Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces


Janet Olivia Henry. Ritual. 1982–83

Mixed-media installation with two dolls of Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek with the makeup removed, one in a Barbie robe, socks with slippers, and scarf, and one in a blouse, overalls, socks, and brown boots, and miniatures of a jacket on a hanger, perfume bottle, Barbie hanger, baseball cap, umbrella, shopping bag, fan, screen, carryall, comb, can opener, pencil, sketchbook, camera, sunglasses, apple, cheese, spool of thread, postcard exhibition invitation, basket with shells and starfish, wooden chair, baskets, rake, watering can, garden spade, staghorn fern, orchids, philodendron, gesneriads, rabbit’s-foot ferns, night-blooming cereus, cacti, serrated-leaf plant, oval-leaf plant, crassula, Boston fern, Easter cactus, and a palm, 18 × 18" (45.7 × 45.7 cm). Collection the artist

Artist, Janet Olivia Henry: I am Janet Henry and I’ve considered myself an artist I think forever. I met artists in high school. Most of them were white and men, but I met artists. I knew you could have a profession. And when I went into Just Above Midtown, there it was. It was a magnet for artists, who just wanted to follow their minds.

And then somebody told me it was gonna close. So I came up there. I was just, like, spouting, “Well, you can’t close, please don’t close!” And Linda said staying open was partly due to me almost having a nervous breakdown in front of her.

When JAM moved downtown, every day Linda would get up early, she would look at ads, she’d go walking around Tribeca until she found a place on Franklin Street. I used to say, if you saw somebody in a suit down there, they were lost. It was still industrial.

The office at JAM was in the basement and I remember bringing in toys and photographing them down in the basement.

My work, it’s social commentary. What I found is that American culture had been replicated in miniature. I have a range of characters. Even though I don’t create the dolls and the clothes, I have to find the thing that makes it come together.

I really thought I had to invent my own medium. And I kind of came with that attitude from high school through art school. And it flowered at JAM.

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