By Marlys Hersey, Editor
Now in her late 50s and back at home in the desert, Jana Nichols Faulk is finally allowing herself to be an artist. Though she has no formal art training, Faulk now recognizes that she has always created things, has always had a strong need to express herself.
A sewer of clothes and dolls, crocheter of blankets, regular embroiderer and knitter, and dabbler in other visual arts, she now makes multi-media collages, and paints in oils and watercolors. During a crisis a few years ago, Faulk turned to art to help her cope and process her feelings. Out of that, the making of art took on a life of its own.
In mid-2014, Jana and her husband of eleven years, Tony Faulk, retired from seven years on the road as long-haul truckers. “We ran away from home in 2007 to go to truck driving school in order to put [my son] Micah through college,” says Jana. “When that obligation was finished, we moved back home,” to their strawbale house in Terlingua which she and her family built in 1999.
Also, notes Faulk, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) enabled the couple to obtain medical insurance separate from employment. The fates aligned finally to push Faulk into becoming a professional artist.
With strong nudges from her longtime friend, Linda Walker, Faulk now exhibits and sells her work at Earth and Fire Art Gallery, in the Terlingua Ghost Town, in which she is also a partner.
When Faulk realized that “strangers were willing to pay” for her art, she was bolstered to continue on this path. “I’ve always been an artist,” says Faulk, “but I’ve never been an Artist. Now, I finally have the opportunity.”
Now that the genie is out of the bottle, so to speak, the artist can’t seem to stop producing. Making art is, she explains, “a physical need for me. I have to make marks… My hands, my soul require it.”
Last summer, Faulk traveled with friends to Guanajuato, in the central highlands of Mexico, and due to travel/space constraints, she “couldn’t drag all my crap with me.” As such, Faulk took just one small watercolor kit, and one brush.
The trip unleashed a whole new wave of creative energy—in watercolors, nonetheless, a medium with which she had not had much experience. Now, she’s painted dozens of watercolors—prints and handmade cards—just since July. “It’s pouring out of me; I can’t stop,” she says with an incredulous smile.
Though Faulk says she is “not really influenced by other artists or training,” the artist is very clear about the importance of certain loved ones in supporting her journey. For one, her son, Micah Paredes, a musician in his 20s, is a great inspiration, she says, and helped ground her when she first starting making art more diligently a few years ago, while they were both living in Austin. Faulk ended up making the cover art for the first album by her son’s Austin-based indie band, Kalijah.
Faulk also talks appreciatively of her husband Tony’s unwavering support for her artistry, including her obsession with collecting really old newspapers, letters, and other historic documents she has found for sale online or at estate sales, etc. “Tony was so indulgent; we would stuff the truck with it,” she says. And he has not balked at her slowly gutting, more or less, their RV, transforming it into her studio next to their desert home. (She removed the RV’s cabinets, for example, to make more wall space for her art, explaining “I need to live with my art first; then finally I let the pieces go.”)
Additionally, Linda Walker at times helps shape Faulk’s artistic directions. “I need guidance,” confesses Faulk. “Because left to my own devices, I get a little out there. Linda will come and say, ‘I like where this is going.’”
To boot, Walker made Faulk a partner in Earth and Fire Art Gallery, a vital part of the Terlingua arts scene, with regular openings and special events. Faulk works at the gallery at least one day per week, often painting on the front porch.
Prior to long-haul trucking, Faulk owned a liquor store in Terlingua, and before, that worked for twelve years as a wrangler and then general manager at Lajitas and Big Bend Stables. (“I hid the secret that I was always afraid of horses; that made me a very watchful and cautious wrangler,” she confesses.)
Though the Texas native grew up on the Gulf Coast, in Corpus Christi, she has been based in Terlingua for close to 30 years. “I traded hot and wet for hot and dry in 1988,” Faulk explains, attributing her relocating to her meeting longtime Terlinguan Marcos Paredes on a horse trip into the Maderas del Carmen in 1985. “I fell in love…with him and with Terlingua.” When she and Marcos had their son, Micah, Jana stayed: “I really wanted him to grow up in the Big Bend.”
Her art is informed by, inspired by, and celebrates Terlingua—its environment, culture, and history. “I love the fact that Terlingua is built upon the bones of the past, and try to convey that in my work, because to me that’s what Terlingua is: the new on the old,” she says. Currently, Faulk is playing with a theme for an upcoming exhibition, “A Totally False History of Terlingua.”
Further, the artist’s home in the desert, with stunning views of the Chisos Mountains, Santa Elena Canyon, and Mexico, are a constant source of beauty and quiet, of genuine replenishment.
“My typical day begins by walking our dog Leo with Tony. We have several trails that we use to explore our lovely acreage here at Rancho Fandango—that is what we call our place, and also what I call my business. After chores, I head into my studio to work on art and my other hobby of creating lovely snail mail letters and packages. I am involved in several Internet groups, and correspond with people from all over the world as well as participating in swaps of little packages and themed letters. My mailbox is very happy these days as my partners fill it in return with happy mail for me.”
This summer, Faulk will be returning to Guanajuato to stay for several months, embracing the cooler summer temperatures of the Mexico highlands as well as scenes there that remind her of places in her dreams. Plus, Guanajuato is a World Heritage City, so this artist fascinated with layers of history will have plenty more material from which to draw inspiration.
“After 50-plus years of exploring, I can focus,” Faulk says with a smile. “What doesn’t kill you makes great art. And that’s my journey.”
For more information, visit Facebook pages of Jana Nichols Faulk and/or Earth and Fire Gallery in Terlingua.