Barn Talk with Janis H. Sanders


“Barns and old houses are wonderful and wondrous places; places where people have worked and played and lived and created. They have their own simple functional beauty. They are artifacts left in their own footsteps… footprints walked away from,” says Janis H. Sanders during a recent discussion about one of his favorite inspirations. “The echoes are still in the air if you listen just right.”

Maine is full of these old places, and they seem to find their way into this artist’s path frequently. Yet, it is not just the physical that inspires Sanders. It is the history, the story of what was. “The late day light casts a melancholy and mysterious greeting across time that has long gone by, leaving us to wonder what and who and why. These mysteries will never be answered,” says Sanders. However, he can and does archive these everyday events, people and places in paint, knowing they were once important to someone.

“I saw a place just a couple of months ago near the edge of a woods outside Bar Harbor, Maine. It was a house left. The small front porch was falling off. I hesitated, reconsidered, and decided better not to tread. The posts and floorboards were rotted and loose. I merely peeked through the dusty windows instead.” Even without going in, the image stayed with Janis.  Maybe not appearing as a whole in one of his works, but just part.

Then there are times when a small piece or photograph of a place is needed as a physical reminder, a memento. Sanders tells of one where this was especially necessary. “It was an abandoned residence. The barn had collapsed onto itself, but it felt like a place where a person could settle and live and find a hospitable corner for themselves in this world. The place felt good, without strife. I wrenched one beautiful, silvered barn board with lots of lines and character, from the heap of boards and timber. I was careful to avoid the rusted ancient square-head nails. I wanted to have a connection to the place and its past, so I took it home.”

It is always amazing what is left behind. Things that are important to us as we look now, perhaps were not to the generation that left them behind. “Years ago, near Jamesville, New York, I came across a place,” tells Sanders. “Pushing down on the tongue of the ornate, old door latch, I opened the creaking door and entered carefully and cautiously. I was nearly tip-toeing in. It was late afternoon and sunlight streamed across a fully set, yet abandoned, simple, aged, dusty, dark stained wood kitchen table. The simple white plates and silverware shone in the light. The scene gave me the feeling that the inhabitants could return and startle me into an apologetic stammer at any moment. I was intruding into what still was their abandoned world.”  When this feeling comes, Janis honors it. “I work fast and take some reference pictures and mental notes and move on. I wonder about them and what was, and why, and about myself.” This respect he shows to the people and history of these old structures says much about Janis’s own character. It is what creates his moral obligation to pass on this beauty to others through his work.

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We welcome you to come and see this love first-hand with our collection from Janis H. Sanders.  We are open all winter at our 14 Western Ave. location in Kennebunk. However, if you are not in the area, please visit his Artist’s Page on our website.

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