues with subjects of mortality and the spirit. The images within them are inspired by an impressionistic investigation of the body, and these forms are juxtaposed with the artist’s on-going study of landscape. “It always comes back to nature,” Provisor has said. “Internal, external, lumps and bumps, cells and twigs, and everything in between, pattern and accident together in one space, a lot like life for me.”
Janis Provisor was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1946 and was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. She studied at the University of Cincinnati, College of Design, Art, and Architecture, and at the San Francisco Art Institute, where she earned 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. As a result of that exhibition, she was invited to join New York’s prestigious Holly Solomon Gallery.
After moving from San Francisco to New York in 1981, Provisor spent a great deal of time in museums, searching for ways to inspire her work, and there she discovered the eighteenth-century Chinese painter Bada Shanren. “He was painting elements from nature that seemed almost incidental to what I viewed as the abstract force,” she said. “His composition on the page somehow electrified me.” Provisor made a trip to China in 1989 with Crown Point Press’s woodblock program and worked in Hangzhou and Shanghai. She returned to China in 1993, first to Hangzhou where she briefly taught, and then moved to Hong Kong, where she lived for nine years with her husband, artist Brad Davis, and their son. While in Hong Kong, Provisor and her husband founded a continuing business, Fort Street Studio, that produces and markets knotted silk carpets that they design. The couple returned to New York in 2002. Provisor has said that “living in China and being a witness to a culture moving and changing so quickly has led me to incorporate cultural events, along with personal ones, into my work, with abstraction as the device.”
Provisor’s work is represented in the collections of the Albright-Knox Art Museum, Buffalo; the Ludwig Museum, Germany; and the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., among other museums. She has been the recipient of several National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and has been on the faculty of the San Francisco Art Institute, School of Visual Arts in New York, and the University of Texas in Austin. Janis Provisor lives and works in New York. She continues her design work with Fort Street Studio, and her paintings are privately represented by Dorothy Goldeen in Los Angeles and Lisa Marks in New York.
-Dana Zullo, Crown Point Press