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Artist Studio: Jessie Benton Evans

Jessie Benton Evans

Lived/Active: Arizona/New York

Known for: Landscape

Medium(s): Acrylic

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Artist Biography:

B.A. Degree: Arizona State University
M.A. Degree: State University of Iowa

Represented at National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. and in numerous collections.

Professional Artist: Painting (see Exhibitions below)
Helped organize, coordinate, hang exhibitions for "The Street Painters" in New York City at Art Students League, Lincoln Center, Lever House, universities and government buildings. Helped co-ordinate and hang exhibitions.
Juror: Art Exhibitions
Teacher: Painting
Grant recipient: Institute for Art and Urban Resources, New York City


Museum Publicity Co-ordinator: 1999-2001
Wrote and organized articles for newspapers on exhibitions, artists and Museum activities, and coordinated coverage by radio and television.
Ashes (Art Newspaper), Phoenix, AZ: Associate Editor, Writer: 1992-96
Writer of feature interviews with artists and gallery reviews. Arranged articles on other artists. Sold and organized gallery advertising in Ashes.
Art World, New York, NY: Art Reviewer: 1979-85
New York Arts Journal, New York, NY: Associate Editor, Writer: 1975-79 Helped start Journal. Brought artists to Journal like Nobel Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer, artist Raphael Soyer, photographer Peter Beard. Wrote publicity resulting in Journal reviews in Mademoiselle, Publisher's Weekly, Art Direction, etc.
Manhattan Cable Television, New York, NY, Producer/Moderator, "Personalities," (30 minute weekly interview show) 1975-79
Interviewed author, newsman Edwin Newman, actor Richard Kiley, photographer Peter Beard, Broadway Director Joshua Logan, and many others.
WTBQ Radio, Warwick, NY, Producer/Moderator, 30 minute interview show. 1974-79. Interviewed author Isaac Bashevis Singer, playwright Frank Gilroy, actor Richard Kiley, boxer Floyd Patterson, businessman Hazard Reeves, and many others.
Warwick Advertiser Newspaper, Warwick, New York. Feature Writer, 1974-75

Artist Statement:

"My great grandmother, for whom I was named, was an early Arizona artist, coming here in 1911 after living the first half of her life in Ohio, Chicago and Europe. Since I was her namesake, she declared me an artist, and put a brush in my hand when I was barely old enough to hold it. Growing up near her in the desert, I learned to see nature as art and to paint directly from life. After college, my husband and I lived in New York City, and then upstate New York for twenty years, before returning to the southwest ten years ago.

"I have always painted from life. Nature is alive and always changing. The drama of sky, earth, wind, smell, sound and total reality is so original that its immediacy forces me into unexpected discovery. I tie large, six by eight foot canvases to the side of my van, or an object like a tree trunk, or lay them flat on the ground. I am drawn to certain scenes, but then let nature take over. There are so many variations -- seasons, times of day, weather -- that a scene can be different every day. I am passionately attracted to nature and want to feel and see whatever I paint. I also like to paint people, because I am curious about personalities. Most faces twist and turn like landscapes and change like the sky.

"I never use photographs for painting, although I love to look at them and respect photography as an art form. They don't work for me in art -- they seem static. It is like looking at a photograph of the Grand Canyon versus actually being there. Which would enliven your senses more? To which would you respond more directly? At the edge of the Grand Canyon, there is nuance and discovery.

"Since clouds are changing faster than I can lay them down on canvas, I paint their shapes over a period of time and arrange them intuitively. One distraction is that each formation seems better than the next, so that I am constantly revising as I paint. Later, indoors, I may refine an area, but I always compose and lay in the painting from life. Painting outside in the elements, I have painted when it was 100 degrees (with umbrella), freezing (paint can form crystals) and in wind, rain and snow, bitten by bugs, and whatever nature has had to offer.

"I love light and color. There is an energy in the forms and rhythms of earth and sky. I am entranced by clouds' twisting, turbulent, voluminous forms, and their moving changeability. Their edges evaporate in swirling vapor trails, which look like charges of electricity. They are filled with light, darkness, or both.

"The sky changes constantly, filled with dark, light, sun, sunrays, moon and stars, sunrise, sunset. Earth and sky rhythms repeat. All nature has what we would call abstract forms. Artists select, add, omit, exaggerate, distort through their personality so that the subject is abstracted once more. For me, personally, the manipulation of pure geometric shapes becomes an intellectual exercise. Objects in nature have subtle or pronounced variations, like fingerprints and snowflakes. Nature points to individuality, to variations in overall patterns. I am also manipulating geometric shapes when painting a flat horizon line, a round sun, cloud forms, but somehow, by responding directly to nature, I am pulled into a fusion with a world always unique.

"Painting for me is a reacting, feeling situation, where I feel an interaction between myself and the object, a circular flow of energy. I feel most alive when I paint. All of my senses respond and I feel pulled into something larger."
Review of Artist's Work:
Artist Elaine de Kooning: "a prodigiously gifted young woman artist...She is an extremely strong and original painter who has given landscape concepts a new dimension. She would be on my list of "Ten Best American Women Artists."

The Christian Science Monitor: "Art that is visionary, ecstatic, ominous, highly romantic ...Even Van Gogh...would have been surprised at (her paintings') breadth of execution."

The New York Times: "Coming to her paintings is like coming to an oasis...(Like) Charles Burchfield, but the symbolism is more revved up. She approaches William Blake."

The New York Times: "One function of art is to expand, rather than merely reiterate human experience...Evans's art rings true."

The (N.Y.) Times Herald Record: "She is an Expressionist with daring...(who) cuts through smokescreens with bold gestures to redefine the landscape."

Art in America: "They are overwhelmingly powerful pictures...When she paints, she makes intuitive and spontaneous decisions. She considers herself to be a vehicle for the expression of nature's spiritual presence."

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