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Artist’s paintings tell layered stories

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By Sara Miller

To be a storyteller is to convey events in words, images and sounds, often by improvisation or embellishment. This is a simplified definition. A true storyteller makes others experience emotion through her images or improvisation.

Artist Jeanne Bessette is just such a storyteller. Her richly layered canvases draw the viewer into worlds filled with whimsy, passion or isolation but, most importantly, are filled with stories. Bessette’s one-woman show, “storyTELLING,” opens at Mirada Fine Art on Nov. 9.
Bessette was named one of the top emerging artists in 2012 by Art Business News. However, Bessette became an artist many years before as a child with her first art supplies.
“I remember pretending I was some famous artist, and I would hang my creations all over the house, so it was no surprise to anyone when I was voted most artistic in my high school yearbook,” Bessette says.
She studied studio painting in college but was discouraged by the stereotypes of the “starving artist” and decided that photography was a more practical way of pursuing her artistic passion. Bessette turned her photography into a lucrative career, winning many awards and clients along the way.
“Though my photography career was very rewarding, there was always a small fire inside that was not being fed,” says Bessette. “After 13 years, I retired my camera for profit and picked up a paintbrush.”
This was when Bessette truly emerged. Bessette began studying with master teachers to relearn the tools of her true passion. Her work was accepted into juried exhibitions, was purchased for private collections throughout the country, and Bessette began exhibiting solo shows.
“storyTELLERS” is Bessette’s inaugural show in Colorado. Mirada’s owner, Steve Sonnen, stumbled across Bessette’s work and was immediately drawn to her brilliant use of color and texture. Bessette’s process is multi-layered. She begins with a blank canvas and often includes burlap, corrugated cardboard and other three-dimensional elements in a base layer of gesso. After developing her painting’s foundation, Bessette scribbles, writes and plays with paint until her stories emerge.
Her paintings could be classified as modern, figurative abstracts. However, the abstract figures and stunning use of light — both within the painting and reflected off her painstakingly created layers of paint and varnish — reveal an emotional story within each scene.
In “Untethered” a single figure grasps tightly to the string of a balloon. The figure’s feet have barely left the ground, and viewers can sense the feelings of trepidation and hope following the figure into a sky lit with stunning shades of orange and red.
Bold, expressive pieces like “Untethered” reside in galleries and private collections throughout the world. Bessette currently lives in Raleigh, N.C., but she will be at Mirada Fine Art on Friday, Nov. 9 for an artist’s reception from 6 to 9 p.m. For more information
about Bessette or Mirada, visit www.miradafineart.com.

Sara Miller, a freelance writer and a resident of Evergreen, lives with her husband, two children and a dog.