"Dancing 'Round the Rabbit Hole" art exhibit opens tonight at Dinah Washington Center

“Alice in Wonderland” was one of the many books Janet Mego’s mother read her when she was young. The original John Tenniel drawings in the novel stuck with her in her subconscious, she said, and influenced her artwork throughout her career. 

“It was definitely exposure to the arts and exposure to literature that was given by my mother that's been such a huge influence on me," Mego said. "I was really really close to my mom. She passed away about five years ago and sometimes I feel like she's guiding me a little bit and terms of my muse and what I'm painting that kind of thing.”

Mego’s new exhibit "Dancing 'Round the Rabbit Hole” features her portrait and fantasy paintings. The exhibit opens today at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center. 

“I had an art teacher who once said that senses were made for those who can't fly and that made a lot of sense to me,” Mego said. “I can't fly but I can dance, and to me, dancing is a way of flying sort of outside and around problems and sometimes we dance into problems without realizing that we're encountering conflict. So my portraits and landscapes kind of run together under that theme.” 

The title piece was influenced by her relationship with her mother, she said, and reflects the love of drama that her mother helped her find when she was young. 

“She took me to a lot of plays,” Mego said. “She got me interested in Shakespeare, she read to me a lot and she turned me onto poetry things like that, so [the title painting]… a woman in costume who looks like she's wearing wings. The woman is not my mother and the little girl is not me. These represent the ideas of drama, that we can escape into fantasy and drama and find some peace and some well being.”

Mego has been involved with the arts since she was young. Growing up, she loved coloring and was encouraged by her mother to get involved with art lessons, theatre, gymnastics and music. When she was 14 she said she told her mom she wanted to “narrow it down” and picked art lessons. 

“She kind of laughed and said 'That’s fine, I just want you to enjoy the arts in some way and to try to find yourself in them,’” Mego said. “That's I guess what happened. I'm not musical I'm not very coordinated. I'm a pretty good dancer but I was never into competitive sports much so I guess the visual creator in me eventually found it's way to the top.”

Mego attended The University of Alabama where she learned under teachers like Arthur Oaks, Alvin Sella and Richard Zoellner. After she graduated, she taught art and started doing portrait commissions. She still does portrait commissions but now also does more fantasy paintings. 

“Both are equally rewarding,” Mego said. “The portraits can be exhausting because there’s so much involved in painting a face and making it work within the context of the background then in the fantasies and the landscape. But as far as how much reward I get out of either one, one doesn't really outweigh the other. It's pretty equal but the landscapes in the fantasy paintings are more fun in general to do.” 

She also said it’s important to her to feature in her portraits the diversity she sees in the world around her. 

“There are an awful lot of colors in all of my faces, and I think that people have got to begin to have more empathy for people who have grown up with the fact that they are people of color being at a disadvantage,” she said. “I think we're all composed of all colors and I think that we're all beautiful and I think that is something that people need to understand.” 

In her fantasy paintings, Mego said she tries to capture the conflicts in life along with the magic and mysteries of the world. 

“I'm interested in the strangeness of memory and the passage of time and architecture that sort of conveys an essence of ghosts who may still walk there,” she said. 

Sharron Rudowski, the education director for the Tuscaloosa Arts Council said it was the title of Mego’s exhibit that made her interested is booking it for the Dinah Washington Center. 

“If you haven't seen her work before a lot of it seems to be, I don't know if whimsical is the word I would use, but there's a lot of color,” she said. 

Like most of the Dinah Washington’s exhibits, Mego’s “Dancing 'Round the Rabbit Hole” will open during First Friday festivities downtown. 

“Every exhibit that we have in our gallery, we try to have it open on First Friday,” Rudowski said. “First of all it's easy for the public to remember and the artist to remember and for me to schedule… it's just an easy process for everyone to remember. I think it reminds people to come out regularly that ‘Okay this is First Friday there's a new exhibit.’”

Mego hopes that the exhibit will not only help her grow her business but that it will also let her share her work with new people. 

“I just mainly want to share my imagination with others and bring some pleasure to people who relates the same kinds of things that I find interesting,” she said. 

“Dancing 'Round the Rabbit Hole” will be on display at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center throughout the month of August. 

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