‘Surface Calm’ exhibit opens at CCA

This is an example of the art created by Hess. Photo by Amber Roberts

On Nov. 2, 2011, the Blackberry Farm Gallery at the Clayton Center for the Arts opened its newest art exhibit, entitled “Surface Calm,” by Jean Hess. Hess is an artist who currently resides in Knoxville.

Hess uses a unique technique in her nine different “Surface Calm” pieces. She builds layer upon layer of resin, phosphorescent dust and paint (metallic, luminescent and interference acrylic; oils; and regular acrylic pigments) on top of one another.  Each painting ends up with 30-40 layers. The end effect of this technique is a surface that has a special glow.

“These paintings take on the appearance of the surface of a pool or water, such as a lake, or the open sky on a sunny day,” Hess said. “The depth of the layers helps refract light up from lower layers so there is a kind of glow that one could not achieve with a single layer.”

The inspiration for these pieces comes from Hess’s heritage, memories and numinous experiences. The artist recalled how several times throughout her life she has had experiences with shapes and light that have brought her to a greater understanding of herself and the world.

Several recurring themes in her paintings are grids that represent her grandfather’s fabric designs, old maps and family documents, flowers (which allude to the artist and her family’s ongoing interest in gardening), and old school textbooks.

“I … have been interested in issues of the sublime and memories of numinous experiences for around 50 years,” she said.

Hess claims that her work deals with how memories and past experiences build upon each other and rise to the surface.

“What is underneath, I believe, still informs what finally shows; each stage is determined by what has been there before, and so I think there is a kind of energy that would not be there if the underlying details were absent,” Hess said.

“Surface Calm” will be available for viewing from Nov. 2 to Nov. 30 in the Blackberry Farm Gallery in the B building of the CCA.

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