“What’s Your Inspiration?” | PSFK Talks to Jane Mount, Bookshelf Art

“What’s Your Inspiration?” | PSFK Talks to Jane Mount, Bookshelf Art
Arts & Culture
Allison Mooney
  • 26 september 2008

Do people read books anymore in an age of Kindles and Twitlit?

Or are they turning into objects of art–an expression of personality to display?

Well, Jane Mount has turned books into art quite literally. When we saw her “Bookshelf” series on 20 x 200 the other day, we judged them by their covers: clever, subversive, beautiful. For our ongoing series, the self-described “product strategist, graphic designer, illustrator, entrepreneur, info architect and user experience planner” answered our one question about her paintings:

“What’s your inspiration?”

I’m inspired by all the things in the world people know and do, and by all the time and effort we put in to knowing and doing them better. For me, books are a simple visual manifestation of that drive for knowledge.

When I was little I believed that people kept learning and learning until they knew absolutely everything, and then they would die and move on to something else because they were done here (and that was therefore okay by them and by everyone). I thought that’s why my parents knew so much more than I did at the time, since they were so much older; and I thought that eventually I would try every job that existed, so that I would ultimately know how to do everything.

Obviously the world is much more complex than I thought when I was six years old, and obviously I will never have every job there is (and of course I now realize that there are many I would definitely not want to have). That drive to know things, however, has never left me, and I am obsessed with learning.

When I am struck by some new topic, usually the first thing I do is buy several books about it. My shelves are filled with these starts, and that’s part of the reason I love cataloging them in paintings. If the topic sticks, I then take a class in it. A few years ago I was so astounded to realize how little I knew about how the human body works (despite having one all my life) that I attended a year of massage therapy school (much cheaper than med school) to learn basic human anatomy & systems.

Sometimes studying is not enough. After learning about wine at weekly classes for a year, I realized I wasn’t internalizing the information and went to work part-time in a huge wine store for eight months. There I was forced to use the knowledge I didn’t realize I had by recommending wines to other people, and by knowing where to find (the store was laid out regionally) special requests. Being able to buy wines at cost and having staff tastings every day didn’t hurt my learning either.

But for me it still usually begins with a book, in which someone else has recorded the knowledge they’ve already gathered before me.

We all show off our books on shelves like merit badges, because we’re proud of the ideas we’ve ingested to make us who we are. We are proud to display what has inspired us, as we should be, and we hope to connect to other people by doing so. When I paint someone else’s bookshelf and they have some of the same books I do, I feel amazingly joyful about it, and about them.

Jane Mount on 20 x 200

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