“Café Vienna,” by Jana Zeller.
“Café Vienna,” by Jana Zeller.

‘I reach for humor and mystery’

Jana Zeller’s paintings featured at NXT Gallery

PUTNEY-NXT Gallery hosts an opening reception for its upcoming exhibit, "A World Adjacent: Paintings by Jana Zeller." The reception will take place on Friday, May 31, 5:30 to 8 p.m. The exhibit continues through Aug. 11.

In her artist statement, Zeller writes about painting props and puppets and designing sets while a teen in a family of internationally touring puppeteers. "During this time I discovered my passion for painting and spent many years creating backdrop-sized oil paintings full of puppet-like characters and theatrical settings."

As a puppeteer, Zeller has crafted and performed shows nationally and internationally for thousands of children and adults in theaters, libraries, schools, museums, and street fairs. She has been performing and teaching puppetry for two decades.

She also worked as a scenic artist for theater, movies, operas, and TV.

"Then I began developing and touring my own puppet shows, exploring my puppet work often from a visual perspective," she writes.

In addition to her work as a set painter, she has created a body of oil paintings inspired by theater and magical realism.

Zeller recognizes the similarities between her puppetry and painting, in particular, "my love of working with metaphor, of staging and lighting an idea, of constructing absurd situations. In a world full of problems, I reach for humor and mystery to lift our spirits and to suggest that extraordinary things can happen. I invite my audience to explore my propositions with their own imagination."

During the pandemic, Zeller says, "I circled back to my painting work and although my brush stroke was rusty, my passion for painting was unchanged, and I had a refreshing new access to the content of my work. Cut off from the theater, I painted abandoned theater spaces and the spirits that haunt them."

Zeller teaches workshops in puppetry and art classes for children in her Brattleboro studio. She says she is blessed with a wonderful family and "a feisty little parrot named Mango."

The Next Stage Gallery, 15 Kimball Hill, is open during events and by appointment with the artist or by contacting Next Stage at [email protected] or 802-451-0053.

This Arts item was submitted to The Commons.

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