CALIFORNIA WOMEN INTERVIEW WITH JANNA AVNER
theroses: How was being a native California woman affected your career trajectory?
Janna: Not being a part of the New York art scene was beneficial for multiple reasons: firstly, I have an outsider’s perspective on the art industry. While I was living there, I noticed the multiple layers and hierarchies of access to resources in New York simply because that was the best way people might organize a community saturated with art. I’m not sure I can speak for all of CA, but in Southern California, those hierarchies don’t exist in the arts simply because there’s not enough communities to create it. There is one community and it’s collaborative. As I’ve learned we can all benefit from working together. I think my career trajectory is the same as it would be anywhere else, but living in CA as an artist has allowed me to reinforce my values in teamwork and collaboration.
theroses: What do you think is the most pressing issue for California today, and how do you feel young California women can best become involved in the betterment of the future of our state?
I could respond to this in multiple ways but to be brief: we should advocate for a technology app that makes more transparent where and how government funds are spent, as that information is open to the public but not properly consolidated. I am not sure I’m capable of advocating on behalf of one gender, as I find that politically reductive.
theroses: Many scientists protect the apocalyptic collapse of the environment within the next 50 years. California has taken a leadership role in protecting the environment- how do you feel Californians can best protect our land? And, what role do women have especially in protecting our Earth and land in light of recent global political shifts?
Here’s a roundabout response: marginalized groups should spend more time reaching out to those who don’t identify with them. Otherwise, there’s no culture of awareness or comprehensive education project around a single cause that accounts for others who don’t understand or cannot access said cause’s language. Those in such a group, such as the feminist group, for example, become tribe-like enclaves that cannot effect major policy change. Saving the environment means finding a common language that makes its impending demise a universal fact.
theroses: If you could give any advice to your 18-year-old self, what would it be?
My advice to my 18-year-old self would be to love failure. Love it with all your heart because you’ll get more out of it, so you can learn much faster. Fear of failure will make you hesitant and you don’t have time for that. Also, listen to yourself more than your professors.
theroses: What do you feel have been the most critical moments in shaping the woman you are today?
Moments of regression in psychological development (crises) and the small victories therein have shaped who I am today.
theroses: What defines a great mentor-mentee relationship, and who are the women you consider to be mentors and role models for you in your personal life and in your career?
A mentor is an advice giver who is more experienced and can be trusted to display care, objectivity and candidness in a one-on-one relationship while, in essence, holding up a mirror. I have received muddled advice from women over the last five years since graduating from Yale. Anyone who has taken a deeper interested, reinforced through the imperative, and sought to mold me after their own image. I found the task of finding a mentor daunting and often fruitless.
theroses: What is your fashion philosophy?
I don’t have one! Perhaps unlike (or like?) most artists I don’t want to stick out by displaying my internal psychological state through clothing. In an ideal world, I would blend in and people would only notice me for my ideas and not for how I look. It’s not a strong priority of mine.
theroses: How do you feel feminism affects your dating and professional life?
for example, “I always find men AND employers who support me as a strong woman”,
or “I have [xyz] problems with men who don’t understand [xyz] feminist issues, but I overcome that [this way], and I have [xyz] problems with employers but I work around that toward consensus and mutual understanding [this way].
I try not to spend time worrying or thinking about those I come in contact with who—I can only surmise—judge me because I’m a woman. Their concerns distract me from what I’m trying to do, and I’m most productive when I’m not thinking about that.
theroses: I feel that the coast of California has the most rugged and gentle beauty I have ever seen. To me, California feels both masculine and feminine, vibrant, gentle, and wild. How do you feel that the world of California, whether it is the natural beauty of the central coast, the quaint urban enclaves like Silverlake or Topanga, or the slick glam of Hollywood, affected your personal conception of Beauty? And, in a few words, how would you define beauty?
Beauty is an ethical good and not a universal truth. There’s the rub!
theroses: What do you love most about California?
I love California’s open, natural spaces that embrace cosmopolitan sensibilities.