This site covers 50 years of experimentation and productivity -- 1966 - 2016. I have used a wide variety of media: graphite, charcoal, oils, acrylics, watercolor, pastels, collage, stitchery, monoprints and assemblage. I try to work carefully and so my command of each of these media has had to be somewhat disciplined. That is to say there is a deliberate or crafted quality to much of what I do, even when the actual process has been messy or experimental.
I have always sought what I think of as a "pure" or unself-conscious line. A found line maybe, such as what one finds in graffiti or scribbles, or in nature, or one that results from brief abandonment of directed activity. So the overall effect of much of my work is that of a kind of soothing melange punctuated by bursts of undisciplined lines, scratches, gouges and smears;
I work in series. The whole idea is to experiment with new media and concepts. I like the element of surprise -- I do not ever plan ahead and so the results are often unexpected. And if I follow through with multiples, the first piece -- the surprise piece -- often turns out to be the strongest. After that I play with variations until it is time to move along to the next series.
These are the themes or ideas -- a vocabulary -- that have carried forward in my work over time:
Central pools of light glowing through a darker perimeter;
Surfaces and expanses that suggest atmosphere such as sky, clouds and water;
A hazy surface resulting from multiple layers of resins and paint as well as the hesitant application of paint and resin;
Floating elements that accentuate the atmospheric quality of my surfaces;
The "full" or "overall" arrangement of forms that appear to keep going beyond the picture plane;
A sense of weather or turbulance;
Arrangement of recognizable imagery as tableaux, within small inserts or sectors, in a relatively flat layout, signifying the idea of something rather than depicting it;
Allowing the graphite sketches beneath the paint to always show, mostly for pedagogical reasons. I am interested in showing others how the work evolved;
A palette of secondary and tertiary colors accentuated by minute passages of brights like red;
A surrealistic or at least unexpected combination of imagery that causes dissonance and surprise. The found imagery one gathers for collage plays a strong role;
Sources of inspiration:
Luminescence -- glowing from within and reflecting or refracting light
Translucence -- refraction of light and the suggestion of shadow;
Firmament in all of its implications:
The celestial firmament or Heaven, especially night skies;
Earth as firmament including map-like views from above;
Things floating or suspended in the atmosphere: Floating in air; suspension in water
Things that are hidden -- under the earth, underneath layers of paint and resin;
Reveals -- scratching through or removing portions of surfaces to show what is hidden underneath;
Things that are lost and then found or discovered;
Lines found when one deconstructs and re-orders text;
Delicate lines combined with swaths of paint.
Animals and plants [rarely people] forming an Edenic tableaux;
Found imagery: found text from old books, diaries,letters, scribbles and notes;
History, folklore, archeology and anthropology;
I sincerely hope this synopsis helps you to identify the common threads throughout my work.
Jean Hess, Knoxville, Tennessee