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Meet the Artist: Jean Thrift

Updated: May 6

When did you first realize you wanted to become an artist?

I first realized I wanted to become an artist in elementary school. Every composition we wrote had to be illustrated on a 3”x3” square of white paper. It was my favorite thing to do. Also, my father collected books. I loved going through them and looking at the beautiful illustrations in the classic novels.

How did your journey as an artist begin?

I graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor of Arts degree. There was an exciting emergent and very inclusive art scene in Venice Beach in the 70’s and 80’s. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

What are some highlights of your artistic career?

● After graduation my first important exhibition was in 1975 titled “The Last Picture Show” at L.A. County Art Museum. ● I was included in another LACMA exhibit “Curtain Raiser” in 1976. ● In 1977 I was one of the 3 artists featured in “Introduction ‘77” at the Braunstein Quay Gallery in San Francisco. ● I was one of the women artists chosen to be part of the short-lived Dunaway O’Neill Gallery in Santa Monica. Faye Dunaway opened the gallery to showcase women’s art. ● In 1978 I was awarded a CETA Title VI grant through the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art. At the end of the year the completed work was to be exhibited in public places. I had two shows. One at the Federal Building in WLA, and one at the Design Center. ● I won commissions for large scale paintings for the Prince Kuhio Hotel in Hawaii, the Cable Beach Hotel in the Bahamas, the Anaheim Hilton Hotel in Anaheim, CA, and the Hyatt Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. ● A few of the places I showed my work in LA were Jan Baum Gallery, LA Municipal Art Gallery, Mitzi Landau Gallery, and LAICA.

I back burnered my art career to raise a family. Happily, when I returned it felt like reclaiming a missing part of myself, and... I found a home at the MAIN GALLERY! Now I live and work here in the Bay Area.

What makes your artwork distinctive?

I think the most striking aspect of my work is the focus on intricate detail. It attracts the viewer’s interest and draws them in to explore the complex interplay of line, curve, light, shadow, and color discovered in the natural world. My work reflects the orderly chaos that is nature.

Which aspect of your medium challenges you the most?

For me the most challenging part of creating art is the time and focus it takes to complete a piece, because my work is often so detailed, and requires precision.

What inspires and motivates you to keep on creating?

I create out of a desire to understand, possess, and communicate what I see. It begins with the pursuit of an idea. That energizes the journey. I see something that intrigues and challenges me. I play with it on paper or canvas until it pleases me. The natural world provides me with an infinite reserve of inspiration and beautiful surprise.

How do you develop your artistic skills?

I develop skills by observing, then doing. Again and again.

How would you describe your process?

In my oil painting, I build the colors and shapes by applying many thin layers of paint. I carefully blend the imagery to eliminate brush strokes. The result is a sense of depth and sensuality. My drawing is focused on creating repetitive patterns and textures. I often use line to create a rhythmic undulating surface.

How do you ensure that you continue to learn and improve?

I continue to learn and improve by putting in the time, experimenting with oil, color pencils, canvas, paper and also fabric.

What do you hope viewers and collectors take away from your art?

Art is a powerful means of connection and communication. I invite the viewer to slow down, and explore for a moment the colorful recreation of what I see. I hope it gives them pleasure.

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