Jean McElvane

Jean McElvane is a mixed media artist who primarily works in sculpture, drawing and painting.  Pollinators are a key subject for Jean’s practice, which she has been exploring since 2017.  Jean was commissioned to make about four different pollinator mobiles for a Marin County  Event, who previously purchased a hummingbird mobile at one of the NIAD weekend openings.  Dragonflies & other pollinators came in later, including as brooch pins.  

Sharing about the process behind her pollinator works, she says:  

“Tin-National-by-3’s or Tinsby-3 (tins-be-3) for short, have three meanings  

1 – Tin (all made from tin foil)  

2 – National (international)  

3 – by 3s (3 dimensional / close to lifeness like)  

There are seven or eight of the pollinator subjects I’ve made so far. These include Hamlet  Hummingbird (their leader), Whirley (Old World) Swallowtail, Buzby Bee, Batrick Bat, Drake Fleeby Dragonfly (even if not a pollinator technically, I have been asked to make  them), Butterfly Tubbler, Ladle-Spoon Ladybug, & Tiger Swallowtail.”  

When asked about how she creates the names for her pieces she shares, “I go by personality.”  

They all hang on their personal Tinsby Tree (their home) as a display, along with specimen steps  on how they’re made. Jean observes, “They are my personal collections, my prototype samples I  keep with me to help me produce more and to show to others.” The display samples have a  different mark to distinguish them from works that are for sale. It is important to Jean to keep  display pieces for her own private archive of her work.  

Harlequin Masks are another frequent subject studied within Jean’s sculptural practice. She  shares, “The Sculpey masks were once puppet heads that had hair crack lines because I didn’t  use enough clay in certain places. After trying multiple gluing /repairing techniques, I then  decided to convert them into masks, including the plasticine clay, that were once used as holding  devices for the Sculpey puppet heads. I like using both Sculpey and plasticine.”  

Jean likes to source materials from many places including recycling centers, household items,  NIAD, Amazon, Etsy and Target. Types of recycled materials within her practice may include  aluminum foil, caps, lids and juice bottles. When asked why she centers recycled materials  within her work she shares, “They’re useful and beautiful.” Other materials frequently used  include markers, masking tape, nail polish, fibers/cloths and paper clips.  

Jean is a self motivated artist who creates her own monthly goals. Each month she has a different  series that she is focused on with the goal of completing ten within that series. For the month of 

July she will be dedicated to dragonflies and in August she will move onto telephones. Jean likes  to refine and rework a few specific subjects within her practice, finding that the time frame of a  month offers enough time for experimenting and troubleshooting new materials.  

Every month NIAD has weekend exhibition openings where Jean sets up her work space to focus  on her arts and crafts. She brings her art work samples to display and share with the public. She  also has printouts on each of her arts and crafts with background information to explain the  making process.  

In NIAD’s virtual Zoom studio Jean participates with her q-tee clown daughter named Pepe.  Pepe sometimes dances during Jam Sessions on Fridays, while Jean shows music videos to  match what music is played. Jean values her time in the NIAD virtual studio as well as in person  on Wednesdays and Fridays. In addition to her visual art practice, Jean curates musical playlists  on special occasions that she shares with close friends, NIAD staff & family.  

When asked how she envisions her work she shares simply, “Out in the world.” 

// Jean’s available work //

exhibition history

Small Wonders, organized by kg // NIAD Online Exhibition // July 2023

an echo carries texture // organized by Steph Kudisch // NIAD Online Exhibition // June 2023

Into the Brightness: Artists from Creativity Explored, Creative Growth & NIAD // Oakland Museum of California // May 2023

Rainbow Cat Picnic organized by Cynthia Ona Innis // NIAD Online Exhibition // March 2023

Waking, Breathing, Making! organized by Laura Kamian McDermott // NAID Online Exhibition // February 2023

WIN WIN 10 Silent Auction Preview Exhibition // NIAD Gallery Exhibition // February 2022

Holiday Gift Guide #5, organized by Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh // NIAD Online Exhibition // December 2021

Menagerie on 23rd Street, organized by Prajakti Jayavant // NIAD Windows Exhibition // December 2021

Closing Of The Year // curated by Jean McElvane NIAD Windows 2020

Waste Not, Want Not: The Redemption of Trash // ACCI Gallery Berkeley 2020

Butterfly, Sugar // organized by Bonanza NIAD Art Center 2019

Pollinators: Jean McElvane + Mary Mortimer // NIAD Art Center April 2019

Together // organized by Laurie Reid NIAD Art Center December 2018

The Handmade // Rock Paper Scissors Collective Oakland 2018

Curious Weave // organized by Ramekon O’Arwisters NIAD Art Center 2016

Jean McElvane // NIAD Art Center 2016

Telling It Slant // organized by Courtney Eldridge Richmond Art Center 2015

City In Motion // NIAD Art Center 2014

Yes To The Dress Pop-Up Shop // organized by Peter Gravener NIAD Art Center 2013

Diamond Dogs Pet Supply // NIAD Art Center 2013

Championship Vinyl // NIAD Art Center 2013

You Are Here // organized by Robert Wuilfe NIAD Art Center 2013

The Variety Show // Factory Outlet Gallery 2012

Holiday Pop Up Shop And Lounge  // NIAD Art Center 2012

recent press

Nat. Brut: I, Too, Like Purple (May 2017)

San Francisco Chronicle: “City In Motion”: NIAD Artists Create Urban Environment (2014, May)

San Francisco Chronicle: NIAD Art Center’s Gifts Of Artistic Ability (2012, December)