Known for large still lifes of common objects with bright colors--lime green, pink, yellow--, Janet Fish works from a loft in the SoHo section of New York City and takes pride in the fact that she paints "forbidden subjects," realistic still lifes. Her work, expressive of her highly independent spirit, is a reaction against the pure abstraction that has been prevalent for so many years in the American art world, especially in New York.
She was born in Boston into a family of artists. Her grandfather was impressionist Clark Voorhees; her mother was a sculptor which Janet originally wanted to be; and her sister, Alida, is a photographer. Janet, who grew to be nearly six-feet tall, spent much time in her childhood at the Old Lyme Colony in Connecticut with her artist grandfather and there was much influenced by American Impressionism.
At Smith College, she studied sculpture and printmaking with Leonard Baskin and also studied sculpture at Yale University. She did her first still lifes in the late 1960s and early hit upon her signature style, which was reflective surfaces often depicted in plastic wrap, glassware, and mirrored surfaces. She also showed brand names such as Windex, which aligned her with pop artists.
In the 1980s, she began spending much time in rural Vermont with her long-time companion, painter Charles Parness, and on these trips transports from SoHo the many still life props she needs for her paintings.
However, her interest in realism and the way light plays on surfaces set her apart from the prevalent modernists, and that decision has literally paid off because her work has been acquired by numerous collectors and major museums including the Chicago Art Institute, the Boston Museum, and the Whitney Museum in New York.
It is said that in her work she retained the energy she learned from the Abstract Expressionists. She has loose and linear brushstrokes with elements of abstraction, but most of her subjects are recognizable such as bags of junk food, crying children, cans of beer, etc.
Fish's work has been characterized as photorealist and has also been associated with new realism. She does not consider herself a photorealist; elements such as her composition and use of color demonstrate that her artistic point of view is that of a painter rather than a photographer.
In an interview, American painter Eric Fischl spoke of his admiration for Janet Fish: "She's one of the most interesting realists of her generation. Her work is a touchstone, and tremendously influential. Anyone who deals with domestic still life has to go through her, she's very important."