During the February 14 opening reception in the Richmond Art Center for "Sway. Shift. Formation," an exhibition by mixed media artist Debbie Hesse, Ms. Hesse shared her inspiration and processes for creating her work with groups of Loomis Chaffee students and teachers and other community members.
The exhibit, a collection of what Ms. Hesse calls "wall constructions," is on display in the Sue and Eugene Mercy Jr. Gallery through April 18.Noting that she started her art career in printmaking, Ms. Hesse said she "fell in love" with the layering and the process of printmaking. Her wall constructions are inspired by natural forms cut into plexiglass, colored with gel coating, enhanced with plastic shapes that resemble leaves and trees, and layered to create forms that change shape with the light.
"Light is my medium," Ms. Hesse told the audience gathered in the Mercy Gallery for her talk.
Ms. Hesse's work combines organic and artificial materials that move, cast shadows, change form, and explore ideas about "growth, materiality and the ethereal," according to Ms. Hesse. Inspired by nature and natural processes, Ms. Hesse's art is informed by her personal experience of living by the ocean. The sculptures in "Sway. Shift. Formation" use transparent materials and projected lights to create "contemplative and meditative" landscapes and environments.
"In these map-like sculptural objects reminiscent of fantastical hybrid plant species, I translate material and form into an abstract visual language of color, transparency, translucency, and reflectivity," writes Ms. Hesse in her artist's statement. "For the past several years I have developed my work to echo patterned beauty and shaped cycles of plant evolution. Focusing on the underwater environment, this body of work explores how issues of seaweed cultivation, ocean farming and food security can improve our lives."
Ms. Hesse spent this week working in and among the students and faculty in the RAC as a Visiting Artist.
Recognition of Ms. Hesse's work has included a 2016 Regional Project Initiative Grant from the Connecticut Office of the Arts and Office of Economic and Community Development, National Endowment of the Arts, in partnership with Shoreline Arts Alliance. She received a Rhode Island Visual Artists Sea Grant Award in 2013, a Connecticut Visual Artist Sea Grant Award in 2010, and a Vermont Studio Residency artist grant. She was artist-in-residence at GreenWave, a nonprofit sustainability group, and artist-in-residence at Weir Farm Historic Site in July 2017. Her work has been exhibited in South Korea, New York, New Mexico, and Connecticut.
An adjunct professor at Albertus Magnus College, Ms. Hesse earned a bachelor of arts degree from Smith College, and a master's degree in painting and printmaking from University of New Mexico, where she was a fellow at Tamarind Institute of Lithography. Currently, Ms. Hesse serves on boards for the Ball and Socket Factory Arts in Cheshire, Conn.; New Ely Center of Contemporary Art; Site Projects; and Artspace Visual Arts Committee.