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As an avid people watcher most of her life, it made sense for watercolor artist Janet Flom to have people as her primary subjects in her work.

In her earlier days, the local artist painted more realistically with watercolor, as she focused on commissioned portraits. But as she learned more about art over the years, the distinct lines Flom used to outline human figures became a little softer.

Community members can see how Flom’s work evolved at her “Then and Now” exhibit currently on display at the Spirit Room in downtown Fargo. The public reception takes place Saturday, May 19, with an artist talk by Flom at 5:30 p.m.

“More recent work continues to be figurative and usually human, but only as a vehicle to explore the surface qualities inherent to the specific media,” she says in her artist statement. “The goal is two-dimensional picture-making instead of representing reality, regardless of subject.”

“She Wants to Play” by Janet Flom. Photo courtesy of Spirit Room.

Flom has completed over 300 commissioned portraits in oil, watercolor and terra cotta that appear in public and private collections all over the country.

A native of Detroit, Flom studied art as a child at Cranbrook Art Institute and the Bloomfield Art Association, but set her artistic ambitions aside when she attended college at the University of Michigan and law school at William Mitchel College of Law.

Flom worked as a trial attorney until her passion for art beckoned her once again. She went back to school to get a Bachelor of Arts in studio painting from Minnesota State University Moorhead.

“The Critic” by Janet Flom. Photo courtesy of Spirit Room.

According to her bio, Flom has served on the Lake Region Arts Council, was founding president of the Red River Watercolor Society and received a McKnight-LRAC grant for her work. She’s a highly accomplished artist who has won numerous national and international awards for her watercolor paintings.

In Fall 2013, Flom’s artwork was featured in “The Art of Watercolour,” published in France and Great Britain. Her most recent accomplishment was creating three large public art mosaic murals for the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. She also has large mosaic murals in the lobby at the new Sanford Medical Center Fargo.

Flom currently operates studios in Moorhead (sculpture), South Fargo (mosaic) and downtown Fargo (painting).

To this day, faces and figures remain her favorite subjects.

“It takes a long time to find one’s artistic ‘voice’ and if one is lucky, that search never ends,” Flom says. “I credit my favorite models with providing the inspiration to keep going.”

“Then and Now” is on display at the Spirit Room until June 9. The Spirit Room is open 1-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday at 111 Broadway. For more information on Janet Flom, visit janetflom.com.

“Red Reader” by Janet Flom. Photo courtesy of Spirit Room.