For artist Joni Max, art is about sharing experiences, stories and emotions.
So, it wasn’t out of character for the northwest Las Vegas resident when she donated 21 of her paintings to the Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services facility, 6161 W. Charleston Blvd., in March.
Max approached Donna Jordan, clinical program manager, in hopes of helping the facility “look brighter and feel warmer.”
“It was outstanding, and we’re very appreciative,” Jordan said. “It has helped the clinic tremendously. I get comments all the time that the center looks happier and more inviting, thanks to the artwork.”
For two years, Max has received care from the facility for her depression.
“Joni is a very loving and compassionate person and always puts others before herself,” Jordan said. “She’s a very talented artist, and you can see her passion through her art.”
The donation was somewhat of a combined effort with her husband, Max Clever, a comedy magician.
“Because Joni likes to share things, she now has to give her art to me,” Clever said. “That way, they’re mine, and we decide together who gets what. Otherwise, she’ll spend hours and weeks and months on something and hand it to someone like, ‘Here, have this.’ That’s just the way she is. She does it for other people’s enjoyment.”
Born in Japan, Max, 53, has painted, sculpted and otherwise created art since she learned to use her hands. Her expertise lies mostly in painting oil and acrylic portraits.
“I use a combination of experience, photos or images and my imagination,” Max said. “They can take anywhere from a few hours or a few years to complete.”
Although she attended the University of Nevada, Reno, Max said she didn’t graduate because she couldn’t choose a major. She learned most of her art techniques through hands-on experience.
“I’m really passionate about people who are downtrodden or desperate or those who don’t get enough attention,” Max said. “The various holocausts and genocides really intrigue me. I’m really passionate about the sadder stuff.”
At 22, Max traveled solo around Europe, making sure to stop at Dachau, a World War II concentration camp in Germany.
“She just bought a ticket and went alone,” Clever said. “It just kind of plays into the spirit of Joni and her interest in exploring and traveling. For her, it’s about different places, different people.”
In 2006, Max and Clever were featured on Bravo’s “Queer Eye” reality television show, where the couple received personal and home makeovers.
“The production crew threw me an art show at the top of the Palms, where I sold some stuff,” Max said. “They had a red carpet and everything. They were so nice to me.”
The following year, Max was featured on an episode of TLC’s “Miami Ink,” where she received a tattoo of one of her paintings.
“They just called me up one day asking permission to tattoo one of my paintings on a customer,” Max said. “They ended up flying me out for four days, and they spoiled me. I didn’t leave without getting my own tattoo, of course.”
Max has participated in galleries throughout Las Vegas and Boulder City. Arata Sushi, 3250 N. Tenaya Way, Suite 99, also displays about 10 pieces of Max’s artwork.
“It’s more like she can’t not paint,” Clever said. “No matter where we are or what her resources are, she is always creating something. Her motivation is more like she just can’t help it.”
For more information about Max, visit jonimax.com.
Contact Southwest View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0403.