Janice Lowry papers, 1957-2009

A Finding Aid to the Janice Lowry Papers, 1957-2009, in the Archives of American Art, by Erin Kinhart and Jessica Byler

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Biographical Information

Janice Lowry (1946-2009) created paintings, collages, and assemblages in Arizona and California. She is best known for her boxes: homemade frames filled with found objects that often questioned and commented on life, death, journeys, and rites of passages.

Lowry was born in 1946 in Phoenix, Arizona. She started writing diaries when she was 11, and, with the exception of a decade, continued journaling until 2007. She married Jan Gilbert in 1965 and had two sons, Brandon and Kevin. During this period Lowry also set up a studio and started showing her artwork. In 1973, the family moved to California. Shortly after, she began her long battle with depression, and she divorced Jan in 1976.

Remaining in California, Lowry went to Art Center College of Design where she earned a BFA with honors in 1979 and a MFA in painting in 1980. She married Jon Gothold in 1983, and had another son, Brent. Her work sold well in the 1980's, but after her studio was destroyed in an earthquake in 1987, she took a break from making art.

Janice Lowry's first solo show was at Art Space in 1980, and the gallery continued to showcase and sell her work for many years. She taught at Art Center, Cypress College, and Oakridge Private School. Among other shows, she was part of an exhibition about 9/11 at Legacy Arts Gallery in 2001. In 2007, she was named the region's "Best Visual Artist" by the Orange County Weekly. After several health issues, Janice Lowry died of liver cancer in 2009.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of collagist and painter Janice Lowry measure 15.1 linear feet and date from 1957 to 2009. Lowry's career as an artist in Arizona and California is documented through biographical material, printed material, and photographs. The bulk of the papers consist of six diaries; thirteen morning journals; 119 art journals which include both text and artwork in the form of sketches, paintings, and collages; notebooks, fourteen hand-made artist books, and six notebooks with sketches from Lowry's college days.

Biographical material includes artist statements, price lists, guest books, scattered correspondence, and exhibition, consignment, and sales records. Diaries and Morning Journals contain writings by Lowry. Six diaries document Lowry's childhood from the age of 11 to 16. Morning journals date from 1998 to 2008 and are almost entirely stream of consciousness text. In these journals Lowry records her daily life, thoughts, and dreams.

Janice Lowry kept art journals for most of her adult life, averaging about four per year. Some journals are mainly text, whereas others include very little writing. The journals are filled with sketches which depict vacation spots, objects around the house, studies for works, and people. Collages include photographs, ephemera such as ticket stubs and receipts, and other common household objects. Artist books were handmade by Lowry and include comic book stories about her family, collage booklets, and children's books. Six notebooks, which also contain sketches, are primarily from the period that Lowry was in school at Art Center College of Design.

Printed material includes newspaper clippings, magazines, press releases, posters, and gallery catalogs and guides. Also found in this collection are personal photographs of Janice Lowry as well as slides of her work.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged as 6 series:

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following terms:

Subjects:

  • Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, Calif.)--Students

Subjects-Topical:

  • Artists' books
  • Collagists--California
  • Painters--California

Types of Materials:

  • Illustrated letters
  • Collages
  • Diaries
  • Notebooks
  • Paintings
  • Sketches
  • Visitors' books

Provenance

The collection was donated in 2007 and 2009 by Janice Lowry.

How the Collection was Processed

The collection was fully processed by Jessica Byler in 2011. A finding aid was prepared by Erin Kinhart and Jessica Byler also in 2011.


How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original papers requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Janice Lowry papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

How to Cite this Collection

Janice Lowry papers, 1957-2009. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Material, circa 1964-2009
(Box 1; 1.0 linear foot)

Biographical material includes numerous artist statements written by Lowry, four guest books from her exhibitions, price lists, art supply receipts, a passport, papers and drawings from her children and grandchildren, and various drafts of her proposal for a journaling book. Also included are one folder of correspondence primarily with art galleries and universities and letters to her first husband Jan Gilbert. Additional documentation on her professional activities includes scattered exhibition records, consignment and sales records, and mail order forms for her artwork. Also of note is an "Art Catalog" created by Lowry and containing photographs and statements on her artistic process.

The biographical material is sorted by type and subject, and arranged alphabetically.

Box Folder
1 1 Art Catalog, 1981
1 2 Art Supply Receipts, circa 1978-1984
1 3 Artist Statements,
1 4-6 Calendars, 1985, 1992-1993, 1999-2007
(3 folders)
1 7 Christmas Cards, circa 1988-1989
1 8-9 Consignment and Sales Records, circa 1987-1993
(2 folders)
1 10 Correspondence, 1984-2007
1 11 Drawings by Children, undated
1 12 Exhibition Records, circa 1983-1985
1 13 Fabric Sew-it-yourself Doll, 1980
1 14 Guestbook, 1987
1 15 Guestbook, 1995
1 16 Guestbook, 2001
1 17 Guestbook, 2007
1 18 Letters to Jan Gilbert, circa 1964
1 19 Mileage Report, 1972-1975
1 20 "My Grandma" by Ashton Gilbert, 2009
1 21 Orders for Works by Lowry, circa 1979-1980
1 22 Passport, 1997
1 23 Price Lists and Artist Statements, undated
1 24 Proposal for Journaling Book, undated

Series 2: Diaries, 1957-1962
(Box 2; 6 folders)

Six diaries written by Janice Lowry as a child from the age of 11 to 16 include short, dated entries, mainly recording daily activities.

Diaries arranged chronologically.

Box Folder
2 1 Diary 1, 1957
2 2 Diary 2, 1958
2 3 Diary 3, 1958-1959
2 4 Diary 4, 1960-1961
2 5 Diary 5, 1961
2 6 Diary 6, 1962

Series 3: Morning Journals, 1998-2008
(Box 2; 0.6 linear feet)

Thirteen Morning Journals primarily record Lowry's thoughts, dreams, and life sporadically from 1998 to 2008. The journals are almost entirely written text in spiral notebooks filled with stream of consciousness writings. Some years she went through multiple journals, whereas other years she did not keep a journal in this style.

Morning journals were named and numbered by Janice Lowry in chronological order.

Box Folder
2 7 Morning Journal 1A, 1998-2008
2 8 Morning Journal 1, 1998
2 9 Morning Journal 2, 1998
2 10 Morning Journal 3, 1998-1999
2 11 Morning Journal 4, 1999
2 12 Morning Journal 6, 2000-2001
2 13 Morning Journal 5 and 7, 1999-2000, 2002
2 14 Morning Journal 8, 2002
2 15 Morning Journal, 2002
2 16 Morning Journal, 2007
2 17 Morning Journal, 2007-2008
2 18 Morning Journal, 2008

Series 4: Art Journals, Artist Books, and Notebooks, circa 1973-2007
(Box 3-15; 12.2 linear feet)

This series consists of Janice Lowry's artwork combined with her personal writings in three sets of "books" - art journals, artist books, and notebooks. Best classified as artwork, they contain drawings, collages, paintings, illustrations, prose, notes, and other text. The notebooks contain notes and sketches primarily from her art classes.

The series is arranged as 3 subseries:

Titles of each set of "books" are Janice Lowry's.

4.1: Art Journals, circa 1973-2007

Janice Lowry kept journals for most of her adult life, averaging about four per year. This series totals 119 journals from 1973 to 2007. The journals include both text and artwork in the form of sketches, paintings, and collages. The media she used in the journals included various colors of pen and pencil, watercolors, acrylic paint, crayon, marker, and ink stamps. Inside, she kept phone numbers, studies, plans, diagrams, and pockets of loose papers, letters, photographs, and objects.

Some journals are mainly text, occasionally written sideways, whereas others include very little writing. Topics of Lowry's writings include travel, thoughts, lists, dreams, finances, critiques, correspondence, timelines, and her relationship with her mother. She often included definitions, quotes, things she had recently learned, and notes for lesson plans. Inserted are many articles about crime, politics, and death, as well as newspaper adverts for art shows. Evident are both the Catholicism of her childhood and her later exploration of Buddhism. Many of the art journals reflect her depression wherein she wrote about her fears and worries.

The journals are filled with sketches that depict vacation spots, objects around the house, studies for works, and people. She glued in some of her children's artwork, and let them draw directly in her journals. Lowry also created storyboard journal entries, combining small, square sketches with commentary. Her sketches become more simplified and less realistic throughout the journals. However, her collages become more colorful and complex. Within the pages, Lowry kept small objects from her life. Some pages are collaged with ephemera such as ticket stubs, pictures, newspaper clippings, receipts, appointment cards, IDs, comics, cards, maps, and bills. Other objects and materials were used in the artwork, such as fabric, graph paper, sewing patterns, measuring tape, string, stickers, glitter, tape, stamps, and pieces cut out of a dictionary. She also included dried flowers, butterfly wings, leaves, and seeds.

Journals were named and numbered by Lowry and are arranged in chronological order.

Box Folder
3 1 Journal 1, undated
3 2 Journal 2, 1973-1974
3 3 Journal 3, 1976
3 4 Journal 4a, 1977
3 5 Journal 4, 1977
3 6 Journal 5, 1977
3 7 Journal 6, 1977
3 8 Journal 7, 1977
3 9 Journal 8, 1977
3 10 Journal 9, 1978-1979
3 11 Journal 10a, 1978
3 12 Journal 10, 1978
3 13 Journal 11, 1978
3 14 Journal 12, 1978
Box Folder
4 1 Journal 13, 1978
4 2 Journal 14, 1978
4 3 Journal 15, 1979
4 4 Journal 16, 1979
4 5 Journal 17, 1979
4 6 Journal 18, 1979
4 7 Journal 19, 1979
4 8 Journal 20, 1979
4 9 Journal 21, 1980
4 10 Journal 22, 1980
4 11 Journal 23, 1980
4 12 Journal 24, 1980
4 13 Journal 25, 1981
4 14 Journal 26, 1981
Box Folder
5 1 Journal 27, 1981
5 2 Journal 28, 1981
5 3 Journal 29, 1982
5 4 Journal 30, 1982
5 5 Journal 31, 1982
5 6 Journal 32, 1982
5 7 Journal 33, 1983
5 8 Journal 34, 1983
5 9 Journal 35, 1983
5 10 Journal 36, 1983-1984
5 11 Journal 37, 1984
5 12 Journal 38, 1984
Box Folder
6 1 Journal 39, 1984
6 2 Journal 40, 1984-1985
6 3 Journal 41, 1985
6 4 Journal 42, 1985
6 5 Journal 43, 1985
6 6 Journal 44, 1986
6 7 Journal 45, 1986
6 8 Journal 46, 1986
6 9 Journal 47, 1986-1987
6 10 Journal 48, 1987
6 11 Journal 49, 1987
Box Folder
7 1 Journal 50, 1987
7 2 Journal 51, 1988
7 3 Journal 52, 1988
7 4 Journal 53, 1988
7 5 Journal 54, 1988
7 6 Journal 55, 1988-1989
7 7 Journal 56, 1989
7 8 Journal 57, 1989
7 9 Journal 58, 1989
7 10 Journal 59, 1989
7 11 Journal 60, 1990
Box Folder
8 1 Journal 61, 1990
8 2 Journal 62, 1990
8 3 Journal 63, 1991
8 4 Journal 64, 1991
8 5 Journal 65, 1991
8 6 Journal 66, 1992
Box Folder
17 1 Journal 67, 1992
Box Folder
8 8 Journal 68, 1992-1993
8 9 Journal 69, 1993
8 10 Journal 70, 1993
8 11 Journal 71, 1993
Box Folder
9 1 Journal 72, 1994
Box Folder
17 2 Journal 73, 1994
17 3 Journal 74, 1994
17 4 Journal 75, 1995
Box Folder
9 2 Journal 76, 1995
9 3 Journal 77, 1995-1996
9 4 Journal 78, 1996
9 5 Journal 79, 1996-1997
9 6 Journal 80, 1997
9 7 Journal 81, 1997
9 8 Journal 82, 1997
9 9 Journal 83, 1998
9 10 Journal 84, 1998
Box Folder
10 1 Journal 85, 1998
10 2 Journal 86, 1999
10 3 Journal 87, 1999
10 4 Journal 88, 2000
10 5 Journal 89, 2000
10 6 Journal 90, 2000
10 7 Journal 91, 2001
10 8 Journal 92, 2001
10 9 Journal 93, 2001
Box Folder
11 1 Journal 94, 2001
11 2 Journal 95, 2002
11 3 Journal 96, 2002
11 4 Journal 97, 2002
11 5 Journal 98, undated
11 6 Journal 99, 2003
11 7 Journal 100, 2003
Box Folder
12 1 Journal 101, 2003
12 2 Journal 102, 2003
12 3 Journal 103, 2004
12 4 Journal 104, 2004
12 5 Journal 105, 2004
12 6 Journal 106, 2004
12 7 Journal 107, 2004
Box Folder
13 1 Journal 108, 2005
13 2 Journal 109, 2005
13 3 Journal 110, 2005
13 4 Journal 111, 2005
13 5 Journal 112, 2006
13 6 Journal 113, 2006
13 7 Journal 114, 2006
Box Folder
14 1 Journal 115, 2006
14 2 Journal 116, 2007
14 3 Journal 117, 2007
14 4 Journal 118, 2007
14 5 Journal 119, 2007

4.2: Artist Books, circa 1978-2007

Janice Lowry wrote and illustrated these fourteen homemade books. These include comic book stories about her family, collage booklets, and children's books. Some are photocopied and bound. Both "The Cat and the Fiddle" and an untitled 1988 book combine the lyrics of a well-known song and photocopied and hand-colored magazine collages. A few are comic books about her life.

The artist books were named by Lowry and are arranged in chronological order.

Box Folder
14 6 Artist Book, 1978
14 7 "In The Night-Time", 1980
(3 copies)
14 8 Artist Book, 1980
14 9 "The Cat and the Fiddle: A Modern Romance", 1983
(2 copies)
14 10 Artist Book, 1983
14 11 "Elements of Swimming", 1983
(4 copies)
14 11 "Everything is Ducky in Norfolk", 1985
14 12 Artist Book, 1988
14 13 "Star Gazer", 1991
14 14 "Michael Lowry Memory Books", 2003
2 copies
14 15 "Family Tales, #1", "Family Tales, #2", and "I Shall Want," 2006-2007
14 16 Artist Book, undated

4.3: Notebooks, 1976, 1979, 2004

The notebooks in this series are from the period that Janice Lowry was in school at Art Center College of Design, dating from 1976 to 1979, and a single notebook from 2004. Books contain notes from her classes and sketches. For the most part, the sketches are studies of objects. One notebook from 1976 contains sketches with notes of critique.

Box Folder
15 1-2 Art School Notebooks, 1976
(2 folders)
15 3-4 Art Center Notebooks, 1976
(2 folders)
15 5 Notebook, 1979
15 6 Notebook, 2004

Series 5: Printed Material, 1974-2009
(Box 15-16; 0.5 linear feet)

Printed materials document Janice Lowry's career and include newspaper clippings, magazines, press releases, posters, and gallery catalogs and guides. The exhibition invitations are mainly postcards for her shows, ranging from 1979 to 2009, but also include announcements for other artists.

Box Folder
15 7-8 Newspaper clippings, 1981-2007
(2 folders)
15 9 Press Releases, 1982-1989
Box Folder
16 1-2 Exhibition Invitations, 1979-2009
(2 folders)
16 3 Posters, 1984-1990
16 4 Exhibition Catalogs, 1983-2009
16 5 Gallery Guides, 1981-1989
16 6 Art Magazines, 1974-1989
16 7 Miscellaneous,

Series 6: Photographs, 1965, circa 1980s-1990s
(Box 16; 3 folders)

Photographic material consists of both personal photographs of Janice Lowry as well as slides of her works. One folder contains photographs from her wedding to Jan Gilbert in 1965. Most of the photographs are neither labeled nor dated.

Box Folder
16 8 Wedding Photographs, 1965
16 9 Miscellaneous Photographs, circa 1980s
16 10 Slides, circa 1990s