Jan Groover – The Formalist Who Celebrates Life
Jan Groover was born in Plainfield, New Jersey in 1943. Ms. Groover pursued an art education and received her BFA in painting in 1965 from the Pratt Institute in New York and then received her Master of Arts in Art Education from Ohio State University in 1969. After teaching art in high school and then at the University of Hartford in the early 1970s, he turned to photography. While she experimented with a variety of styles and visions, she is perhaps best known for her still life images of ordinary objects, kitchen utensils, plants, but taking her images with vibrant colors and larger-than-life close-ups. He received grants from the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Ms. Groover enjoyed a wide range of artistic expressions. The larger-than-life images of his photography found expression in platinum-palladium printing, exaggerated images with brilliant colors and luminance. He enjoyed writing and publishing “Pure invention: the still life of the table“in 1990. He also taught at the State University of New York College before moving to France, where he now lives.
We don’t know exactly what led Ms. Groover from a formal art career to photography. She is quoted saying: “With photography I didn’t have to make things up, everything was already there.”
I was originally drawn to Mrs. Groover’s photographs for their vibrant color and larger-than-life images. In his life, there is a strong deviation from photographs depicting movement, time, speed and color towards what is perhaps best known, the simple everyday objects found in the home. One review says he ‘turned to the kitchen sink’ for new ideas. Many of his photographs show kitchen utensils, knives, forks, and other items found around the home, such as bowls, plates, or houseplants.
His photographs were taken with a 4×5 vision camera. His photographs emphasized and illustrated his influence and obedience to formalism. One of my favorite photographs “Entitled, 1979. JG # 95.2 ‘”, it has a mixture of shapes, curves and lines that is almost hypnotic and yet when I looked at it for the first time it was easy for my imagination to see many other things. I see shell and ruins and objects of a Roman triumph. Perhaps this is an expression of Mrs. Groover’s alignment with formalism. shape can captivate.
Does any shape have rewarding qualities? Does any shape have a special detail when we take the time to observe? The image above accentuates the silver and yet we see the tarnish turning into iridescence and mirrored reflections.
“According to Groover, the meaning of the objects is not important; only the shape, the texture and the shape that falls in a particular space is important.”
What a wonderful tribute to a photographer and a tribute to her art. His ability to share and see the illuminating quality in the simplest of things speaks volumes about his vision. When I review Ms. Groover’s work, it is easy to confuse some of her photographs with her impressions. His photographs possess some of the ‘larger than life’ colors and details … of a print that was privileged with further editing. According to one writer, “Groover creates images that are interesting not so much for the things they show us as for how they show us these things.”
Ms Grover’s artwork can be easily found on many websites, but the images referenced in this article can be viewed at: