Obituary of Janet Culbertson Kaften
Janet Culbertson, 91, passed away peacefully at her home on Shelter Island, Friday Oct. 6, 2023, after a brief illness.
Born in Greensburg, Pa., on March 15, 1932, Janet was the eldest child of Helen Catherine Moore and Joseph Francis Culbertson. From an early age, she had crayons in her hand and an inclination to explore the outside world. During those formative years she developed both a profound appreciation of nature and the aptitude to express that through art. As she would write later, “For me painting is an affirmation of my concern and sense of awe for my subject, the natural world and its creatures.”
Following high school, Janet attended Carnegie Mellon where she studied painting and design, and eventually relocated to New York City because in her words, “It was the center of the art world.”
The move to New York City facilitated her earning a master’s degree at New York University, and she went on to find great pleasure in teaching at Pratt Institute and Pace University, while doing her own painting.
In 1964, Janet married Douglas Kaften, after which she moved her studio to the East End of Long Island. Ever observant of her natural environs, that landscape of inlets and islands inspired Janet in her work, just as other travels had done. Photographing and drawing the times she spent in Africa, Mexico, Alaska, the Grand Canyon and the American West, contributed to her observations of the natural world, and the effects of human interactions with it. A self-described highpoint of her life was a camping and sailing trip through the Galapagos Islands, following the trail of Charles Darwin.
Janet had a profound love for the natural world; she was an ardent environmentalist long before that term was recognized in popular culture. The awardee of numerous grants, awards and recognitions for her artwork, Janet pursued her passion of environmentalism with an indefatigable spirit. Her years of worldly travel and experience provided her a deep reservoir of material to bring to life through her artwork. Janet’s “Industrial Park” works dealing with environmental destruction garnered her invitations to show at numerous Universities and Museums across the country, to include Costa Rica. This led to the recognition of her artwork by national institutions; she has a drawing series in the collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC.
Janet’s generous and caring nature was always on full display; her keen wit and detailed insight entertained scores of family and friends through the years. From the basement art studio to the forested lawn, the house was a beehive of work and haven for reflection. A remarkable woman, Janet left an indelible mark of friendship and camaraderie on all who knew her.
Predeceased by her husband Douglas, Janet is survived by her brother James F. (Sylvia) Culbertson of Rochester, N.Y., and sister Carol J. Miller of Califon, N.J.; niece Heather J. Culbertson (Paris Wilcox) of Earlville, N.Y., and nephew Christopher (Carlotta) Vogt of Hatfield, Pa.; grandnieces Marla Vogt, and Eliza and Helen Wilcox of Earlville, NY.
In accordance with her wishes, Janet was laid to rest on the Wilcox farm in Earlville, N.Y., attended by family and friends, and surrounded by the bucolic landscape and elements that she held dear.