“For many, Jana will be remembered as an artist, educator, and colleague who inspired everyone to find their best selves, do their finest work, and realize their greatest potential,” states Wilkerson. “Her artistry focused primarily on multi-media, photography and design and she was a leader in these fields. Her creativity seemed to have had no limits. For me, Jana was quite frankly a powerhouse, a charismatic force of nature, and I was profoundly transformed by her talent, vision and intellect. Most importantly, I will always remember Jana as my partner, the beloved one with whom I created a world of wonderment, where female camaraderie empowered a shared voice articulated in the works of Perform La Femme.”
Perez’s work, which critiques ideas around female identity and beauty, has been featured in exhibitions including the 4th Annual Photography Biennial; the ReFresh Print Biennial I; a Portfolio Winner exhibition at The Houston Center for Photography; Woman Made Gallery in Chicago; Art Basel Miami; The Fitton Center for the Arts in Hamilton, Ohio; and the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science in Tallahassee, Florida. Also a design professional, Perez’s work has been recognized by Adweek, The Dallas Advertising League, The American Advertising Federation of Fort Worth, Graphic Design USA and The University & College Designers Association (UCDA).
“She was a brilliant and amazing artist, collaborator, designer, educator, colleague, mother, sister, wife, and dear dear friend,” states artist Susan Kae Grant, a friend and TWU colleague of Perez. “Jana was always enthusiastic and calm no matter how big the challenges were in front of her. I met her first as a serious and talented student and dedicated educator. ‘Networking, community and collaboration’ were at the core of her pedagogy and artistic practice. In all my years working alongside Jana, her never-ending support, creative insights, dedication and passion continued to inspire me to find calm and resolute answers to challenges and also to live life to the fullest. She was always there for me with that beautiful smile, her generosity and bad-ass confidence! It’s hard to imagine a world without Jana Perez.”
Perez’s body of work includes the series objectify, which was exhibited at Woman Made Gallery, Chicago in 2008. It paired a series of objects with the female body, and although infused with humor, the work takes a serious look at the pervasive male gaze in advertising and media.
Perez’s collaborations with Wilkerson, however, were among the last photographs she created. Their series of performative and narrative self portraits weave together fantasy, dreams and time, defying tropes and stereotypes around aging and beauty. The works from this collaboration have been exhibited at Dallas’ Bath House Cultural Center, Art Room in Fort Worth, as well as Flow Art Space in St. Maul, Minnesota, and the Houston Assistance League’s 2015 Art Show.
Wilkerson recalls a favorite memory while creating on of their portraits. They were in Florida on a beach during a storm making photographs and ignoring an impending storm. As the winds picked up and onlookers urged them to take shelter, but they continued shooting. “We looked around to realize it was just the two of us, alone, not a soul on the beach for as far as we could see — she and I in the midst of this indifferent nature, in the midst of the sublime. Without needed words and only a shared glance we chose to keep working, pushing the limit until instinct took hold and demanded we run.”
Making it to the parking lot, as Wilkerson writes, “We both were struck with uncontrollable laughter, the kind of blissful laughter that arrives only on rare occasions. In that divine moment the world was all ours and together, anything was possible… .”
Jana Perez was born in Irving, Texas and lived in Plano.The fifth-generation Texan survived her father Walter Martin and is survived by her mother, Peggy Martin, her sister Laura Martin Leonard, her son Kelly Kunreuther and her husband of 23 years Rolando Perez. Final arrangements will be announced in the coming days and will be noted here.