Urgent Museum Notice

First Brush Stroke

Close up of First Brush Stroke

Three vertical panels of warm yellow paper with faint black text. A large, black, calligraphic flourish is on the central panel, extending slightly onto each of the side panels. Three golden squares are superimposed at intervals, vertically, on top of the black flourish in the central panel.

Jan Owen, First Brush Stroke (Books 1, 2, and 3), 2001; Acrylic on paste paper, Each panel: 14 1/2 x 14 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Museum purchase: Members' Acquisition Fund; © Jan Owen

First Brush Stroke
Jan Owen

Jan Owen says that First Brush Stroke (Books 1, 2, and 3) began “with three long panels of golden yellow paste paper. Just as I was considering what words to write, one of my favorite poets, John Tagliabue, sent me a poem that became the key: ‘The first brush stroke, now where will we go?…Order will be made like still music.’ All the poems in this piece are by Tagliabue, they sing about words, color, spirit, dance, and love.”

Paste paper is often Owen’s starting point because the process of creating it allows her to explore color and pattern. From there, she layers calligraphic brushstrokes and columns of text.

Owen has long been interested in the ways human beings communicate, whether through language, music, color, or gesture, and she seeks to combine multiple approaches in her artworks. First Brush Stroke incorporates both written language and bold expressive brushwork that provides a visual record of the artist’s gestures as she made them.

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Jan Owen
  • Title

    First Brush Stroke
  • Date

  • Medium

    Acrylic paint, Paste paper, Sumi ink
  • Dimensions

    43 3/4 x 46 in. (3 panels)
  • Donor Credit

    Museum Purchase: Members’ Acquisition Fund
  • Photo Credit

    © Jan Owen
  • On Display