Best of Phoenix

Artist Janet de Berge Lange Contemplates Tempe Town Lake Fishermen

Best of Phoenix is on newsstands now. In conjunction with this year's Vintage Phoenix theme, New Times is collaborating with R. Pela Contemporary Art to present "Hot Plate!" It's an exhibition of one-of-a-kind, Phoenix-inspired commemorative plates made by local artists. Leading up to the show's Oct. 4 opening, we're profiling each of the contributing artists and visiting their studios. Today: Janet de Berge Lange.

A third-generation Phoenician, mixed media artist Janet de Berge Lange lays claim to not just one spacious studio in the heart of downtown Phoenix, which is located right next to a lot her grandfather owned back in the day when he operated a large electrical company. The artist, who works with vintage, found and discarded objects, also has set down roots in an impressive open loft/studio she's created in an old, renovated historic building in Miami, Arizona, which is near Globe, a mere hour and a half's drive east of the Valley. And, with the way she collects things to incorporate into her work, de Berge Lange can easily justify two working spaces.

See also: Hot Plate! Best of Phoenix Commemorative Collaboration Opens Oct. 4 at R. Pela Gallery

De Berge Lange's assemblage art, which often takes on a vintage cast, examines present social and cultural concerns from a very feminist point of view. She's taken on weighty subjects like pedophilia, domestic violence, war and classic power plays between men and women. "I really like to make the work beautiful, to bring the viewer into the work, so they then can some do some serious thinking," says the artist.

What's your earliest memory of Phoenix? Playing in the dirt in a huge lot next to us that had mesquite trees. We lived at the end of a dead end street on 9th Street between Osborne and Indian School -- you'd call it a cul-de-sac today. It was considered way out at that time. There were no sidewalks and people ran through our front bushes when they were drunk at night. We played army and circus and had china berry fights... and I remember eating Mexican food at our favorite place, La Cucaracha; as a child, I didn't know that meant "cockroach." My dad was a saddle maker and we were always going to rodeos and riding buck boards or stage coaches in rodeo parades, too.

What inspired your plate for this show? The economy. I look out at the Rio Salado Town Lake and I see people fishing there. And I wonder, are they fishing there because they have to? My plate is called Blue Plate Special and it's about the Rio Salado Diner. The viewer looks out the window of the diner and sees fish swimming by, ready to become the Blue Plate Special.

Phoenix needs more: Art, art criticism, and generally support for the arts community here.

Phoenix needs less: Concrete and asphalt.

What's on your plate this fall? I'll be showing my artwork at R. Pela Contemporary Art in a three-person show that opens on November 1. Until then, I'll be working on two very large assemblages made of old tins that I've configured into traditional quilting patterns at my studio in Miami.

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Kathleen Vanesian