August 25, 2013

Artist at work (and play)

Painter Jessica Stammen has discovered that her love of being and recreating in the outdoors dovetails perfectly with her vision for her art.

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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“Become the Ocean," oil on panel by Jessica Stammen.

Images courtesy of the artist

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“Something I’ve Always Known,” oil on panel by Jessica Stammen.

Additional Photos Below



WHERE: Pascal Hall Gallery, 86 Pascal Ave., Rockport

WHEN: Through Sept. 3; noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday


INFO:;; 319-2785

When she did, she became an artist in residence. She designed a chalice from steel salvaged from Ground Zero. She documented the scene with photography. She made banners. She helped serve 3,000 meals a day, changed beds and attended church services with the first responders.

She did a little of everything, and her world changed.

Her work at the church eventually led to her thesis, which she titled the "Interdependence of Creativity and Catastrophe."

"Tragic events can be the seeds of some of the most amazing, humbling, powerful and profound experiences that we can have, that then produce the greatest acts of creativity," she said.

"I saw this horrific thing happen with my own eyes. I was centered next to the longest-burning fire in U.S. history. I was breathing in the dust and ashes of human bodies, among many other things. And at the same time, I was experiencing the most basic and most powerful acts of human love that I think I will ever know."

She came home to Maine in 2007 while finishing up her thesis. Her mom was opening a store in Camden, and asked her daughter to help out. Stammen had work opportunities in New York, but decided to come home to Maine while sorting her options.

"After two weeks of running up mountains and jumping in lakes, I realized this was the quality of life I wanted to have, and I would keep my connections in New York. I knew I would always have a time and place for New York. But I was desiring some regenerative time in nature."

She spent a lot of time the next few years looking out windows, painting the landscape. Finally, she conceded to her inner desires, and began painting what she loved doing, despite swearing to her professors and her parents a profound distaste for painting people. Nowadays, barely a painting goes by that does not have a human figure in it engaged in sport.

She cites a quotation from Pablo Picasso as inspiration for her work.

He said, "I behave with my painting as I behave with things. I paint a window, just as I look through a window. If this window when open doesn't look good in my picture, I draw a curtain and close it as I would have done in my room.  One must act in painting, as in life, directly."

And she includes another quote on the back of her paintings, this one from Ecclesiastes: "The earth remains forever -- the eye never has enough of seeing."

That Bible quote, she said, captures the mystery and immensity of the act of seeing. The act of seeing is something she learned from a mentor, the artist Alan Magee, for whom Stammen worked as a studio assistant beginning in 2006.

"The most important thing I learned was that beauty is a matter of attention," she said. "I think this is part of what I'm getting at when I refer to the regenerative power of art, that by seeing -- and through creative expression showing so that, in turn, a viewer might also see -- there is a mysterious and inexhaustible transformation possible. From an artist who can work with the debris and refuse of 9/11 to create sculpture, to a painter who can take a mess of pigments to create trees and water, there is a transformation going on that sure as heck better knock me to my knees in wonder and gratitude. Seeing leads to doing, and so in a way it's no wonder my focus on the re-creative power of art has led me to capturing moments of recreation."

Which is a fancy way of saying that Stammen likes to play. And hard.

She believes her paintings are popular because people see themselves in them. Each of us might be that climber, that hockey play, that kayaker.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be reached at 791-6457 or:

Twitter: pphbkeyes


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Additional Photos

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“So Bright, the Morning Light on the Surface,” oil on panel by Jessica Stammen.

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“To Join the Others,” oil on panel by Jessica Stammen.

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“Sunday Pond Hockey I,” oil on panel by Jessica Stammen.

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“Dad and His Mittens,” oil on panel by Jessica Stammen.


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