Janan Siam

photo by alex chi
Self-portrait (cropped)

Siam introduced us to her work through paintings portraying 1950’s consumer culture as cannibalism and ghoulish franken-doll sculptures — and then surprised us with a painting that captured humanity so sensitively  we couldn’t believe the same artist was responsible for both.

Our previous coverage of Siam’s work was so brief that we asked her for a follow-up interview.

She will have a final show in the Visual Arts building (Art Barn) before graduating this spring from the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD); we recommend keeping an eye out for dates and times.

Q & A

photo by alex chi


My goal is to get a master’s degree in studio art and teach at a university.
I didn’t know what to except when I began my art major, because I did not have artistic experience.
I enrolled in Mary Benedicto’s video art class and in an oil painting class.
I caught on to producing video art pretty quickly but learning how to work with oil paint was a struggle. I did learn how to do it and by the end of the class I really enjoyed using oil. I like to take a long time with my paintings, and oil takes longer than other paints to dry.
Because I want to be a professor, I have tried to take every class that I can– painting, video art, digital color photography, black and white film photography, print making, 3D design.


You can articulate your ideas in different mediums to differing effect, and I’m interested in what space can do. Because of the possibilities of working with space, I am trying to branch out into sculpture and incorporate my videos into it.
For my honors project, I will make pieces that mix fogs, mirrors and glass with video projections to create a kind of mind-fuck. There is no other word for it.
I haven’t done installation work before, so I hope to problem-solve as I plan some pieces that are structural yet organic and impassive yet interactive.


It’s not a bad idea to put blinders on and create from within, in fact it’s a good exercise. However, we live in a world full of people and you should go look at and draw ideas from other people and other art.


I like video artists Theresa Hubbard and Alexandra Burchler; they are a couple and professors at UT Austin.
I also love Salvador Dali. His surrealism inspires my video work a lot with the moods he created. He tried to use something you had never seen before to evoke some sort of mood. It draws you in and makes you think about what you’re looking at.
Josia Mcelheny is a sculpture and glass blowing artist. He also works with mirrors and I like the concept of reflectivity in art.


Themes in my work are nostalgia, childhood memories and time in general. I like to explore the idea of remembering what it was like to be young since you can never be that person again. I try to represent that self-reflection in my work.
I am also interested in the meaning between physics and psychology inside the mind. While we have a physical brain, we also have a mind that is separate from it and almost unexplainable.


Another theme in my work is political commentary. I am very anti-capitalist and anti-consumerism. I try to express this in ways that haven’t been done before. I took a woman’s history class and that inspired me to use women for some of my work. If you look at the history of consumerism, women are what really pushed us towards it beginning in the 1950s. Everything was marketed at housewives, and they fell right into it like sheep. I try to include elements of cannibalism in those works because I equate capitalism with cannibalism The machine of capitalism is always stepping on others to get ahead, only worried about number one, and that bothers me a lot. So the meat you see in my work is human meat.
Instead of capitalism I would prefer Democratic Socialism. I don’t think the same way other people do. I don’t place any value on money. We are all here and alive, why waste time trying to accumulate wealth? The number one thing for me is making sure not only that I am comfortable but that everyone else is too. Not just financially, but more in the way of avoiding indulgence to make sure you are leaving more for others. Sharing is caring.
While of course there will always be a natural hierarchy of wealth, a large disparity between poor and rich is unacceptable. There is too much greed.
I have a very empathetic point of view.
I wouldn’t say I explore beliefs outside my own in my work, but I definitely admit that I am guilty of the wrongful deeds portrayed in my work. Though I fully disagree with many facets of our society, it is difficult being raised and living in it to not be sucked in. I try to document my back-and-forth struggle.


My empathic point of view is referring to how I feel about other people in general, ethics-wise.
To be up front, it is my opinion that if he (a capitalist) is aware of the moral dilemma involved with the fundamentals of capitalism, he unfortunately lacks something I believe essential to humanity: compassion.
I don’t try to attack anyone, just to encourage self-reflection in general.


Here’s the thing, I’ve read some material for my conservative politics class that is very new to me. So, for now, I maintain my political views on economic and social conditions, but I am still attaining my full knowledge of each stance so I can definitively say “I’m this” or “I’m that.”


photo by alex chi


Photo by alex chi


photo by alex chi

Gold # 1

photo by alex chi

Written by Rebecca Gomez & Stephanie Vastine
Photographed by Alexander Chi