Our eighty eighth interview in this series of intimate interviews is with talented photographer and artist Jana Curcio from Washington D.C. United States. This interview is refreshing and thought-provoking, a stirring exploration on friendship, feminism, self love and religion. Curcio I have now discovered is a woman who leaps from the page and into our hearts, she captured mine, almost immediately. There’s a depth to this interview and to the artwork, burning fiercely with love and hurt. She brings into focus, all that really matters and even her thoughts on the afterlife are poetic, “Absolutely! I’m so excited….. I can’t wait to get to heaven! I’m ready to go today in fact if my time came”, what joy, Enjoy!
To read the other published interviews in this series including artists, Adria Ellis, Rino Rossi, Mehmet Duyulmus, Alexis Rotella, Lou Ann Sanford Donahue, Irene Oleksiuk, Kerry Mitchell, Filiz Ak, Dale Botha, M. Cecilia Sao Thiago, Deborah McMillion, Rita Colantonio, Amy Ecenbarger, Jane Schultz, Anca Balaj, Joyce Harkin, Armineh Hovanesian, Kate Zari Roberts, Vicki Cooper, Peter Wilkin, Barbara Braman, Becky Menzies, Sukru Mehmet Omur, Sarah Bichachi, Michel Pretterklieber, Alon Goldsmith, Judy Lurie Wahlberg, Andrea Bigiarini, Sean Hayes, Oola Cristina, Kathleen Magner-Rios Linda Toki, Deb Field, Emilo Nadales, Lydia Cassatt, David Hayes, Jean Hutter, Frederic Deschênes, Mark Schnidman, Fatma Korkut, Fleur Schim, Rob Pearson-Wright, Dieter Gaebel, James Ellis, Marco P Prado, Jeronimo Sanz, Manuela Matos Monteiro, Bleu Chemiko, Manuela Basaldella, Stefania Piccioni, Luis Rodríguez, Marilisa Andriani (@mitrydate) Mayte Balcells (@artofmayte), Nicole Christophe, Jennifer Graham, Cathrine Halsør Paul Toussaint, Carol Wiebe, Julie Denning, Kim Clayton (@berleyart), Karen Messick, Serap Utaş, MaryJane Rosenfeld, Paul Suciu, Susan Latty (@pause.and.breathe),John Nieto, Phyllis Shenny, Joy Barry, Max Lies Derdonk, Rita Tipunina, Violet Martins, Nizzar Ben Chekroune, Lynette Sheppard, Paul-Andre Hamel, Rejane Rubino, Susan Detroy, Rosalie Heller, Wayman Stairs, Cintia Malhotra, Anita Elle, Juta Jazz, Cheryl Tarrant, Hanni König Kaoru Shintaku David Gilbert and myself, go here.
All images ©Jana Curcio
What was your earliest childhood ambition?
For the longest time, I wanted to be a fighter pilot until I realised you had to be good at math….which pretty much killed that dream since I am a imbecile when it comes to numbers.
The first moment I can recall that I was proud of myself was in first grade when I was chosen to play the lead part in the school play. The role was as “Haley’s Comet”. My mother crafted a black leotard with a cape and streamers for me. For my grand entrance I charged the stage with my fiery streamers flowing behind me as I sang, “My name is Haley’s Comet and I’m as mean as I can be”, followed by a foot stomp.
The first time I actually won something was as a High School Senior. It was a photo competition for the cover of the year book. I managed my first collage, pre-Photoshop….old school cut and pasting pictures on top of each other. I won a $25 gift card, which I used to purchase a Life Magazine Photos of the Century book. A year later I transferred to a college with a photo program and begin my journey into photojournalism.
I was 14 when I got my first job. It was probably illegal for me to work as much as I did. But I loved the independence of money and it helped out my mother and gave us some “fun money” to spend from time to time when her resources were tight. I worked as a “soda jerk” at a pharmacy soda counter across the street from my school. All the little old retired men hung out there and drank coffee most the day…escaping their wives, I believe….We called them the “coffee club”. But they were like surrogate grandad’s for me. When I started I didn’t know how to make change and the register was an old timely one from the 1950’s, so the “coffee club” grandad’s patiently taught me to count back change….didn’t I mention I was bad at math! It’s a priceless memory that I’m not sure would happen today, which makes me a bit sad.
Private or state school?
I attended the private school where my mother taught for her entire career. It was Kindergarten through College. I actually had my first grade classroom in the basement of my freshman college dorm. It was a religious school, but after 13 years, I transferred to another college to study photojournalism and it was a much needed change. It took a lot for me to move away and disappointed my mother.
University or work?
I attended 3 different colleges….but still managed to graduate in 4 years. I’m proud of that. I may have weirdest degree known to man though. I graduated from Western Kentucky University with a BA in Photojournalism and a double minor in French and Folklore. The folklore degree was a result of all the Bible classes I had at the first college….lol!
Who was or still is your mentor?
My first and really only mentor was Jon Davidson, Director of Photography at the Dallas Morning News. He plucked me out of obscurity while I was a student at Western Kentucky and I guess saw something in my work. Frankly, I was going nowhere right about that moment. I was shocked when he asked me to apply to the Dallas Internship. I landed that internship with the paper just as I graduated college. After the internship, he just kind of kept me on indefinitely until I ended up taking a job with another newspaper. It was a life changing experience for me and gave me contacts that were invaluable. The whole staff really took me under their wing and coached me in the art of a story. I’m sad that I’ve lost touch with him.
How physically fit are you?
I work out a lot….it clears my head these days. But, in the past it was to please someone else. I guess over time I just found a way to make it mine instead. I listen to Christian Rock while I sweat out everything that is me and try to fill my lungs with everything that is God and His good Spirit. I still struggle with feeling like I’m falling short. I’ve struggled a lot with body image. It tends to show up in my work and I am still working through what it means to slow down and age graciously, being content with the extra pounds, which is hard for me to accept. I just can’t push as hard as I used to and I am learning I don’t want or need to anyway.
Ambition or talent what matters more to success?
I think they go hand in hand. I’ve seen a lot of untalented people succeed and I see a ton of talent on Instagram or Facebook, etc…. that rarely sell work and never see the inside of gallery. But maybe they don’t need that ambition to feel satisfied with themselves or the work. I often feel like I am mildly talented and mildly ambitious, so that leaves me standing in the middle of nowhere at times.
How politically committed are you ?
Because of the past few years in the US, I have largely had to disconnect politically. I’ve watched it split family in half over dinner conversations. It’s just too absurd and upsetting. I get my news these days from “Cheddar Need 2 Know” in my daily email…lol! Everyone on both sides are so polarising and disrespectful verbally. I don’t want any part of it.
What would you like to own but don’t currently possess?
I have everything I need and want, really. More friendships and memories made with those I love….
What is your biggest extravagance?
By far….travel. I just have to go and go everywhere! It’s my treasure and where I enjoy spending both my time and money.
In which place are you happiest?
Traveling in general….but add traveling at the beach and that is probably where I am happiest.
What ambitions do you still have?
I would like to see my art career flourish. I’ve been making digital college and mixed media art for about 3 years now. I still want to have a one man show in a real brick and mortar gallery. I want people to have a reaction or experience from looking at it. I’d like to win a full-fledged award and not be a runner up. Maybe sell a piece or two!
What drives you on?
I just have to make the art when my head gets heavy with an idea. I want people to see the work.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
I feel totally cliché, but it is true…..my children. I can think of no greater accomplishment than raising good humans. I don’t even remember where my grandparents are buried. Our lives are forgotten so very quickly. But what I do know is they gave me an inheritance that was far greater than money. They left behind children of faith, who raised children of faith, taught to be good humans who will raise good humans. I won’t be remembered very far down the road, but the quality of my life will go on for many generations.
What do you find most irritating in other people?
The things I find the most irritating are the very things I struggle with. People who avoid eye contact in the elevator. Failing to talk in a kind way to strangers. Being judgmental. Selfish drivers that don’t pay attention to others around them. Being in a big hurry, always looking at my phone, ignoring people next to me.
If your twenty year old self could see you now, what would he think?
“So this is it, huh”…..
Which object that you’ve lost do you wish you still had?
I’m not big on possessions. But I sure do miss some people and friendships that are no longer with me.
What is the greatest challenge of our time?
The loss of meaningful connectivity and love…. We think today we are so well connected and technically we are. I can video chat with my daughter who lives across the pond in the UK using several different platforms at any moment. We send thousands of short texts but no love letters. As adults how many times do we plop into bed at night only to surf social media or play the latest mind numbing game, while another human sits quietly in the dark. I watched a group of teenagers dining before prom, dressed in their fancy clothes, at an elegant meal only to see all 12 of them on Social media, taking selfies and not sharing one spoken word. We video the latest fight at school hoping it goes viral. My son has a “dank meme” page on Insta with over 11k followers and I struggle to get attention for my very personal and deep feeling art page. Oof! Not sour grapes here….but I worry about the effect physically and mentally on our lives and our ability to connect and show love with our phones tethered to our hands. We share endless amounts of photos and words, but we are failing to connect. Personally, however, I have a deep love of sending applicable gif’s and bitmoji’s for every occasion. My kids will tell you that I am the MASTER!
Do you believe in the afterlife?
Absolutely! I’m so excited….. I can’t wait to get to heaven! I’m ready to go today in fact if my time came. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in a hurry to miss all the grand moments life has to offer. My kids make fun of my favorite phrase, “well, it’s been a good run”. I have a deep reservoir of faith in the Trinity that drives every aspect of my life. Doesn’t mean I’m getting it all right. But it does mean God’s got my mistakes covered.
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
Depends on the day you ask me. I’ve had long stretches where I’d swear I was (– 2)! But today, I’d have to go with a 9! My one point would tip over if I could make more money than I spend on art and feel established in my career.
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