Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Visual Language Studio Visit with Artist Jeanne Bessette

My take on art is that it should be felt, as much as seen, so my desire is that my work challenges your heart to open, that your senses move you to an emotional response. In Flamenco dancing this is called Duende. Most people comment that they are moved on a visceral level when they are standing in the midst of my pieces, so it seems I am achieving my goal. That works for me.  

At the heart of it, I am a storyteller. My inspiration comes from the very fabric of life and the emotional reactions we have about being alive and our connectedness to each other. Our hopes and dreams are all a part of what moves me to put paint to the canvas. I just reach right in and grab a feeling and begin painting. Frankly, if you walk away from my work and feel nothing, then I feel I have failed.

I tend to work instinctually through each piece as I layer and scrape away paint from the previous day, adding and subtracting until the visual and the mood feel right. It’s really a dialogue of sorts between the canvas and myself.
The brush, canvas and paint tell me what they need and I respond mostly without thinking. This offers me the opportunity to stay connected to the piece and stay in the creative zone.

It’s not uncommon for there to be dozens of layers of paint and varnish each bringing more depth to the story. As I add each new layer and build on what was there before it creates a feeling in the work that invites you to fall into the painting filled with depth and luminosity.

I move very quickly as I paint so I work on several pieces at a time throughout the day revisiting a piece that calls out for attention.

I use a variety of materials from paint, sponges and brushes to ink, oil pastels and graphite. I’m seldom attached to any one medium and really enjoy the tactile experience of using lots of different materials. I also paint with my hands a lot. It’s not uncommon for me to have a bit of paint under my fingernails at dinner parties. My friends don’t seem to mind.
I would not call myself a mixed media artist but I do tend to be open to just about anything that jumps into my hand while I am working. Because of this my work leans toward being very textural and invites you to want to touch and feel it, which I always encourage.

Frankly, I can’t imagine a world without art, not just because I am an artist but also because it feeds the very soul of who we are. It fills our world with color and beauty and offers us a chance to question. Art has a language all it’s own and each time a new artist steps up and has something to say that is unique it gives us a chance to expand our hearts and minds.

My work stretches you to reach for something inside yourself that you might not even know is there. It invites you to see differently, to feel more alive and connect to your heart.

 I paint because I simply have to. When I’m not in the studio for extended periods of time I can get mighty cranky. It’s like therapy for me. It allows me to move through my own personal challenges and helps me process my world in a way that is productive and healing. You could say I self medicate with paint.  The result is a communication and a connection with others. I often find that people are attracted to my work when they are growing through their own challenges and a certain piece speaks to that part of them. I always say that each piece has a perfect home.

I use a lot of symbolism in my work. I love symbols. The ladders represent aspirations to move higher, to expand beyond our comfort zones and grow. Circles are all about completion and the spirals are my little circles of life. I often create figures reaching for the stars or they are reaching seemingly in celebration of something overcome or aspired to. I also often use letters and numbers as a design element but there is a deeper meaning to them for me. It is rooted in my enjoyment of the study of sacred geometry, which offers ancient beliefs about who we are and how we are alive. The painting elements using stencils in my paintings are pure play and freedom. I discovered that I love spray painting and might have been a graffiti artist in another life. It brings out the rebellious teenager in me. Sometimes I’m compelled to write something inspirational in a piece to offer another layer of enjoyment.

I’m often asked how I know when a painting is done. When I’m staring at a piece longer than I am painting, I’m usually very close. There’s a funny feeling in your heart that let’s you know when it is finished that is actually hard to describe. You just know when you feel it. With that said, I try to call it finished when I feel I am at the 80% mark. This way I don’t over paint and get caught up in the minutia and bring it past it’s spontaneity. At least that is my goal.

My work can be seen and purchased in over a dozen galleries across the United States and patrons In the U.S. as well as the U.K, Australia and Canada vigorously collect me. I am enjoying a strong interest in my work and teach other artists as a way of staying connected to my community. I believe art and artists are a crucial gift to our world and I for one am one grateful artist.

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