An exhibit of the mind-bending mixed media collage paintings by Jameson Wells opens Friday (March 2) at Studio 238, at the Harwood Museum of Art, 238 Ledoux Street. A meet-the-artist reception is planned that day from 2-4 p.m.
Wells' paintings are layer upon layer of geometrics, textile remnants, graphite, acrylic, oils, paper and any other found matter that catches her fancy in the seemingly eternal moment she engages with her art.
Her latest collage paintings use "recycled canvas rolls, old jeans, random cut paper and fabrics, pieces of manufactured borders, rickrack, lace, selvages, seams and edges," according to press materials. "The process of making the paintings is inherent in the design of the painting itself, where pieces are added, subtracted, woven, painted or drawn around or on or under, or are actually illusory."
Living and showing in Taos since 1978, Jameson Wells' work has been represented in galleries in Taos; Santa Fe; Albuquerque; Dallas and Houston, Texas; Tucson, Arizona; and in various other shows around the country. For many years, she focused on creating abstract wall reliefs in several different series, using heavy watercolor paper and mixed media.
In her 40 years' making art, Wells has worked in a variety of mediums, including studying figurative and abstract stone sculpture with Mildred Zindler and painting with Enrique Montenegro at Towson State University, where she graduated with a bachelor in fine art in 1977. She shared an interesting story about Montenegro.
"My painting teacher in art school, Enrique Montenegro, was the graduate assistant for Richard Diebenkorn when he was at [the University of New Mexico] in Albuquerque. He went to bat for Diebenkorn against the graduate studies committee, who were uncomfortable with Diebenkorn's work. He got them to back off and allow Diebenkorn the freedom to paint how he wanted (and are we glad!)," she said in an email, adding it was Montenegro who steered her toward Diebenkorn.
"He saw early on that I had an affinity for Diebenkorn's work. He left in the middle of the painting class to go to his apartment and bring back a book on Diebenkorn to show me. I had never heard of him. Now he is my favorite painter and strongest influence."
On the surface, her process is a major part of the composition, including "mistakes," she said. As she put it, "reworkings, glue profiles, accidents, rough outlines, ghost images, unfinished edges, previous markings on the materials, re-purposed materials. It is all fodder for the fire. It all has value, everything counts, and although it may be painted out, its presence still remains. It may be covered over, made to look like something else, may go somewhere or nowhere, any which way, with outcomes emerging from a number of possibilities. What appears as one thing may turn out as something else."
Conversely, she notes that on a deeper level, the paintings bring up issues of seeing "beyond appearances, stopping to examine more closely, unfinishedness and openness," engaging her in a poetic process of discovery, prompting more new inquiries.
"How one approaches something, influences the form it takes," she said, adding, "Everything in life can be useful in some sense if we pay attention and stay open."
Texture and plane stand out in her current works. Stripes and ridges, flaps and straps, straight and "raveled sleeves of care" all speak up or leave muffled echoes, an almost audio-visual expression of creative ideas, half-thoughts and partial truths, charting a path across and within a vast oasis of canvas sand.
"Geometric shapes appear and disappear, showing evidence of the process, and seem to live on an archetypal level before manifestation," she said. "I have always loved geometry. In second grade, seeing my older sister's sentence diagrams, I made up diagrams of words going every which way, liking the angles and relationships."
In high school she said she always got As on geometry tests and only faked a wrong answer now and then to keep girlfriends' jealousy at bay. She used to sew clothing for herself and others because she so loved the textures and weaves, the seams, the welts and selvages.
Her press release stresses the high degree of chance in her process, as well as silent contemplation, where she states, "The paintings seem to me to bring out questions one could ask about 'reality': What is real or appears so but isn't, the weaving of events that create a situation, about rhythms and relationships, about thoughts or ideas we have but don't manifest, how does a mere definition by a line create the impression of something (like saying something is so makes it appear to be so - politicians for example)."
In the end she sees the pieces working as a mantra, bringing the attention of the viewer deeper and back to the mystery, reminding us "how to tune into the small whisper within and the silence that underlies all the busyness of living."
On a more dualistic note, like David Bowie, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan and many many more, Jameson Wells is a musician, a fiddler of note for many decades, and most recently with Taos Contra Band, allowing the creative spirit to be seen and heard in many more ways than one.
"Ultimately," she said, "my work is one of necessity and love."
For more information, contact the Harwood Museum of Art at (575) 758-9826, ext. 109 or visit harwoodmuseum.org.