An Interview with Janice Loreta (Part One)
by Loretta Morra
Author's Note: This interview was recorded over a 3 day period during the late summer of 2005. The excerpt that follows (part 1 of 3) describes Janice’s early years, education and the path that eventually would bring her to today. She is an empowering and inspirational healer, shamanic artist, herbalist, writer, and teacher.
Loretta Morra: Im speaking today with Janice Loreta, shamanic artist, healer and inspirational teacher. So, Janice as we speak, you just completed your largest mandala to date a 40-foot prayer wheel in the sand. I saw it; it was emotionally moving. I felt the power. Just to be in its presence was awe-inspiring. Where did this all begin for you? I mean your early years, what experiences and foundation brought you to this space?
A Loreta/Gilchrist Prayer Wheel
Janice Loreta: Thank you Loretta, for your kind words. Youre right; this latest mandala is my largest to date. I did not create it by myself however; Charles Gilchrist (www.CharlesGilchrist.com) and I collaborated. It was such a powerfully spiritual experience for me that I did find myself asking that exact same question. How did I get to this blessed moment in time? My question however was rooted in gratitude, not inquiry. But I will tell you a little about my early years if you would like.
LM: Wonderful. Lets begin with your name. Its so ironic that your last name is pronounced the same as my first is this your given birth name?
JL: Yes, I was born Janice Ann Loreta in November 1957 (Scorpio, with Scorpio rising & Virgo moon). I was raised in a small suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. My last name is a derivative of our family’s surname of DeLoreto. It was shortened many years ago by my grandfather, I believe. And Loretta, you’re correct, it is pronounced just like your first name, just spelled with one "T".
LM: What was it like growing up? And were you an artistic child?
JL: My childhood was pretty normal, at least for the 1950s; happily married parents, 2 sisters, nice home, etc. No real dysfunction as many artists seem to have in their shadows.
Janice (Red Hat)
Janice and Father
Janice and Grandmothers
The property that my parents built on was 3 acres of forest, with a creek and a large hill that expanded into many more acres of forest. Those woods are where I really grew up. I spent so much of my childhood within those comforting arms of Mother Earth. I recognize now that I was just being prepared to become the woman, the healer that I am today.
LM: Really, in what ways?
JL: As I look back now I realize that the hours I spent collecting rocks and fossils grew into my current interest in using crystals in healing. The energetic connection I experienced between myself and the Earth was my introduction to energy/intuitive encounters and Reiki (although I had no idea what that was at the time). The time I spent getting to know the animals and especially the plants led me to become an herbalist and a woman of the Earth, and the drawings I made and the multiple mud pies I created (complete with plants, leaves and other decoration, of course), led me to work with clay, paint, and collage. So, to answer your question Loretta, although I did not come from an artistic family per se, I did feel compelled to create even at a very young age.
LM: Very interesting Janice. So tell me, how did your education form you from this point? Did you go on to art school and all of the usual foundation?
JL: Well, I did take my art instruction very seriously, and I had some wonderful teachers along the way. My high school years were pivotal in my development as an artist. I had a high school teacher who allowed me the freedom to experiment. I learned to throw pots, create jewelry, weave, draw, paint, and so much more. Due to personal and family situations, I was not able to continue on to art school or college. Instead, I created my own "curriculum". I worked in the printing business at the time, so I would work during the day doing commercial art, photography and layout, and then devour art books in the evening. I would spend countless hours drawing from the masters’ work, and educating myself, not only the history of the past, but the history being created by the current working artists. Today I feel grateful that I do not need to "get over" my education like so many formally trained artists do.
LM: What influences do you attest to?
JL: Georgia O’keeffe and Frida Kahlo were very strong influences, as were Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Blake, and Chagall. In addition there was deKooning, Krasner, Frakenthaler, and Frank. Perhaps Mary Frank has been the biggest influence on my development and direction as an artist. Her work is very organic in nature as well as spontaneous, and her clay pieces inspired and moved me at an impressionable age. Okeeffe taught me not to listen to the others and to have courage to go my own way.
LM: So where did your path lead you from there?
JL: I was very prolific with my creation of art, to a point that I had a one-woman exhibition in 1980, with over 30 pieces.
Janice Loreta, 1980 One Woman Exhibition
I worked in the graphics/printing business for many years, taught commercial art classes, and even started my own graphic design business. I would work during the day, then paint or write until the wee hours.
LM: Write? Do you continue to write today?
JL: Yes, actually I do.
LM: Im very intrigued by that, we will come back to this. But for now lets continue with your foundation years to this path today.
JL: Well, I gave birth to two sons and pretty much did the stay at home mom job for awhile. During this time, I began to study the medicinal use of herbs through a correspondence course. That childhood connection to the plants started to become re-awakened and I embraced it all. I began a small home business selling herbal products and teaching herbal and drawing classes. I eventually studied with several extraordinary women herbalists. In addition, I studied shamanism, alternative healing therapies, that sort of thing.
LM: Did you paint on a regular basis during this time?
JL: No Loretta, I did not. Occasionally but not consistently.
LM: Any regrets?
JL: I really do not have any regrets about this. The time I spent with my sons as they were growing up and developing into the wonderful young men that they are today was truly priceless. It is with extreme gratitude that I look back on those years. However personally during this time I continued to hear that still, small voice that whispered to me about my own passion to live my real life my authentic life as they say.
LM: What does that mean Janice? Where was the disparity?
JL: Great question. I suppose that internally I could feel this soul called artist, called healer, yet in my day to day life I was not living it. I embraced the role called mother but I knew in my heart that I was being called to something more. For me, there was this feeling that I had to find a way to meld my creative energies with the Earth energies, with the healing energies, all from a spiritual center of some sort.
LM: You seem to be living that now Janice. One look at that sand prayer mandala and I would say there is a synergy at work. How did this happen?
JL: (laughs) Im not really sure Loretta. Much of this came together within my written journal. It was here that I acknowledged that my purpose on this planet is for healing, and that art, herbs, shamanistic practices, teaching they were all just my tools for the journey.
LM: Was there an awakening moment, or has it been more of a process?
JL: Oh, definitely it has been a process. Yet I would say that becoming attuned to Reiki was a type of trigger that awakened the healer in me.
LM: Now there is so much more that I need to ask you about mandalas, prayer wheels, Reiki, drumming and this new business of yours called Renaissance Studio. I realize that our time is up for today, may I return tomorrow to continue this interview?
JL: Of course, but not too early Im not much of a morning person!
(This interview continues within the Mandala web page, as Janice describes her experiences with Earth energies, Reiki, shamanic principles, Sacred Geometry, and Mandala.