Alysson Essen SWJ 2020

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Artist Bio

I have loved visual art as long as I can remember and began painting in oils at the age of 11 with a group of adults who met weekly to paint and critique each other’s work. I continued with various teachers wherever our family moved. As an adult, I studied drawing at Cuesta College in California and life drawing and painting at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. This included a month-long workshop in Paris, France and an exhibition at the University of Louisville when we returned in 1989. After studying painting at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1990, my formal art education was interrupted by family circumstances, though I continued to paint on my own. I graduated from in The Evergreen State College in 1998, and most recently, in March 2020, participated in a 10-day intensive workshop in drawing, sculpture, and painting, with artist, Simon Kogan, at the Scottsdale Artists’ School in Scottsdale, Arizona. Currently I am a novice priest and working artist at Olympia Zen Center in Olympia, WA.

Artist Statement

I am most drawn to faces and the human form, though I often paint landscapes, and urban and interior spaces. I use a variety of media including oil, acrylic, gouache, and collage. In my recent paintings I have returned to oils and the faces of children.

For me, developing each painting is developing a particular relationship to the subject and the activity of painting itself is the medium. It is a way of processing life experience. I work to give expression and voice to what has been ignored or forgotten through the appearance of something entirely new. I rely heavily on color and tone and texture. The less I plan ahead, the better.

The children appearing in my most recent paintings were not entirely unbidden, but the results were unexpected.  I hope that in meeting and seeing through each child’s direct gaze, we can find, for a moment, a way to see through our complicated and turbulent world. Countless artists have influenced my work, including Frans Hals, Edgar Degas, Edward Hopper, Richard Diebenkorn, and contemporary artist, Cian Mcloughlin. In these paintings, I am especially indebted to the Scottish artist, Joan Eardley, whose paintings have inspired me to work toward allowing these subjects to speak for themselves.