Jeanne Beck at work in her studio in Rochester, NY’s Hungerford Building
It seems to me my whole life has been a slow, steady evolution of coming home to myself. I suspect a lot of women of my generation feel that way. My earlier life didn’t offer a lot of stimulation or opportunity to study music or dance or art, all of which interested me greatly, but I did read voraciously. I fantasized about writing novels and started writing short stories at age 12, but then I became absorbed in teen-age concerns. I turned to keeping a journal, which I wrote in faithfully from 7-12th grade. I’ve done personal journaling in some form for most of my life and have a storage box filled with composition notebooks and more recently, sketchbooks too.
Book of the Ancients 6, 18″ x 18″, mixed media collage, gold leaf, acrylic paint. Cut, collaged, screen-printed and stenciled.
When I decided at mid-life to become a visual artist, I made a total commitment to it. Lose, win or draw, I have invested myself fully in my own creative potential. And, as a result, this midlife adventure has become the most passionate, committed period of my life. Since I began exploring visual art, I have been drawn to combine more than one medium or techniques, as well as create multi-layered surfaces.
The Writing in Air pieces utilize a variety of processes and techniques to create a dimensional , cut and manipulated surface that suggests cursive handwriting. Purchased by SUNY Geneseo for MacVittie Student Union.
Melding media and techniques to express a concept drives most of my choices. So I might stitch thread structures and dip them in paper pulp, for example. Layering and combining materials and methods is a fluid process and varies with each new idea. I like to envision my pieces accumulating layers over time and bearing the marks of use and age to build their own personal history.
Distressing the leafed surface with layers of acrylic paints and screen printed texts creates a patina of aging. Private collection, Boston, MA.
Seemingly random numbers cut in fiberglass screening punctuate the aged surface of this piece. They are a list of street numbers from the houses where I’ve lived over the course of my life. They are as I remember them, but I have no idea whether the memories are accurate. Purchased by SUNY Geneseo for MacVittie Student Union.
I am drawn to aged surfaces and tend to try to and create them in whatever medium or technique I’m using. Rust, decay, and layers peeling away attract me. They also relate to my interests in memory and aging and what happens to personal histories over time.
Most of the scattered images on this piece refer to The Palmer Method of Cursive Handwriting instruction. Once a part of elementary school curriculum, cursive handwriting has become almost obsolete.
The earliest concept for my current series of language-inspired pieces started in 2007. I had done extensive research on Etruscan and other forms of ancient writing remnants and the marks intrigued me as visual elements. Then my focus shifted to an interest in 19th and 20th century found journals, diaries and bits of cursive writing.
This work lists all the names of the teachers I can remember from my elementary school in Pittsburgh, PA. Book of the Ancients 9: Bethel Park Elementary, won a prestigious 2013 Niche Award.
My metallic leaf series began in 2011 with the idea of “fluttering pages.” The exploration of ancient texts and languages to gather ideas for this series led me to an unexpected realization, “ancient” is a relative term. To someone entering adulthood today, the 1950’s and 60’s seem ancient. Amused by that recognition, the first works in this series focus on remembered bits from my childhood. We often refer to ‘turning a page’, ‘ getting on the same page’, ‘starting a new or closing an old chapter of our lives’ in our everyday conversations. These pieces offer a visual take on such ideas.
Green World II is a new organically-inspired, dimensional work with layered kozo fibers over a richly textured, painted surface.
The pages series still doesn’t feel finished and I will continue to work on new ideas. However, I am also working on a new series of organic, two and three-dimensional works using handmade paper, pulp and wire armatures.
You can see more of Jeanne’s work in our current exhibition, Solid Gold, or visit her website: www.jeannebeck.com.
Check out our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by artist Colleen Pendry.