Mount Island’s Village Voices is a series of bite-sized interviews featuring diverse rural artists. If you’re interested in being featured, email us at

Effigy mounds. 19×29, gouache on paper, 2014.

Jane Ryder is a feral artist that resides in Oskaloosa, Iowa. She likes to draw and print shirts. She loves her kid, her family, her pals, her dog, her bird, and being alive. Visit her website at, and connect with her on Instagram or Facebook.

What are you digging right now in terms of music, movies, new shows, books?

I’m enjoying a lot of stuff as of late. My favorite thing at the moment has got to be interacting with people on Instagram live. For those unfamiliar, it’s just a feature where the user can go live and interact with fans in the comment feed. It’s pretty wild. I’ve met a lot of interesting people and have started working on a lot of Instagram-related projects. 

As for the internet, I’m enjoying A fella named DJ Freedem started a project called the underground plant trade. It’s a cool project where white people are encouraged to give Black people plants as a form of metaphorical reparations. It’s been insane watching Freedem take off from a tweet to being in Vogue and on Tosh.o. He’s brilliant. Check him out on insta. His smile makes my days better.

I’ve been watching some shows. I’m currently watching Dave and Deadbeat on Hulu, also Lovecraft Country. I’m watching a lot of kids shows with my daughter. She’s super into The Muppet Babies, which is neat because I loved them growing up. “Just close your eyes and make-believe and you can be anywhere.” Also watching Hoops, Murder in the Heartland, and I’ll be Gone in the Dark. And of course, lots of cartoons. I can’t get enough of ’em.

I haven’t REALLY loved a movie in a while. But I’m a big fan of horror movies like Creep, Drag Me to Hell, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Lords of Salem, and anything bloody and kitcshy… I’m talking to you, American Horror Story 1984.

Music: Serengeti, Why?, AJJ, Born Ruffians. Open Mike Eagle just dropped a new album that’s pretty great. Jeff Rosenstock, Conor Oberst, and Sleigh Bells. So many more.

Tell us a story about one of the first times you took up your practice as a writer, artist, dancer, etc.—the first time you put pen to page, brush to canvas, etc. If you work in different mediums, what came first?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing. I think it’s the main way I communicate. Feelings used to be VERY hard for me to express. I’ve gotten a lot better over the last five years but, my god, I was terrible at expression for so long. I wasn’t able to express my needs and desires verbally, so I always did it with pictures. My mom says when I was little, she could always tell when I was angry because my animal drawings would have frowns or would be sticking their tongues out at other animals.

So, I guess my first major memory of making purposeful art was a few years after my parent’s divorce. I was probably 4. My mom put us in therapy, and I remember the woman asking me to make thumbprints all over a piece of paper. Afterward, we turned the thumbprints into faces or people. It was awesome. I remember being really into it. So that’s the first time I remember being taught how to harness art.

How does living in a rural place or a connection to a rural place (small town, or teeny-tiny city, village, etc.) impact how and what you create?

Oh my. I didn’t end up in rural Iowa on my own accord. I came here with an ex-boyfriend and since I was never good at making decisions (I float into everything, unfortunately), I didn’t purposely leave the state. We ended up breaking up, and I ended up in another relationship (we have a kid together and are going through a divorce). And here I am, making art in rural Iowa.

It affects everything. I essentially make art in a vacuum. I have some art pals here. And that makes me happy. Living in a rural space has informed my art in many beautiful ways. I understand depth and landscapes better, I know how to draw trees and plants. I understand what I’m drawing because I live within it. I used to just Google. Now I am my own Google for most of my stuff. Anyway, I’m too fearful about money to move anywhere else. I have family in Chicago, so I might end up in Chicago again one day in the future. Until then, it’s Iowa. My kid loves her dad and I don’t want to force a separation.

COVID-19 has affected everyone in the world in different ways.  What are your thoughts about this moment and what it could mean for other creatives and artists?  What has been the impact on your creative flow?

I think it’s made a good impact on people such as myself. I have some issues with depression and anxiety, and it makes the idea of moving to LA or New York terrifying. You don’t have to live in LA to talk to the people that make things happen. You can do it in new ways. Zoom, FaceTime, whatever. I think people in animation and art are more interested in new waves of communication. And for that, I am very thankful.

From my observations, I don’t feel like I need to move to New York to be successful.

Imagine you must write a note in a bottle and send it to another rural artist living all alone on some desert island berry patch?  What would you want to say to them?

Hey, pal. Tether some coconuts together and float on over. If you follow the current west, you should be here in 23 hours. I love you even though I don’t know you.