Janine Wesselmann Paints Satires with Sensitivity and Humor
By Kathy O’Flinn
Janine Wesselmann has spent a lifetime observing people and their lives across all social strata and in the more elegant European and American capitals. With the benefit of all those experiences she paints satires of social life here and, as she says, “across the pond.”
A New Year’s Eve ball at Versailles, intermission on opening night at the Paris Opera, a nightclub café, a charity auction. All have found their way onto her canvas. Bright colors, movement and the drama of the old world setting or contemporary café provide a backdrop for the different characters she is drawn to and their relationships, real or imagined. “I get excited when I see lots of people, what they are wearing, who is flirting with whom, and you start imagining all the stories,” she said.
A daughter of a State Department official, she grew up abroad in developing countries. Every two years the family went to a different post and she learned a new language. While her parents gave gala embassy parties, she would draw pictures of the ambassadors and different political characters to amuse herself and her younger sister.
She described her childhood as a little intimidating at times but it was also dangerous, which she found exciting. “We were often evacuated if there was a coup or we had to stay behind closed doors [during a curfew],” she said.
After completing her formal education in the United States with a degree from Cornell University and a short stint in the Peace Corps, she decided she really wanted to paint for a living.
“I starved for eight or 10 years in the Caribbean, lived in a shack on the beach. Mostly I did little paintings and sold them to the cruise ship passengers,” she said.
After several trips to Paris to find a gallery that would show her work, her persistence paid off. “I started getting galleries all over the world, so I was able to live a fairly normal life,” she said.
Her “new normal” became a distinguished career in the arts
Her “new normal” became a distinguished career in the arts with her work represented in galleries at home and abroad, awards received for her leadership in and contribution to the arts, and an appointment as Cultural Emissary to France in 1997. Her work is in museums and permanent collections throughout the world. She exhibits in France, California and New Orleans. Locally, her work is available at The Englishman Fine Art at 1190 3rd Street South, Naples. Visit janinewesselmann.com.