Jessica Dehen


Senior Project Spring 2014


Color is one of the many means that artists use to express themselves in their artwork. An artist’s use of color will ultimately lead to the overall feeling and message behind a work of art. And while there are many artists that use color to represent objects as they exist in the natural world, I believe a greater, and more meaningful challenge, is an artist’s use of color to represent a thought, feeling or emotion that does not tangibly exist in the physical world. My body of work envelops several conceptual notions behind the power of color. After researching artists such as Mark Rothko, Jules Olitski, Helen Frankenthaler and Jane Booth, I sought to explore the divine significance of color in relation to both the viewer and myself. My work aims to stimulate a spiritual response in the viewer through its exploration of the spatial relationships, perception and emotional impact of color. I developed a fascination with the idea that art doesn’t have to be ‘of’ or ‘about’ something in particular; rather it can just be something in itself and still potentially arouse an emotional reaction and spiritual awareness in the viewer.

It has always been entrancing to me that color holds the power to determine a person’s emotional response to a work of art. I have spent the past few years of my life willfully searching for my artistic voice and figuring out what I have to “say” in my artwork. Unfortunately, doing so has always led to a great deal of frustration with myself because I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to say. And while the medium, content and style of my work continuously evolved with time and experience, there was one factor that always remained constant—this profound fascination with color. While I’ve always adored the work of Mark Rothko, I had never really felt a Rothko painting until I was standing in front of one, inches from its’ surface, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. As I stood in front of this painting, I couldn’t help but feel something. It was an emotion that I couldn’t pinpoint; a captivating sensation that enveloped me—this spiritual response. The incredible thing that I’ve recently discovered about spirituality is that it means something different to everyone. For some people, it means praying to God, for others it means going to their temple, church or mosque or simply living a peaceful and loving life. But for me, spirituality has always been this divine relationship between me and art, whether it be that of my own or the work of others. While for some, going to church is the channel through which they get closer to God, for me, color is the channel through which I am able to explore my relationship with my artwork. Eventually, it was this unnamed emotion, this sense of spirituality that sparked in me a desire to explore the transcendent nature of color in my own artistic voice. I wanted to discover what color meant to me, subject matter aside, and let color serve as the vessel through which a viewer interprets my work.

My works were created from large pieces of raw, unstretched and unprimed canvas. All of my pieces were done using Golden Fluid acrylics that were diluted with water and a flow enhancer. Diluting the paint enhanced the colors’ abilities to bleed into one another and allowed for interesting color interactions to occur when layering. The paint was poured onto the canvas and spread out using both a large squeegee and my hands. The process of making this body of work was just as significant as the finished product, if not more. I felt that using my hands gave me the opportunity to really feel and respond to my materials. Spray bottles of water were used to keep the acrylics wet and fluid. Other materials that I used to apply paint were rags, sponges and bristle brushes. The process of creating this work was intimate and one of the most important aspects was giving myself an opportunity to have a conversation with the pieces. The canvas was laid out flat on the ground and full body movements were used to apply the paint. Layering different colors over one another is what lead to the rich, atmospheric quality of my paintings, each piece having at least 15-20 layers of paint. 

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