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Janie Korn Makes The Candle Art You Didn’t Know You Need So Badly
Way better than your average vanilla-scented candle
Feature 04 Apr 2020

Urs Fischer made major art world headlines when he made a giant life-size wax sculpture of Leonardo DiCaprio last year. But he’s not the only artist making art out of candle wax. Janie Korn also makes arty candles, but hers are a little more fun. Creating flammable versions of everyone from Sesame Street to the Simpsons, she also takes inspiration from iconic pop culture moments like that butchered restoration of the Ecce Homo. She also gives the wax treatment to art historical favourites such as Goya and Botticelli. Oh, and did we mention Wendy Williams was a fan? Available on her website for as little as $75, they are totally affordable, and provide that humour we could really use right now. So basically, interviewing Janie was a no-brainer! 

Janie Eric Helgas

Janie Korn by Eric Helgas

What got you into making art?

My mother put a huge emphasis on artistic development during my childhood. On weekends we would pull out this big chest of paints and decorate tiles and pillows and tell each other  stories that would correspond to the different vignettes we created. It makes a lot of sense now how formative that was, especially since my sister and I both turned out to make creativity a big part of our careers despite having been raised in Ohio which has the color and flavor of cream of wheat.

What drew you to candles?

I’ve always been super interested in interactivity in my work. The sculpture I was working in prior to candles was an improvement on my illustrations in that regard, occupying physical, dimensional space, but after a while I started to feel so stagnant. I decided I needed to make something you could consume fully and after a few experiments (i.e. accidentally eating bulk amounts of edible art I had made) I thought candles were a good option. 

2elmo candle

Elmo Candle, Image courtesy Janie Korn

What are some of your favourite pieces that you’ve made?

I get excited when I can make something that’s more ambitious in terms of scale and design. I made one candle that was a family tree with I think seven heads on it that was just under two feet. Also I really liked my portrait of Wendy Williams. I sort of obsessed about it just because I love her so much and it’s not that I needed straight verisimilitude – the energy (eek sorry) was much more important. 

Who and what are your inspirations?

I love the sculptor Sally Saul. She makes these really absurdist figures that are eccentric but also super contained and quiet. I’m super inspired by that. Gaetano pesce. Old Betty boop cartoons. Pee wee Herman. The muppets. TMZ lol 


Liz Candle, Image courtesy Janie Korn

What are you working on right now? 

Right now I’m working on cataloging some of the spots in NYC I find interesting, like the funeral home to the stars on Madison Avenue and this deli (now closed) where i met Jackie mason. This is my quarantine prep. 


Who are your art sheroes?

Eva Hesse, Sophie Crumb, Helen Frankenthaler. I admire them all enormously. I am also endlessly impressed by the work ethic, generosity of community, and vision of my friends Jordan SondlerGrace MiceliMari Andrew, and Susan Korn nee Susan Alexandra.


Chairy Candle, Image courtesy Janie Korn

What advice would you give to young women wanting to pursue a career as an artist?

If you don’t have any opportunities and haven’t formed a community, start putting stuff together. When I first moved to New York I found a cheap space in Chinatown and curated a bunch of stuff that featured my friends and gave me an excuse to meet people who I otherwise wouldn’t know. People appreciate you caring about and talking about their work and it’s a lot of effort putting together shows but that energy comes back at some point.

What are you up to next?

I have a two person show with Ernesto Renda opening April 23 at the Empty Circle Gallery and I’m building my pieces off the Jewish mourning tradition of the yahrzeit candle.

Text Lizzy Vartanian

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