Making the Connection

By Lindsay Whelchel


Most every morning, Jean Ann Fausser wakes up and works out, then heads to work. It sounds ordinary, and for much of her life, perhaps it was. But years ago Fausser made a decision not to live an ordinary life. She chose instead to follow her dreams.


You see, Fausser’s work isn’t in an office building, or even the children’s bookstore she owned for 14 years – it’s in an art studio. And if that weren’t extraordinary enough, Fausser is pushing the limits as an artist. She has made a name for herself by being out of the ordinary.


Fausser, who spent many years painting watercolors, has stepped out of the constraints of one particular medium for her work and uses whatever her heart tells her to. This could be fabric of the most beautiful colors, or twigs straight from the great outdoors.


“Materials become important only to portray what it is that I have in mind doing,” Fausser says.


And what she has in mind doing can range from something on earth, to the universe beyond. To Fausser, it’s all connected. She is a woman particularly concerned with those connections and seeing them as a metaphor.


“One of the things that I explore in my work, or at least in my mind, is the connection between people and plants and the whole universe,” she says.


This is especially true for nature.


“I’m drawn to nature because I like to hike and be outdoors. I feel a connection with nature more than I do other things,” Fausser explains.


If this idea of linking things together can pertain to the subject matter of Fausser’s art, it can also pertain to the medium used.


“I decided I was no longer satisfied with just painting,” Fausser says. She wanted to branch out.


“Early on, I was a little bit hard on myself because I jumped around and tried a lot of different things,” she says. Again, she values the connectivity. “I do think I have a style in what I do. At least for me, when I do a lot of different things, like my felt work, I bring to it all of the things that I learned when I did watercolor – the color blending, composition, what you need to do to make the eye follow, the color balancing – it’s the same, but the materials are different,” she says.


This bold step to try something new in her art is perhaps only overshadowed by Fausser’s courage to begin with art again after she had given up the idea of a career as an artist while still in college. Back then, Fausser knew she had to think economically – she married, had children and ran a bookstore.


Then, the draw to creating art again became overwhelming. Fausser closed her business and jumped back into art full force.


“I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t into art. That’s all I really wanted to do when I was a child, and when I grew up, I wanted to be an artist. I did have to take some detours along the way,” Fausser says.


The return to her first love was not without uncertainty.


“There was a time when I was getting back into it again, when I was a little older, and I thought I had missed my opportunity; but I just wanted to move forward with it.”

Despite those detours, move forward she did.


For Fausser, drawing on all that the natural world has to offer has lent itself to finished products that not only capture your attention, they allow your eyes to feast on a multitude of textures and vibrant colors.


Her work was recently featured on display at the East Gallery of the Oklahoma State Capitol. Alyson Moses, curator of education and capitol galleries, was in charge of bringing Fausser’s work to the state capitol. The gallery showcases up to 18 artists a year, so Moses is always looking for new talent.


“When I saw her work, I was immediately struck by the uniqueness of it, the medium she uses, the fiber. I knew it was something I wanted to bring to the gallery because people at the capitol probably haven’t seen anything like it,” Moses says.


While Moses was installing Fausser’s work, questions from passersby were already beginning as to how the pieces were created.


“I think what people have said about her work, and what I find interesting, is that when you’re coming down the hall, it looks like you’re going to see a lot of paintings, and it stops people – it makes them look hard at it,” Moses says.


Such pieces successfully offer the viewer a new way of looking at the world. Take Fausser’s piece “Aspen Roots,” a 3-D look at the root-webbed world beneath the trees. Or “Fluvian,” a depiction no doubt of a forest, all movement and shapes, but so brilliant in color that the entire idea of a forest is transformed.


The feedback received has been positive, explains Fausser, who is now hard at work on pieces for a new exhibit in December. She has been chosen as the featured fiber artist in the Four Elements exhibit for Living Arts in Tulsa and has 25 new works to churn out. But to Fausser, the heavy workload is part of the deal.


“I really treat my studio as a workplace. I put in a full day. I don’t just dabble in it; I think if you’re going to get better, and you want to really reach your full potential, you have to treat it that way,” she says.


Sometimes this work ethic is easy, and sometimes it takes effort.


“When something is really working for me … it’s hard to describe the satisfaction you get out of doing something like that. I wake up in the morning thinking about it, and I’m excited to get back to my studio when things are going well,” Fausser says.


Although she is equally as committed when things are not going well. “I just get in there and I start doing something,” she says. The morning of our interview, a piece she was working on was not coming out the way she wanted, so she set it aside. She says that most artists probably have a closet full of such pieces.


“That’s how you grow and learn. You make mistakes or something doesn’t work, and you’ve got to do it differently, and those are always challenges. It’s like falling off the horse and getting back on again. You can’t get discouraged,” she explains.


For Fausser, the rewards far outweigh the challenges.


“There’s a level of endorphin rush that you get, and art does that for me. I can’t envision never doing art again,” she says, and seems fulfilled and grateful for her renewed immersion in an artist’s life.


“You can start at any age or any stage in life and work through art. I had a need to create … it helps sanity,” she laughs.


And in terms of the industry, Fausser is meeting the obstacles head-on.


“That’s a bit of a challenge to me just being accepted in a world that rather values young people and emerging artists,” she says, but adds that she has learned age doesn’t play a part in talent. “I find you can be an emerging artist at any age, you just have to work at it.”


So, if age doesn’t matter, then location shouldn’t either, according to Fausser, who is proud to produce her work from Oklahoma. She is hoping art collectors in Oklahoma will look locally for pieces to purchase and help grow the state’s art community.


“I think as an artist you just create wherever you are, and I’m in Oklahoma, so I’m creating in Oklahoma. I would never go someplace else to create the work I create from where I am and what I see.”


And what she sees is entirely unexpected.


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