Jan Estep

Photo of Jan Estep

Contact Me


W170B Regis Center for Art

418 21st Ave S


As an artist I have worked in a wide range of media including video, photography, drawing, painting, embroidery, artist books, site-specific maps, and creative writing. I have always been interdisciplinary and experimental in my creative research, mixing visual and literary media, making and thinking, art and philosophy. My early artwork is heavily conceptual. I loved that approach and continue to feel the influence of ideas. Yet, seeking greater bodymind integration and a deeper connection to what might be called soul or spirit, my focus over recent years has shifted from conceptual to more participatory, performative, and process-based approaches to artmaking. Since 2015 I have certified in teaching Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Kundalini Yoga and these trainings have increasingly found their way into my studio and teaching. My practice is also informed by Buddhist Vipassana meditation, process art, and expressive arts. A growing emphasis on combining somatic, contemplative, and art practices now shapes my creative research.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • M.F.A.: Studio Arts, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, 1997.
  • Ph.D.: Philosophy, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, 1993.
  • B.A.: Biology and Art, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA, 1984.


  • somatic and contemplative approaches to art (art and yoga, art and mindfulness)
  • interdisciplinary approaches to art (art and philosophy, art and cognitive neuroscience)
  • writing on the arts, creative nonfiction writing
  • text works, artist books, and independent publishing
Courses Taught
  • ARTS 1002 - Art and Life: Thinking About Ethics Through Art
  • ARTS 1202 - Art and Yoga: Combining Somatic, Contemplative, and Creative Practices
  • ARTS 1905 - Art and Language: Say Something, Make Something (Freshman Seminar)
  • ARTS 1912 - Art and Yoga (Freshman Seminar)
  • PHIL 3502W / ARTS 3490 - Introduction to Aesthetics
  • ARTS 5490 - Issue: Image and Text
  • ARTS 5701 - Performed Photography: Documentation of Artistic Acts and Social Interventions
  • ARTS 8402 - Theoretical Constructions in Contemporary Art
Research & Professional Activities

Professional Activities

  • Kundalini Research Institute (KRI) Teaching Certificate: Level Two Vitality and Stress , June - July 2019
  • KRI Teaching Certificate: Level Two Mind and Meditation , June - July 2018
  • KRI Teaching Certificate: Level Two Conscious Communication , October 2017 - February 2018
  • KRI Teaching Certificate: Level Two Authentic Relationships , June - July 2017
  • KRI Teaching Certificate: Level One Kundalini Yoga as Taught by Yogi Bhajan , April - May 2017
  • MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) Teacher Training Program: Center for Mindfulness, UMass Medical School , January - September 2015


  • "Are You There, Guanyin?": In the past few years I have been exploring art as a relational and contemplative spiritual practice. The most significant of these works is the large-scale multimedia installation "Are you there, Guanyin?," 2013, commissioned for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA). For this piece I borrowed a beautiful eleventh-century wood sculpture of the bodhisattva Guanyin (Kwan Yin) from the museum’s Buddhist collection and produced an audio soundscape of lovingkindness and compassion phrases, spoken by 16 local practitioners, young and old. In full presence of Guanyin, these phrases were played on small speakers hanging directly above meditation benches, creating a welcoming space for viewers to hear and receive these good wishes. As part of the commission I led a public workshop at the MIA on gratitude, introducing others to the power of mindfulness through a guided meditation, intentional writing exercise, and group discussion. The meditative installation was open to the public for almost a year, and had a positive impact on the community; one example is that the VA Medical Center asked to use the metta phrases for their Meditation Room. See also my projects "Grand Canyon Suicide Map/Metta Meditation, Grand Canyon National Park," 2011, and "Conversation Portraits: For the One Who...," 2014.
  • "Thinking Portraits: Mind, Body, Language": A collaborative interdisciplinary art and cognitive neuroscience project. The three principal investigators are Jan Estep, Art, UMN; Wilma Koutstaal, Psychology, UMN; and Sheng He, Psychology, UMN. In the original research group we studied various neural and cognitive properties of semantic knowledge with regard to abstract and concrete language and the role functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) plays in representing scientific findings. Using MRI scans of my brain asquired from our study, I created a series of drawings exploring what the anatomical images could and could not reveal about human experience, our emotions, and the impact of trauma. Funded by a University Symposium Award and the Institute for Advanced Study, 2009 - 2012
  • "Mapping Art, Language, World": A series of illustrated, folded sheet maps, that are performative and site-specific in nature. The series includes "Searching for Ludwig Wittgenstein, Lake Eidsvatnet, Skjolden, Sogn, Norway" (2007), "Beneath the surface (of language), Silver Island Mountain Byway, Wendover, Utah, USA" (2009), "Grand Canyon Suicide Map/Metta Meditation, Grand Canyon National Park" (2012), and "Finding Everett Ruess, Davis Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah" (2013). Each printed map combines writing and images to explore the local topography, found histories, and contemporary land uses integral to a specific site. Funded by a UMN Grant in Aid and Imagine Fund grants, 2007 - 2013


  • Estep has had solo exhibitions at Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis; Art in General, New York; Brooks Barrow Gallery, Milwaukee; and Franklin Art Works, The Soap Factory, and Minneapolis Institute of Art, all in Minneapolis; and numerous national and international group shows. These include Dumbo Artist Space, and New York Arts Gallery, New York; Donald Young Gallery, and Bodybuilder and Sportsman Gallery, Chicago; Weisman Art Museum, The Soap Factory, and Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis; and Berliner Kunstprojekt, Germany; Atelier Top 25, Austria; Galerie Art & Essai & Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Rennes, France; Beijing Film Academy and Anji, China; and the National Library of Argentina, Buenos Aires.:
  • Semblance of Fact: How brain scans are presented and consumed as photographs, Triple Canopy, Issue 17, 2012: Estep, Jan, Author. Link
  • Since 1998 Estep has written and published over 100 essays, interviews, art and book reviews about contemporary visual art. Her critical writing has appeared in the magazines Bomb, Afterall, Frieze, Modern Painters, InterReview, Triple Canopy, Public Art Review, Rain Taxi, Quodlibetica, and New Art Examiner, and in exhibition catalogues by Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; Hayward Gallery, London; MIEL Publishing, Belgium; Akira Ikeda Gallery, Japan; and Rochester Art Center, Minnesota. From 1997-2002, she was an editor of the Chicago-based visual-arts magazine New Art Examiner, serving as senior editor from 2000-2002.
  • Estep has been awarded a McKnight Visual Artist Fellowship, a Jerome Foundation NY Artist Residency, a Jerome Foundation Travel and Research Grant, and a research commission from Breaking Ground, Ireland. In 2008-2009 Estep was the inaugural arts practitioner/writer fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center, a residential fellowship co-sponsored by Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts (SiCa). In December 2009 she was awarded an Arts Writers Grant for short form writing from Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation, with a follow-up grant in 2012.