2014-04-03 / Around Town

A 60s Cool Cat Displays Her Art in Newport

By Jonathan Clancy

Causey smiles in front of her pride and joy "The Green Nude." Causey's work knows no bounds. From impressions to abstract to being totally shacked (surfer's term for being in the barrel), "Mama C" can lay it down. Causey smiles in front of her pride and joy "The Green Nude." Causey's work knows no bounds. From impressions to abstract to being totally shacked (surfer's term for being in the barrel), "Mama C" can lay it down. Narragansett-based artist Janice Causey, or “Mama C” as many endearingly call her, is a true Renaissance woman who has passionately dedicated her life to the creative arts.

Much of Causey’s work could be described as impressionist – think Van Gogh meets Janis Joplin on a balloon ride around the world. But this wild child’s style cannot be simply stuffed in a box. Her bold, colorful, and sometimes abstract visions, which can be captured on canvas or framed up in a photograph, are rich with texture and depict what Causey sees as the inner being of her subject.

Causey spent most of her career working as an art teacher for elementary, middle, and high school students. She also moonlighted as an art director and consultant for many galleries as she moved up and down the East Coast. Now happily retired in her native land, this forever-young spirit of the 60s has fixed her focus on her own art.

Causey will appear at the opening reception of her solo exhibit “Art For Thought” on April 3, from 6 – 7:30 p.m. at (gallerie ellipsis), 35 Franklin Street, Newport. The artist will also attend Gallery Night on April 10, from 5 – 8 p.m. to answer questions and talk about art. Her art will be displayed at (gallerie ellipsis) through April 13.

“I absorb myself in nature, and through this total immersion, I learn to respect its essence,” Causey told Newport This Week in a recent interview. “When I paint, I like to have some music going while I dance around my studio. The music shows me the way.”

Whatever she does to get in the moment seems to be working. Her broad range of techniques helps her transcend boundaries, and her art has captured attention from fans of all ages.

Though she holds three degrees– two master's, and one bachelor's–from the Rhode Island School of Design, Causey constantly enrolls in workshops and courses to sharpen her skills and expand her horizons.

On one of her latest adventures she spent a month in Italy with renowned painter Julian Nightingale. “It was truly amazing to be able to work in the Italian countryside,” said Causey. “To truly soak in the landscapes of Tuscany and Umbria, and be able to learn from someone who knew the area so well is an experience I will keep close to my heart.”

The ocean as a theme recurs in her body of work. As a surfer and paddleboarder, Causey spends a lot of time in and around the water. She says the act of surfing keeps her mind and body in tune with nature, which opens her eyes to inspiration. Once, while boogieboarding in Hale’iwa, Hawaii, Causey experienced something that helped her to think “outside the box” about her paintings.

“I was sliding down the face of this beautiful wave when the lip pitched forward over me,” she said. “Everything went silent as I was completely covered up and riding in the tube. With the spit on my back, I came flying out and I went crashing onto the beach. I had the biggest smile on my face. It was so beautiful in there that I even cried a little bit.”

The artist tried many times to capture that moment on canvas but remained unsatisfied with the results. That was until she decided to break the mold by building and stretching her own canvases into the shapes of pentagons and hexagons. Causey explained that working with shapes closer to circles has helped her to paint waves in a whole new way, as the circular shapes give the paintings more movement and energy.

With unconventional shapes comes unconventional style. Causey can breathe life into a painting by layering oil and acrylic over spray paint, or by mixing watercolors with strips of tinted tape for added texture.

“I’m never afraid of failures, for one can grow and learn from them,” she said. “For me, creativity equals seeing more than is really there.”

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