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Artist Profile: Jaclyn Schanes

This past weekend, a young Metro Detroit artist had her first solo exhibition… a one-night only performance art piece called “Show Pony”. WDET’s Rob St. Mary introduces us to the artist Jaclyn Schanes.

(click the audio link above to hear the story)

To call Jaclyn Schanes simply an artist is an understatement. The 26-year-old graduate of the College for Creative Studies is a woman of many impulses. She’s a costume designer whose work is featured in a new film starring Iggy Pop. She’s a painter, a photographer, a glass blower, a musician and someone who says she tries to turn the mundane… like a trip to the store… into an artful experience. To prove that point, Schanes insisted that I interview her on her bed in her childhood room surround by her art. During the interview she offered me a hat to wear as part of the experience… I declined… but she did sing a song she composed just for me.

“I was thinking yesterday when I was worrying about this interview… maybe I can sing a random song for him and the only lyrics I could come up with were “Rob… do you believe in aliens?” You’re not supposed to laugh! (laughs).”

Schanes has an exuberant personality… but she says it’s often a way to deal with worry and social anxiety. She says those feelings are the genesis for her exhibition – “Show Pony”.

“I just know that I’m doing the one that that scares me the most. Usually, people don’t think that I’m the type that scared and especially socially phobic because I’m loud and a lot of people can think that I’m obnoxious but I think that’s where the comedy thing comes in... I tell jokes because it’s like a nervous twitch. And I don’t care that people know this it’s true. Whatever you gotta do to make yourself feel comfortable you gotta do.”

Before the exhibition, the public was not told what to expect. They were only told that Schanes would be showing her latest works, expressionist self-portrait watercolors, in a totally unique experience and environment for one night only.

What they got was a performance art piece that works on many levels.

Her concept was for the gallery walls to be blank and for her to wear the paintings… suspended from a dress-like garment made of chains, while standing on a pedestal in the center of the room as her songs and poetry play. Each piece of art was priced between 30 and 500 dollars, the values depended on where they are located on her body, with the piece over her heart costing the most. Schanes says “Show Pony” is meant to invoke many different levels of meaning.

“She’s gonna be nude underneath so then that’s another level. And when they take it off you that’s a level. And then the inner dialogue. I knew that it was loaded and it wanted it to be because I want people to think and I want people to feel and I want people to be scared and I want them to feel how I feel on the daily basis trying to create this monster of the show. I feel like it’s a monster I’m creating and it’s Frankenstein. So, I want them to feel that way and if it’s not loaded with expression then they won’t feel what I’ve been going through.”

She says she expected her emotions to be heightened during the performance.

“It’s going to be so intense who knows how I’m going to be feeling. You know. I’ve never practiced this. I’ve never done it before. It’s like my first jump into the public and really they are watching me. I have no idea how I’m going to react. I have none.”

On the big day, just a few minutes before the doors opened, I talked to her as she stood decked out in her art. Her face painted expressionistically.

“Why did I do this? Why did I decide do this? I don’t know. I’ve very nervous… very nervous. I’m not ready to puke, yet.”

Meanwhile, Schanes’ mother, Valarie, gives her daughter a few words and a song of encouragement.

“You’re gonna do great. This is the shedding of your skin. This is it… this is it. This is your time, right now. Get strong. “Cherokee”. “Cherokee people”…”

And at 8pmm Saturday night the doors to the Re-View Gallery in Midtown Detroit opened. The public flooded in to find nothing on the walls.

As Schanes stood covered in her paintings, as the soundscape boomed. The audience crowded around her, taking in the art, along with the artist. Area artist Laura Barnhard says the concept of “Show Pony” is intriguing.

“I think how vulnerable the artist is being… literally on display and piece by piece as her work selling she’s being that much more vulnerable she’s being revealed. I think it’s a very interesting idea.”

Musician Carolyn Striho says Schanes’ show is about how an artist lays their emotions bare before an audience.

“What makes it gutsy is that most women would not come out naked… and she’s not naked… she’s naked through… it’s emotionally naked. It’s not like she’s standing there with no clothes on. She’s got her art which is covering her but also she’s exposing her emotions and it’s more than a physical thing where in this culture it’s all about a woman is naked… it’s not that… it’s more she’s showing with her music and ideas and thoughts, soundscapes they call them, her vulnerability and the way she feels about exposing herself as a true artist instead of the art’s on the wall and we’re all drinking wine.”

Musician and art collector Ken Stanley says in the hands of another artist the nudity could be seen as a gimmick, but with Schanes it’s part of a larger set of creative statements.

“She’s making really genuine, authentic points about the nature of art, the nature of art purchasing, the nature of art making at this point in time in this particular city. That’s very interesting and profound.”

As the show went on, more and more people pulled canvases from Schanes petite body. In the end, the show was a complete sell out. But beyond being a commercial success, she says “Show Pony” did what it set out to do. It helped her become more confident as a person and artist while provoking the audience.

“Because I finally had that platform that I had been waiting for my whole life to show what is inside of my brain… and I know that that sounds narcissistic but it’s therapeutic for me and I like to show people and I like, I guess, to provoke. It did change… it was my right of passage for myself, not for anybody else, for me. The fact that I had the guts to go up there and do that I have the guts to do it again. Before I didn’t know if I could go through with it.”

As for what’s next for the artist… she says she’s working on a few new ideas and would like to do some shows outside of Michigan and the United States. No matter what she does, Schanes says her goal is… and has always been… to reflect back visions of the world around her.

I'm Rob St. Mary - WDET News