Jean McElvane is a mixed media artist who primarily works in sculpture, drawing and painting. Pollinators are a key subject for Jean’s practice, which she has been exploring since 2017. Jean was commissioned to make about four different pollinator mobiles for a Marin County Event, who previously purchased a hummingbird mobile at one of the NIAD weekend openings. Dragonflies & other pollinators came in later, including as brooch pins.
Sharing about the process behind her pollinator works, she says:
“Tin-National-by-3’s or Tinsby-3 (tins-be-3) for short, have three meanings
1 – Tin (all made from tin foil)
2 – National (international)
3 – by 3s (3 dimensional / close to lifeness like)
There are seven or eight of the pollinator subjects I’ve made so far. These include Hamlet Hummingbird (their leader), Whirley (Old World) Swallowtail, Buzby Bee, Batrick Bat, Drake Fleeby Dragonfly (even if not a pollinator technically, I have been asked to make them), Butterfly Tubbler, Ladle-Spoon Ladybug, & Tiger Swallowtail.”
When asked about how she creates the names for her pieces she shares, “I go by personality.”
They all hang on their personal Tinsby Tree (their home) as a display, along with specimen steps on how they’re made. Jean observes, “They are my personal collections, my prototype samples I keep with me to help me produce more and to show to others.” The display samples have a different mark to distinguish them from works that are for sale. It is important to Jean to keep display pieces for her own private archive of her work.
Harlequin Masks are another frequent subject studied within Jean’s sculptural practice. She shares, “The Sculpey masks were once puppet heads that had hair crack lines because I didn’t use enough clay in certain places. After trying multiple gluing /repairing techniques, I then decided to convert them into masks, including the plasticine clay, that were once used as holding devices for the Sculpey puppet heads. I like using both Sculpey and plasticine.”
Jean likes to source materials from many places including recycling centers, household items, NIAD, Amazon, Etsy and Target. Types of recycled materials within her practice may include aluminum foil, caps, lids and juice bottles. When asked why she centers recycled materials within her work she shares, “They’re useful and beautiful.” Other materials frequently used include markers, masking tape, nail polish, fibers/cloths and paper clips.
Jean is a self motivated artist who creates her own monthly goals. Each month she has a different series that she is focused on with the goal of completing ten within that series. For the month of
July she will be dedicated to dragonflies and in August she will move onto telephones. Jean likes to refine and rework a few specific subjects within her practice, finding that the time frame of a month offers enough time for experimenting and troubleshooting new materials.
Every month NIAD has weekend exhibition openings where Jean sets up her work space to focus on her arts and crafts. She brings her art work samples to display and share with the public. She also has printouts on each of her arts and crafts with background information to explain the making process.
In NIAD’s virtual Zoom studio Jean participates with her q-tee clown daughter named Pepe. Pepe sometimes dances during Jam Sessions on Fridays, while Jean shows music videos to match what music is played. Jean values her time in the NIAD virtual studio as well as in person on Wednesdays and Fridays. In addition to her visual art practice, Jean curates musical playlists on special occasions that she shares with close friends, NIAD staff & family.
When asked how she envisions her work she shares simply, “Out in the world.”
// Jean’s available work //
Small Wonders, organized by kg // NIAD Online Exhibition // July 2023
an echo carries texture // organized by Steph Kudisch // NIAD Online Exhibition // June 2023
Into the Brightness: Artists from Creativity Explored, Creative Growth & NIAD // Oakland Museum of California // May 2023
Rainbow Cat Picnic organized by Cynthia Ona Innis // NIAD Online Exhibition // March 2023
Waking, Breathing, Making! organized by Laura Kamian McDermott // NAID Online Exhibition // February 2023
WIN WIN 10 Silent Auction Preview Exhibition // NIAD Gallery Exhibition // February 2022
Holiday Gift Guide #5, organized by Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh // NIAD Online Exhibition // December 2021
Menagerie on 23rd Street, organized by Prajakti Jayavant // NIAD Windows Exhibition // December 2021
Closing Of The Year // curated by Jean McElvane NIAD Windows 2020
Waste Not, Want Not: The Redemption of Trash // ACCI Gallery Berkeley 2020
Butterfly, Sugar // organized by Bonanza NIAD Art Center 2019
Pollinators: Jean McElvane + Mary Mortimer // NIAD Art Center April 2019
Together // organized by Laurie Reid NIAD Art Center December 2018
The Handmade // Rock Paper Scissors Collective Oakland 2018
Curious Weave // organized by Ramekon O’Arwisters NIAD Art Center 2016
Jean McElvane // NIAD Art Center 2016
Telling It Slant // organized by Courtney Eldridge Richmond Art Center 2015
City In Motion // NIAD Art Center 2014
Yes To The Dress Pop-Up Shop // organized by Peter Gravener NIAD Art Center 2013
Diamond Dogs Pet Supply // NIAD Art Center 2013
Championship Vinyl // NIAD Art Center 2013
You Are Here // organized by Robert Wuilfe NIAD Art Center 2013
The Variety Show // Factory Outlet Gallery 2012
Holiday Pop Up Shop And Lounge // NIAD Art Center 2012
Nat. Brut: I, Too, Like Purple (May 2017)
San Francisco Chronicle: “City In Motion”: NIAD Artists Create Urban Environment (2014, May)
San Francisco Chronicle: NIAD Art Center’s Gifts Of Artistic Ability (2012, December)