Collages by Sheena, Queen of the Hallway aka Jo Ann Tunnell Muench

Biography: Who Am I?

 


Bios are so weird to write. I've been making art for as long as I can remember. In elementary school, my parents got some odd notion that  I was an aspiring artist. They enrolled me in private lessons after school. This was really I good thing because my art teacher exposed me to ideas and media that were not available in our classroom art class. Instead of cutting out construction paper hearts, I was allowed to paint with oils, use pen and ink, pastels, and watercolor. 

 

During my teenage years I kept my art mainly to myself and just sketched a lot. I had some vague idea that I would be either a courtroom artist or a fashion artist. However, the truth was, I was mainly just doing the things most teenagers did in the late 1960.  

 

When I began college, it seemed natural to major in art. Art had always been such a joy to me. However, in college, I had a difficult time. It was the era of hippies and protests and I was right in the midst of all that counter-cultural change. I guess you would say that the collage classes had a rareified atmosphere. The professors had their favorites (who we named "At Stars") and then there were the rest of us. Actually we didn't much attention from the professors. The "Art Stars" pretty much ran the show. I actually became timid about my art and it was fairly painful to have such intense competition around me. So, I dropped out of college and worked for a number of years..mainly in fashion. 

 

Finally, I decided to go back to college and finish my degree. This time I was going to pursue a BFA in Studio Arts. It was now the late 70s and things had changed. I was in a different university than before and my teachers were very open and believed in stimulating our creativity. I thrived in that atmosphere and really got my bearings about the whole art thing that had eluded me in the past. I won a lot of awards (for what's that's worth) and graduated with my BFA. 

 

My last semester, before receiving my BFA, we had a visiting professor who was a ful-time professional artist. I took his class and he and I clicked as friends and artists. Upon graduation, he invited me to work with him in his studio. This was such a great opportunity and it was a really important time in my life.  He and I talked constantly about ideas and theories. I had always been drawn to surrealism and dada. He had begun as a landscape artist but was exploring other ways to express himself. He became very much of a surrealistic painter and I thrived while watching him work. I painted five or six days a week ..usually for 8-10 hours a day. I was a slow painter. My medium was acrylic on masonite that had been gessoed and sanded layer after layer. I gradually became a bit well known in our region and people actually like my art and wanted to own it. 

 

Finally, after three-plus years, it was time for me to leave the safety of the studio and go out on my own. By this time I was thirty-two and I realized I had to support myself. So, I made the big decision to return to college for a Masters in Art and History. I completed my Masters' and began teaching. I actually loved teaching in a community college, but my own work was slowly overtaken by my career. I never completely left the art world, but it began to drift away from me. 

 

In 1999, I married and moved from my small East Texas town to Phoenix, Arizona. This was a sea change for me. I quit my comfortable job and moved across the country for a new start in life. I thought, at the time, I was either doing something really right for myself or I was crazy. Fortunately, I was doing something really right. My husband encouraged me to return to the art I loved and that is what I have done. 

 

I found myself drawn to collage because it worked with my surrealistic approach to art. And collage is what I do now. I never decide on a topic or an idea of what I am going to create. I keep a huge collection of photos and choose them as they strike my eye. Then, I put them together in a way that pleases me. Afterwards, I can usually see that the finished collage really does mirror something that I have experienced or been thinking about. So, that's where I am now. I'm about to turn 65 and I feel more creative than at any time in my life. I have lived long enough to find my voice. 

my . artist run website