Janice Lowry Gothold, an artist who specialized in creating primitive-looking assemblages from found objects and whose journals received national recognition, died of liver cancer Sept. 20 at her Santa Ana home, her family said. She was 63.
At 11, Gothold started keeping a diary, which led to a lifelong fascination to "prove" that she "existed," the artist said in a 2008 interview.
Over the next 50-plus years, her journals became increasingly visual, and, in 2007, the collage-filled collection of 126 volumes was accepted into the Smithsonian Institution's permanent collection.
"They have these elements of diaries and confessions and to-do lists, a whole matrix of an artistic life," Liza Kirwin, a Smithsonian curator, told the Orange County Register in 2007 when she decided to add the journals to archives that document how artists live and work.
Gothold was "attracted to real objects from the real world" and found many of the pieces she worked with at swap meets, in trash bins and at thrift stores, she once said.
In a review of a 1989 show of Gothold's three-dimensional assemblages at the Westside gallery Art Space, a Times reviewer said that the artist made "droll little commentaries on life" as she developed an "idiosyncratic cast of characters" that was "rife with sprung clock springs, measuring stick figures and skeletal ladders."
Born March 30, 1946, in Phoenix, she was one of five children of a mother who married seven times. Family instability and the desert of her youth were prominent in her art, her family said.
She was a divorced mother of two when she earned a bachelor's degree at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in 1979 and a master's a year later. She also taught at the art center but took a break after marrying Jon Gothold, an art director, and having a third son in 1985.
In 1986, she returned to teaching, first at Cypress College and then at the Art Institute of Orange County.
As it praised "her little shadowbox monsters," the Orange County Weekly named her the region's "best visual artist" in 2007.
In addition to her husband and sons, Brandon, Kevin and Brent, she is survived by two sisters, a brother and three grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Oct. 10 at the Episcopal Church of the Messiah, 614 N. Bush St., Santa Ana.
Instead of flowers, the family suggests donating to Taller San Jose, a continuing education program for at-risk youths, www.tallersanjose.org.