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Work Samples

Six Sliver 81 x 12" oil paintings, 2015 - 2018

six sliver oil paintings, each 81 x 12", child in meadow, roots, flowers, garden fleeting, woman waving, white oak, fossils, boy leaping into a well, nebula, fireflies, old woman, rebirth
Human perception is a sliver. I envision these six 81 x 12 inch oils on canvas or linen as slivers of form and space, time’s momentary freeze. They are my responses to phrases found in poems. The poems paint pictures and certain verses are like samples from a deeply drilled ice tube markers dredged up into the present. A slice of vision seems complete in a truncated whole we never can completely see.

Six Sliver 81 x 12" oil paintings, 2017 - 2020

six oil paintings: girl reading, floating leaves & planets in dark space; woman sweeping, lilac blossoms; roses, geometric & spherical forms; man running,Remus suckling;boyin dying sunflowers; polar&brown bears, Artemis, worried old woman, children
Human perception is a sliver. I envision these six 81 x 12 inch oils on canvas or linen as slivers of form and space, time’s momentary freeze. They are my responses to phrases found in poems. The poems paint pictures and certain verses are like samples from a deeply drilled ice tube markers dredged up into the present. A slice of vision seems complete in a truncated whole we never can completely see.

Touch Me Not: Noli Me Tangere 60x48" oil/canvas 2015

Three portraits, two African-American youths picking cotton & an arrogant white schoolboy in military school uniform, 1869 juxtaposed by Confederate battle flag.
After the massacre of African-American congregants at the Emmanuel African Methodist church by a white supremacist, I found in my archive an antique photo of a white uniformed schoolboy, date, 1869, place, Marion, Alabama. The boy’s posture was arrogant and although, only ten years old, and only four years after the Confederacy’s defeat, the schoolboy was instructed to assume a Napoleonic posture. The portrait’s message: ascendency and conquest. The massacre was horrifying and I had to find some way to contextualize it. I began with the portrait and the confederate flag symbol.

Bad Education / Raised With Walls, 76.25 x 47.5, oil/linen, 2014

children with big boots, young children contemporary issues, oil with red fields,
Several antique photographs were sourced for "Bad Education/Raised With Walls". I identify with these boys and I feel their desire to please. Psychologically pliable there are drenched in a field of red blood and caught in an endless chain of mis-education: a rock throwing youngster of the Palestinian Intifada, Japanese boys of the early twentieth century in military formation, an Israeli child holding a lethal knife and a proud American son saluting. These boys are taught to fill boots they are too young to understand. Go to IX “The Past is Never Dead. It’s Not Even the Past.”

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About Jessica

Baltimore City

Jessica Damen's picture
In 2004, renowned artist, Grace Hartigan dubbed me the “Lewis Carroll of Baltimore”.  Today, I continue to fall through rabbit hole worlds now found in verse, modern and ancient myths, and the stuff of daily life.   I was honored that Hartigan wrote that my paintings “like William James (have) a gift for psychology in her depiction of children. Damen’s use of paint is both sensual and tough.”[1]   This gift, Hartigan spoke of, came from Fear.  I recall a time of magical... more

Visions Verses Voices - An Immersive Installation: Sliver Paintings & Verses I

Visions Verses Voices is an on- going immersive exhibition of paintings accompanied with poems that expands my love of verse in communication with my visual imagery. As presented at the Delaplaine Art Center in Frederick, MD, twenty-five poems were featured read by various people: professionals such as, Tom Hall, program host, WYPR, singers, amateur actors and just interested individuals who put in the time to be coached. Their readings were played from speakers in continuous loops, strategically placed throughout the gallery. All of the readers share an interest, even love, for the verse they read, which, I believe is conveyed through their unique voices. My purpose in creating this immersive exhibition is to demonstrate the interrelationship of verse and painting by encouraging the viewer/listener to experience the voices of the readers while viewing my paintings. The simultaneous experience makes for an enhanced appreciation of the poems and paintings.
The various readers’ tempos, cadences and unique rhythms add to the visual experience by challenging the viewer to see relationships and dissonance. The poetry readers selected poems that resonated with them so that multiple readers read some poems. Poems can be long stories conveying a sense of place and time with anecdotes. Others are shorter imagist works.
I endeavored to interpret expressively the gestalt of a poem with color, scale, and idiosyncratic images. The soundtracks are artworks too, blending music and other sounds with the verses to introduce a mood of harmony or contrast with the verse or vision. Additionally, the viewer/listener is able to access each audio from the exhibition's website
https://visionsversesvoices.com/
Each painting image is followed by its recited relevant poem and soundscapes.

The poems are by Janet Lewis (1899-1998) from Poems Old and New 1918-1978, Maj Ragain, (1948-2018), Clouds Pile Up in the North: New & Selected Poems, Tim Joyce, Stone Mad: 2009 and the famous WWI poem, Dolce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen and The Solace of Artemis by Paula Meechan.

  • Lacing LIfe and Death 82x13" OL 2015

    sliver oil painting, landscape metaphor, timeless life and death, entertwining roots and boy stands against nebulous sky
    “Lacing Life and Death” was inspired by Lewis’ “Meadow Turf”. I remember my son, an adventurous boy, who perilously climbed every obstacle but always seemed rooted to the ground. I see his radiant smile as he is betwixt heaven and the earth. And I am reminded of Lewis’ last lines, “Oh, heart, here is your healing, here among / The fragrant living and dead.”
  • Granny's Garden is Running Away 81 x 12", O/C 2017

    sliver oil painting, gray woman waving away,young child clings,landscape metaphor, time lost
    The long thin format is a sliver of form, space or time. Like the long arctic ice tube samples, my slivers tell a deep, ancient story. I am also influenced by ancient Chinese landscapes, portraying time as moving rhythmically toward heaven. This painting was inspired by Lewis’s poem, "Lost Garden." "Children asleep in deep meadows. Young popples Grew round the house and a wasp nest hung in the door, silvery like logs.....
  • Lost Garden read by Joan Haas

    Lost Garden by Janet Lewis is read by Joan Haas. Her sensitive reading is introduced with the sound of loud cicadas. The monotonous rhythm of the cicadas'clicking contrasts with the fleeting nature of granny’s garden.
  • Morning Hue & Buried Fossil 81 x 12", O/C '17

    poetry, sliver oil painting, landscape metaphor, time lost, time eternal
    Two of Lewis’ poems inspired this painting: Fossil, 1919 “I found a little ancient fern Closed in a reddish shale concretion, As neatly and a charmingly set in As my grandmother’s face In a round apricot velvet case. “ Fossil, 1975 “Changed and not changed. Three million years. This sunlight-summoned little fern Closed in a cenotaph of silt Lies in my hand, secret and safe. In quiet dark transformed to stone, Cell after cell to crystal grown, The pattern stays, the substance gone…. Changed and not changed. The spirit hears In drifting fern the morning air.”
  • Fossil 1919 read by Heine & Fossil 1975 read by Emory

    Two poems by Janet Lewis influenced the making of this painting. To picture the idea of geologic time, I used the sliver format.It's mostly deep dirt and hidden fossils. Carole Heine communicates the surprised of finding a fossil that's so ancient and yet, it resembles her grandmothers apricot case. Time is both ancient and present. Donna Emory reads the longer reflection about time's mysterious, and never ending change. The introductory sounds of tickling stream and shoveling set a mood and enhance the meditation upon time's meaning.
  • Home to Sargasso Sea introduction by JessicaDamen_sounds.mp3

    Home to Sargasso Sea is the story Maj Ragain relates in his introduction of his last collection of published poems in "Clouds Pile Up in the North". This audio is my response to his story and the impetus for my immersive exhibition, "Visions Verses Voices."
  • Gather, Fizz and Fizz, Gather 81 x 12" O/L 2018

    sliver oil painting, muted, subtle blues, swirling washes along the verticle format, an anxious portrait, floating body, fireflies return to the nebula.
    An homage to a beautiful, elderly woman, a loved mother, filled with anxieties which are like Kamikazi diving planes. Her spirit is leaving her and she will join the great nebula again. Inspired by Ragain's poem, "Kamikaze, That Divine Wind."
  • Kamikaze, That Divine Wind read by John Wright

    Ragain's "Kamikaze - That Divine Wind" is read by John Wright. The introductory sounds is a mixture of nature and city sounds, confusing - much like Maj's mother's confusion. At the end of this soundscape a flock of geese fly off and then Wright says "My mother is dissolving like an Alka-Seltzer in the warm water of this Indian Summer...flung outward toward the Crab nebula, the fiery burrow from which we came." The sounds mirror the reading that is paced with tension and later spoken with tenderness.

Visions Verses Voices - An Immersive Installation: Sliver Paintings & Verses II

This group of six sliver paintings was created from 2017 to 2020. The last image, Artemis Rising begins a new branch of works engaged in the emotional impact of a world threatened by global climate change. The poem, The Solace of Artemis, is by Paula Meehan. Lewis' affinity to Nature is integrally linked to her verse and I take her verse to create groundless spaces within a span of time as seen in Earth Falls Away and Strawberry Wreckage & Lilac Dust. Whole With Light is inspired by a Ragain poem, For My Mother Beatrice on Her 90th Birthday. Its celebratory nature is reflected in the paintings brilliant hues and blossoming Tamara roses. On a more sober note is No Memorials For This Lot, a line pulled from Tim Joyce's poem, A Row of Sunflowers in Late October.
Visions Verses Voices is an on- going immersive exhibition of paintings accompanied with poems that expands my love of verse in communication with my visual imagery. As presented at the Delaplaine Art Center in Frederick, MD, twenty-five poems were featured read by various people: professionals such as, Tom Hall, program host, WYPR, singers, amateur actors and just interested individuals who put in the time to be coached. Their readings were played from speakers in continuous loops, strategically placed throughout the gallery. All of the readers share an interest, even love, for the verse they read, which, I believe is conveyed through their unique voices. My purpose in creating this immersive exhibition is to demonstrate the interrelationship of verse and painting by encouraging the viewer/listener to experience the voices of the readers while viewing my paintings. The simultaneous experience makes for an enhanced appreciation of the poems and paintings.

The various readers’ tempos, cadences and unique rhythms add the visual experience by challenging the viewer to see relationships and dissonance. The poetry readers selected poems that resonated with them so that some poems are read by multiple readers. Poems can be long stories conveying a sense of place and time with anecdotes. Others are shorter imagist works.

Damen endeavored to interpret expressively the gestalt of a poem with color, scale, and images creating her personal interpretations. These soundtracks are artworks too. Music or other sounds are blended with the verses introducing a mood of harmony or contrast with the verse or vision. Additionally, the viewer/listener is able to access each audio from the exhibition's website https://visionsversesvoices.com/
Each painting image is followed by its recited relevant poem and soundscapes.

The poems are by Janet Lewis (1899-1998) from Poems Old and New 1918-1978, Maj Ragain, (1948-2018), Clouds Pile Up in the North: New & Selected Poems, Tim Joyce, Stone Mad: 2009 and the famous WWI poem, Dolce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen. Irish poet and playwright Paula Meehan's poem “The Solace of Artemis” was first published in the Notre Dame Review in the fall of 2012. It is used with permission.

Jessica Damen thanks Lindsay Bottos, multimedia artist, for her expertise in collaborating on the production of the soundtracks.

  • Earth Falls Away 81 x 12", o/c '17

     sliver oil painting, moving, timeless space, suspended time, planets, flying children, swirling leaves
    "Earth Falls Away," is a girl forgetting the earth, groundless, imagining she is in another time and place, swirling around her are forms, formulas and other fun mysteries. Lewis' "The Reader" also describes a lost reader, the "Sun creeps under the eaves,... While he forgets the earth." Time passes.."And all so still.. But a.. "A creature fresh from birth Clings to the screen door, Heaving damp heavy wings."
  • The Reader read by Catherine Hinton

    "The Reader" by Janet Lewis and read by Catherine Hinton. A reader is suspended in time, or lost in another time. Everything is still except the rustling of leaves. Catherine's captures that sense of suspended time with her soft, deep voice. Her voice seems like an embrace. Janet Lewis. Poems Old and New 1918-1978. Swallow Press, Ohio University Press, Chicago, IL, 1982, p.23
  • Strawberry Wreckage & Lilac Dust, 81x12", O/C '18

    Sliver oil painting, poetry, timeliness
    Janet Lewis' "Girl Help" inspired this painting. I imagine a young woman, sweeping a dusty room. Fresh strawberries fall and "In the warm, lofted air, Soft lips together pressed, Soft wispy hair, she stops to rest. .... The great white lilac bloom Scented with days to come." This is a suspended moment, a fraction of a second and they are totally present. And yet, as in most of my paintings, no moment is perfect.
  • Girl Help read by Olivia Hollander

    Olivia Hollander is a graduate from Baltimore's School of the Arts. Her area of concentration was theatrical arts. Her reading of Lewis' "Girl Help" is paced and measured. The introductory sound of humming honey bees is clearly reminiscent of summer but slightly uncomfortable.
  • Whole With Light, oil on linen, 81 x 12" 2019

    sliver oil painting, broken forms gradually become softer, one form, textured roses, a brilliant light reflecting spirit
    "Whole With Light" is my response painting to Maj Ragain's commemorative painting "For My Mother Beatrice Summers on Her 90th Birthday". It is a lovely, soft pastel type of verse equating his mother with late blooming roses. The autumn moon is at the base of the sliver canvas, the broken colors gradually become almost unified at the top of the painting field. The roses are textured and numerous, which make a continuous thread through the whole painting. There is light from Beatrice's spirit.
  • For My Mother Beatrice read by Jason Ryan

    Jason Ryan reads Ragain's "For My Mother Beatrice Summers on Her 90th Birthday". Maj often wrote commemorative poems and this one expresses a son's love for his mother. Ryan's reading does justice to that love.
  • No Memorials for This Lot 81x12"O/C '18

    Sliver oil painting, forgotten veterans, autumnal colors, cherry cheek boy, bent men inspired by A Row of Sunflowers in Late Autumn
    "No memorials for this lot"...nothing to do but wait for further orders ....their bowed, ruined grandeur awaits the axe of frost.." Tim Joyce's poignant poem equating a row of once brilliant, but now, dying row of Sunflowers to forgotten veterans. The poem is a chilling reminder of the long shadow of war upon men.
  • A Row Of Sunflowers In Late October read by Jeff Murray

    Murray's sonorous voice is like a voice of conscious, reminding the listening not to forget those who were once golden as sun flowers, our military veterans.
  • Artemis Rising 81 x 12" O/L 2020

    sliver painting continuity of DNA, honeycomb, bears and old women, children and machines, hot and cold expanses.
    This sliver painting is inspired by Paul Meehan’s poem, “Solace of Artemis”. View this painting as if you were studying a Chinese scroll, it slowing reveals the narrative while your eye moves quickly from one spaces to another and then flows into eddies. "I read that every polar bear alive has mitochondrial DNA from a common mother, an Irish brown bear who once roved out across the last ice age, and I am comforted."
  • The Solace of Artemis read by Olivia Hollander

    Olivia Hollander's reading of Meehan's "The Solace of Artemis" captures and undercurrent of intensity. Used with permission by Irish poet and playwright, Paula Meehan's poem “The Solace of Artemis” was first published in the Notre Dame Review in the fall of 2012.

Visions Verses Voices - An Immersive Installation:Lost Boys/Found Men III

This group of paintings brings us to poems speaking to male anguish and pain . These poems written by Tim Joyce, Maj Ragain and the well known World War I poet and soldier, Wilfred Owen, point to male conflict, pain, warning and resolution. "Dolce Et Decorum Est" is read by a high school English teacher who is very familiar with Owen's verse and strong message. Joyce's poems were read by Jeff Murray, an accomplished local actor and "He Rushed Forth Without Weapons" a poem Maj Ragain wrote after seeing my painting, "My Two Selves" was appropriately read by a young man, a man who is still drawn to the sea but was severly hurt by her waves.

Visions Verses Voices is an on- going immersive exhibition of paintings accompanied with poems that expands my love of verse in communication with my visual imagery. As presented at the Delaplaine Art Center in Frederick, MD, twenty-five poems were featured read by various people: professionals such as, Tom Hall, program host, WYPR, singers, amateur actors and just interested individuals who put in the time to be coached. Their readings were played from speakers in continuous loops, strategically placed throughout the gallery. All of the readers share an interest, even love, for the verse they read, which, I believe is conveyed through their unique voices. My purpose in creating this immersive exhibition is to demonstrate the interrelationship of verse and painting by encouraging the viewer/listener to experience the voices of the readers while viewing my paintings. The simultaneous experience makes for an enhanced appreciation of the poems and paintings.

The various readers’ tempos, cadences and unique rhythms add the visual experience by challenging the viewer to see relationships and dissonance. The poetry readers selected poems that resonated with them so that some poems are read by multiple readers. Poems can be long stories conveying a sense of place and time with anecdotes. Others are shorter imagist works.

Damen endeavored to interpret expressively the gestalt of a poem with color, scale, and images creating her personal interpretations. These soundtracks are artworks too. Music or other sounds are blended with the verses introducing a mood of harmony or contrast with the verse or vision. Additionally, the viewer/listener is able to access each audio from the exhibition's website https://visionsversesvoices.com/
Each painting image is followed by its recited relevant poem and soundscapes.
The poems are by Janet Lewis (1899-1998) from Poems Old and New 1918-1978, Maj Ragain, (1948-2018), Clouds Pile Up in the North: New & Selected Poems, Tim Joyce, Stone Mad: 2009 and the famous WWI poem, Dolce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen.

Jessica Damen thanks Lindsay Bottos, multimedia artist, for her expertise in collaborating on the production of the soundtracks.

1. Tim Joyce. Stone Mad: Poems .Murphy's Law Press, Lee, MA, 2009
2. Janet Lewis. Poems Old and New 1918-1978. Swallow Press, Ohio University Press, Chicago, IL
3. Wilfred Owen. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46560/dulce-et-decorum-est
4. Maj Ragain, Clouds Pile Up in the North:New & Selected Poems, Press 53, Winston-Salen, NC, 2017

  • Dulce et Decorum est Pro Patria Mori, 71 x 78", oil/linen,'04_ '14

    Dolce et Decorum est, Pro Patria Mori is a line from the Roman lyrical poet Horace’s Odes (III.2.13). The line can be roughly translated into English as: “It is sweet and right to die for your country.” Wilfred Edward Salter Owen (1893-1918) used Horace’s line in his famous WWI poem of the same title. The last line forewarns the impressible boy the Dolce Et Decorum Est is the old lie.
  • Dolce Et Decorum Est read by James Scofield

    Scofield has taught Wilfred Owen's powerful poem and the pain and fear is loud and clear with his voice.
  • "My Two Selves" 60 x 28" O/C 2000.

    two aspects of youth, strong, textural paint contrasts softer pastel paint, Kouros pose
    The model's pose refers to ancient Greek kouros. It addresses the ambivalent identity of male youths caught between their most elemental needs for security, love and tenderness, and their fear of being labeled effeminate. American youths are not encouraged to live with balance and beauty and therefore my kouros are clothed. Their sexual nature is conflicted. I represented the conflict with two figures, one with his pectoral muscles strong and sure, the palette knife sweeping across his chest.
  • He Rushed Forth Without Weapons read by Archer Senft

    Soft and crashing waves introduce the reading of Maj Ragain's response poem "He Rushed Forth Without Weapons" to my painting, "My Two Selves." The qualities of water: life giving, tranquil, crashing and dangerous express perfectly the dichotomy seen in "My Two Selves." Senft's deliberate reading seems to express a hesitancy but someday, he will be one.
  • Small Boy With Stick Going After a Wolf read by Jeff Murray

    The poem, "Small Boy With a Stick Going After a Wolf " written by Tim Joyce is read by Jeff Murray. There is authority in his voice but as he proceeds, slowly diminishing of strength
  • Jesus Jockey 12x12" OP '16

    quest, conflict, pollution, identity, responsive painting to poem
    Ragain's poem "The Procedure is Called Limited Containment”, is the inspiration for “Jesus Jockey”. Ragain’s verse describes the conundrum of his young geologist son. He is assigned to contain “(a) pool of bone eating doomsday toothpaste…lined with layer after layer of Hefty bags…expected to last no more than thirty years." The son is caught in a toxic swamp. An image appears of a jockey pulling off each layer of his muddied goggles. The son’s conflict has a path, "remember that Jesus was a jockey, blind and skinny and devout." Clear your eyes.
  • The Procedure is Called Limited Containment read by Jason Ryan

    The Procedure is Called Limited Containment read by Jason Ryan
  • "Boyhood Coat of Mail" and "Reborn Old Man

    companion oil paintings for poem, imaginary baseball game, boy alone, humiliated, old man, assured, comforting
    I imagine a boy and everyone is glaring at him. Perhaps he missed the big catch or struck out. He is humiliated and alone. That boy becomes an old man, he imagines comforting another boy or catching that hit. It does not matter. This painting is a response to Ragain's "An Old Man Lies Down With the Lion" It is a story of transformation. The last verse, "Thou shall lie down with the lion. Thou shall be reborn as an old man."
  • An Old Man Lies Down With the Lion read by John Wright

    An Old Man Lies Down With the Lion a poem written by Maj Ragain and read by John Wright reminded me of the bitterness children can feel when they feel they haven't performed. Bitterness lodges when a kid can't ever please. The failed baseball play was my entry point.

Visions Verses Voices - An Immersive Installation:Memories & Dreams IV

Maj Ragain penned all the poems in this section. Many are bittersweet, nostalgic poems. Remembrances of times past that speak to his growing realization that his time on this earth is nigh. Others, are like proclamations of appreciation or, ruminations expressing concern.
Visions Verses Voices is an on- going immersive exhibition of paintings accompanied with poems that expands my love of verse in communication with my visual imagery. As presented at the Delaplaine Art Center in Frederick, MD, twenty-five poems were featured read by various people: professionals such as, Tom Hall, program host, WYPR, singers, amateur actors and just interested individuals who put in the time to be coached. Their readings were played from speakers in continuous loops, strategically placed throughout the gallery. All of the readers share an interest, even love, for the verse they read, which, I believe is conveyed through their unique voices. My purpose in creating this immersive exhibition is to demonstrate the interrelationship of verse and painting by encouraging the viewer/listener to experience the voices of the readers while viewing my paintings. The simultaneous experience makes for an enhanced appreciation of the poems and paintings.

The various readers’ tempos, cadences and unique rhythms add the visual experience by challenging the viewer to see relationships and dissonance. The poetry readers selected poems that resonated with them so that some poems are read by multiple readers. Poems can be long stories conveying a sense of place and time with anecdotes. Others are shorter imagist works.

Damen endeavored to interpret expressively the gestalt of a poem with color, scale, and images creating her personal interpretations. These soundtracks are artworks too. Music or other sounds are blended with the verses introducing a mood of harmony or contrast with the verse or vision. Additionally, the viewer/listener is able to access each audio from the exhibition's website:https://visionsversesvoices.com/
The Painting image is followed by the recited poem and soundscapes.
The poems are by Janet Lewis (1899-1998) from Poems Old and New 1918-1978, Maj Ragain, (1948-2018), Clouds Pile Up in the North: New & Selected Poems, Tim Joyce, Stone Mad: 2009 and the famous WWI poem, Dolce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen.

Jessica Damen thanks Lindsay Bottos, multimedia artist, for her expertise in collaborating on the production of the soundtracks.

  • Say Cheese, 58 x 50", O/C 2000

    memory, facade, oil, impasto paint, poetry
    The painting is nostalgic but with a bit of unease. These girls are not happy, the title, “Say Cheese” is an ironic mention. Maj Ragain’s response poem, “What the Dead Remember” takes a darker turn. He imagines the girl with no name. She is dead and forgotten. The suburban idyllic atmosphere is pierced with a dose of mortal reality. Can the listeners of the poem hear the dissonance between the saccharin colors and foreboding message?
  • Wha the Dead Remember read by Jill Goodman

    "What the Dead Remember" was read by Jill Goodman, an educator who was coached to read the poem. She begins her clear reading with a jaunty rhythm and then slows as the sad, forgotten girl is revealed. The reading, which is introduced with the sounds of children playing, juxtaposes the ironic sense of the painting with the more somber feeling of the poem.
  • My Private Garden, 62x28"OC '00

    Contemporary korai, enigmatic smile, saturated oil paint
    My youngest daughter modeled for “My Private Garden” one cool early autumn day. Her posture and form were as perfect as the korai she was asked to mimic. Yet, she retained her individuality and the strength of a modern girl. While painting her from the photographs taken that day, I envisioned her bathing suit, as a shield, protecting her from the volcanic eruption of emotions I knew would erupt in a few years. She was transitioning from the impish baby (compliments of Van Gogh) to a girl on the cusp of adolescence.
  • Holding & Being Held...read by Olivia Hollender

    Olivia Hollander's reading of Maj Ragain's poem, "Holding and Being Held by the Breath: A Solitude" emphasizes that the girl is trapped. Olivia reads "...landlocked, heavy heeled, hands at her sides. The dirt beneath her swims into cloud. She cannot leave, hostage to the planter’s trowel " carefully, puncturing each word.
  • Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep 62x34" O/C '03

    childhood dreams, sleep anxieties , oil paint, narrative, religious iconography, witches
    "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep" are lines from an old bedtime prayer. I remember reciting it when I was a child. The skewed perspective reflects a child’s fear that the sky is falling through the skylight. The environment is filled with Christian and contemporary imagery. Goya’s witches cackle and sharks swim in the fish bowl. The pained Madonna glances toward the sleeping child. My friend and collaborating poet, Maj Ragain wrote “A Dreamer Sails into the Land of Nod” in response to this painting.
  • A Dreamer Sails Into the Land of Nod read by Louise Senft

    Louise Phipps Senft read Maj Ragain's responsive poem, entitled "A Dreamer Sails Into the Land of Nod." It is introduced with a mobile's playing of Brahm's Lullabye. Senft's reading is energetic. She captures the environment of playfulness, as well as, dread. After some twist and turns with philosophical reflection, her voice softens. She soothes the little pilgrim.
  • Quick River in a Green Time 50 x 74.5" O/C '02

    goddess quest, impasto, oil, three muses, response painting, poem
    A response painting to Maj Ragain’s poem, “For My Daughter Meg, Graduating From Kent Roosevelt High School” also loosely references Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus”. This “goddess” is a come hither adolescent on top of an upside down seashell. I imagine my goddess evolving from the green sinewy girl and more charming modern girl wearing sport gear. The environment is both verdant and perilous, a creepy Rumpelstiltskin imp lurks and they are surrounded by unnavigable, fast white rapids.
  • For My Daughter Me Graduating...read by Rufus Lusk III

    Reader is Rufus Lusk, a retired businessman and clergyman. The introductory sound of a rushing stream sound implies the rapidity of change and a child's growth. Before one knows it, the girl is a woman. But the distance can be a turbulent ride. Rufus chose this poem because he is a father of two girls.
  • Jo, Jon Floating on Jonah's Whale 38x60 O/C '03&'14

    Two sleepers with whimisical and frightening characters in the environment. Jonah's whale holds them afloat. High key colors and textual paint, scraped surfaces and hidden images
    "Jo, Jon Floating on Jonah's Whale, was first painted early summer of 2003 while Maj and I took advantage of the interim session for former Fellows. He saw me struggling with the lower right corner close to the whale eye. Often he just sat and observed while I painted. Oddly, I did not feel self-conscious. I told him that the painting was inspired by a photo of my two children taking an afternoon nap. But, of course, the story is so much more. I frequently return to my paintings when I want to improve an area. In 2014, I reworked Jon's hand and arm.
  • Contents of the Whale's belly read by Louise P Senft

    "Contents of the Whale's Belly, Grounded Off Race Point, Provincetown, Cape Cod, June 2003" by Maj Ragain is read by Louise Phipps Senft. The reading of this long poem referencing the biblical story of Jonah and the Whale is introduced with whale sounds and soft waves. Is is a perfect summer afternoon. Maj and Louise take on a wild ride to the abyss and back again.

Visions Verses Voices - An Immersive Installation:Celestrial Search & Solace V

Beginning with artworks inspired by Ragain poems, there is yearning described with remembrances of relationships and a ghost. Lewis poems took me to the world of the Northwest Native Americans, to their intricatley linked relationship with nature and beautiful gardens that can envelope her dearheart.
Visions Verses Voices is an on- going immersive exhibition of paintings accompanied with poems that expands my love of verse in communication with my visual imagery. As presented at the Delaplaine Art Center in Frederick, MD, twenty-five poems were featured read by various people: professionals such as, Tom Hall, program host, WYPR, singers, amateur actors and just interested individuals who put in the time to be coached. Their readings were played from speakers in continuous loops, strategically placed throughout the gallery. All of the readers share an interest, even love, for the verse they read, which, I believe is conveyed through their unique voices. My purpose in creating this immersive exhibition is to demonstrate the interrelationship of verse and painting by encouraging the viewer/listener to experience the voices of the readers while viewing my paintings. The simultaneous experience makes for an enhanced appreciation of the poems and paintings.

The various readers’ tempos, cadences and unique rhythms add the visual experience by challenging the viewer to see relationships and dissonance. The poetry readers selected poems that resonated with them so that some poems are read by multiple readers. Poems can be long stories conveying a sense of place and time with anecdotes. Others are shorter imagist works.

Damen endeavored to interpret expressively the gestalt of a poem with color, scale, and images creating her personal interpretations. These soundtracks are artworks too. Music or other sounds are blended with the verses introducing a mood of harmony or contrast with the verse or vision. Additionally, the viewer/listener is able to access each audio from the exhibition's website:https://visionsversesvoices.com/
The Painting image is followed by the recited poem and soundscapes.

The poems are by Janet Lewis (1899-1998) from Poems Old and New 1918-1978, Maj Ragain, (1948-2018), Clouds Pile Up in the North: New & Selected Poems, Tim Joyce, Stone Mad: 2009 and the famous WWI poem, Dolce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen.

Jessica Damen thanks Lindsay Bottos, multimedia artist, for her expertise in collaborating on the production of the soundtracks.

  • Clouds:L Worker Ants & R:Demise of Benny the Brave

    companion oil paintings for poem, in one children are searching under white culmulus clouds hiding whimsical character, the other two children hug, comforted and surrounded by a deep green lake
    The two 12x12" oils on wood panels are companion paintings which respond to Ragain's poem"Clouds Pile Up North." This long, narrative takes the reader from a quaint summer scene and exposes a raw anger in a child. My approach was to identify with the children, their inquisitiveness, fantastical clouds and a more distant jumping child. The next panel of murky green offers comfort and forgiveness.
  • Clouds Pile Up North read by Tom Hall

    Maj Ragain's poem "Clouds Pile Up North" begins with an idyllic setting. The old man recounts his playfulness with the local children. Tom Hall, (radio program host, WYPR) uses his melodious voice to bring us to that time. We see and hear each child. They are not easily fooled. The mood changes as does the readers voice. There is tension and a warning given to the youngsters.
  • A Fisherman's Aurora Borealis 12x12" OP '16

    responsive painting to poem, memory, luminous red sky, foreground grasses, distant barely discernable fisherman
    Maj saw my painitng and it immediately reminded him of his poem, "A Luminous Phenomenon". My painting imagines Maj as a Toaist fisherman, a speck in the universe, under the Northern Lights. After a doctors visit where "She knows I am waist deep in muddy water." Maj remembers the awe he felt under the Northern Lights as he faces his deminishing health.
  • A Luminous Phenomenon read by Tom Hall

    “A Luminous Phenomenon” is read by Tom Hall (Program host, WYPR). We enter this poem through a doctors office. Maj's health is not good and "She (the doctor) knows I am waist deep in muddy water." Then we switch to the cosmic sphere. He recalls his father’s love. The Northern Lights, an amazing phenomenon is shown to the sleeping child. He is part of the eternal.
  • East of the Sun West of the Moon,14x30" OC '14

    poetry, nature, children, landscape as rebirth, children on planks, discovery, quest
    "The Indians in the Woods" and "The Wife of Manibozho Sings" contributed toward the inspiration of my painting "East of the Sun, West of the Moon". Lewis’ poems remind me of the intimacy between nature and children, their wonder at every new thing, “distinct and visible”. To them, the smallness of things, like the berry leaf, is admired and remembered. This painting captures a moment, which is expectant with the coming and going of children. The children and the woods are treasures, each part of a whole. Poems Old and New 1918-1978.
  • The Indian in the Woods+Wife Monibozho Sings read by Catherine Hinton

    Lewis's short and sensitive poems, "The Indians in the Woods" & "The Wife of Manibozho Sings" are read by Catherine Hinton. Ms. Hinton, a teacher and singer has a melodious, soft voice, which I believe, perfectly captures the presence of the native's consciousness as penned by Lewis. Hinton requested these poems because of her love of nature and the changing seasons. To enhance the mood of these poems I introduced them with the sounds of two Tawny Owls and a Native American song "Love Song" by Mungo Martin & Mrs.
  • Wishful Vow, 18x46" O/L '14

    dreams, responsive poem, landscape metaphors, child on plank
    Janet Lewis' poem "Winter Garden" inspired this fantastic landscape and a child's perilous walk along an unsecured plank. Lewis recalls a child in a beautiful garden with calendulas, pomegranate tree and twisted vines. Then, like so many fairy princesses, she pricks her finger, but is not cursed. Instead Lewis makes a vow, "Now that you sleep your joy to replenish, Each branch, each varied lifting bough, That not a leaf in your garden perish." It is a “Wishful Vow”.
  • Little Sister, 12x12" O/P '16

    responsive painting to poem, green skinny girl, grave marker, boy staring through the back car window, memory, mortality, acceptance
    This painting is about the ghost the poet recalls in his poem "Winter for Skylark and Little Sister." I was drawn to the poem even though I found it elusive. The girl ghost wanted to be heard, she had so much more to say. Perhaps Maj is also wondering how he will be heard after the grave?
  • Winter for Skylark & Little Sister read by Steve Heine

    Steve Heine, the reader, is a father and a bank president. Recorded during a very busy day, he nonetheless read with sympathy for the speechless.

Leda, the Swan and the Original Rape Myth

During the summer of 2001 poet and collaborator, Maj Ragain, introduced to me the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan. I was captivated by the myth for a number of reasons but, not least of all for the fact that, my mother’s life long depression was at least partially resulting, from sexual molestation or rape (euphemism were used to describe "the trauma") by a landlord’s son, when my mother was a girl. This awareness led me to a broader interest in different versions of the myth and the its representation of the myth in Western art.

The later patriarchal Greek myth derives from an even more ancient love chase myth. Prior to patriarchal religions, the goddess, known as Lepta or Lento, pursues a god until she devours him and a swan takes him north to a final resting place. Ironically, the ancient Greeks changed the swan from the symbol of the goddess’ triumph to her downfall and rape. (1) The Hellenistic version has Zeus disguised as a swan, so that he can rape the beautiful Leda without upsetting his goddess wife, Hera.

Visual representations of Leda’s rape from the early Renaissance through the nineteenth century show a compliant, soft and willing Leda. To this day complicity is a frequent rationalization for rape. This series is painted from a Leda’s point of view engaging the viewer into imagined emotional responses. Below is Maj Ragain's response poem to my painting, "Leda and the Angry Swan."

Leda's Voice, Under Sky, Over Water (2)

I lie in the wreckage of my longing
which called him down to me.
I remember myself before Zeus settled
over me, in the guise of a swan,
downy chest against my nipples.
That world is gone.

I have been opened, my thighs spread
by wings beating all around me,
churning my blood into fever.
I am slathered with his god seed,
planted on this tortoise shell bed,
pinned down by clawed feet on bare skin.
His wings, spread across the sky,
eclipse the sun beneath which
all things are his domain.
I was mine. Now, I am his.

I will scissor my hair to the scalp
so he will not desire me if he returns.

Hera, his wife, has found us.
He rises in anger at her meddling.

I am sore.
The milky way swims in my belly.

Wherever you go, my empty eye follows.
- Maj Ragain
Jan. 5, 2004

The above Ragain poem was written after he saw my painting, Leda and the Angry Swan. The verse is his reaction to my painting. The opening of his poem, "I lie in the wreckage of my longing/ which called him down to me" angered me. Because in my opinion, the lines feed directly into one of the rape's myths, that is, the victim asks for it. I decided to do another painting, a prequel entitled, What's This in response to those lines. The other paintings in this series lead the viewer through a process of transcendence. By the end Leda is dancing goddess, her arm raised, as if reaching toward heaven.

(1) Graves, Robert. The Greek Myths:Volume I, London, England: Peguin Books, 1960
(2) Maj Ragain, Poet & Jessica Damen, Painter, "Vision to Verse - Verse to Vision : A Visual and Poetic Dialogue, Verde Gallery: Champaign, IL, 2004
http://bmoreart.com/2016/08/studio-visit-jessica-damen.html

  • Leda & the Angry Swan, 72 x 102", OC, '03

    Leda supine, Leda's eye focal point, tortoise shell, angry white swan
    The historical images of the Leda myth, whether pruriently imagined or disguised as “divine” sensual rapture are from a male perspective. My goal when painting this Leda is to make Leda’s eye the focus of the painting. The viewer cannot escape her gaze, the window to her soul. She is overpowered, but not subdued. The Swan-Zeus is not a loving “divine spirit” but rather, a territorial, aggressive being.
  • Ragain's poem Leda's Voice read by Lindsay Bottos & background sounds

    Lindsay Bottos, read Ragain's poem "Leda's Voice, Under Sky, Over Water" after my installation of "Visions Verses Voices" closed. Even though, "Leda and The Angry Swan" was not included in the original Delaplaine exhibition, "Leda and the Angry Swan", Ragain's poem and my responsive painting, "What's This" are, nevertheless integral to "Visions Verses Voices" goals. Lindsay's reading is powerful because her soft voice speaks powerfully of the pain of Leda's violation.
  • What's This? 60x79" O/L, 2016

    Rape of Leda, mythology, oil painting, feminist perspective
    "What's This?" describes the moment just before Leda's violation. It is a response to Ragain's opening lines: " I lie in the wreckage of my longing which called him down to me. I remember myself before Zeus settled over me,..... That world is gone." As a prequel my point is to create ambiguity. What longing? Why the piglet and nest? What does her expression reveal to you?
  • Leda's Revenge 11x14" O/P, 2014

    oil, thick paint, swan, birds, turtle, girl
    Leda’s Revenge is a revenge fantasy for every woman who wanted to kill her rapist.
  • She Walked Away 22x30" ink,WC/paper 2010

    ink painting, watercolor, swan and girl
    "She Walked Away" imagines her dissociation from the physical and emotional trauma of rape.
  • Remember Myself, 22x30" ink,WC/paper, 2010

    ink, watercolor, swan and fish
    Ragain opening phrase recognizes that after rape one is never the same. Leda is gone and can only remember her former self. "I remember myself before Zeus settled over me, in the guise of a swan, downy chest against my nipples. That world is gone."
  • What's This III 20.5x17" ink/wc/paper 2016

    ink brush painting, swan, leda in shadow
    “What’s This III” an ink brush painting on Hsuan paper is part of a series developed after I completed the oil, “What’sThis?” My use of Chinese ink and brush encourage me to paint Leda’s different expressions. Here is the swan overpowering her.
  • What's This V, 25x19" ink/wc/paper 2016

    ink painting, watercolor, swan and girl
    “What’s This V” has a lighter brush and the swan’s movement is freer. Leda’s expression is unique with each version.
  • Leda Dancing I 30x22" ink,wc/paper 2012

    ink painting, watercolor, swan and girl
    Leda Dancing I and II envisions a transcendent goddess, her finger pointed toward heaven.
  • Leda Dancing I 30 x 22" ink/wc/paper 2012

    ink painting, watercolor, swan and girl
    Leda Dancing I and II envisions a transcendent goddess, her finger pointed toward heaven.

The Other Story- Ariadne/ Heroine

The Other Story series re-envisions the mythical story of Ariadne; the forgotten heroine of the Minotaur myth. This fanciful and frightening story may be unfamiliar to today’s viewer and yet, it is a story experienced by many lovers, where one sacrifices to save or support another, and then is betrayed by the one who was helped. I have recast this story of love and betrayal by re-imagining the heroine as a victor in self-realization. She draws strength from her intimate female friends and herself. The women wrestlers’ muscular bodies subvert the notion of femininity. They also personify a seemingly unending competition and internal struggle women have experienced with love and lovers. The ancient myth is said to have two endings: one where Ariadne is abandoned by Theseus and subsequently hangs herself, and the other, where after her abandonment, Ariadne is found by the god Bacchus, and becomes his consort. My re-told story is not wrapped up tidily with either a tragic or happy ending. My Ariadne is neither a goddess nor a victim, but rather a fully realized woman, who draws strength from her struggle. http://bmoreart.com/2016/08/studio-visit-jessica-damen.html

  • Damen_Epic Wrestlers 63 x 127"OC '09

    women wrestling, mythic characters,
    My re-envisioning of this myth sees Ariadne as neither Bacchus’ wife nor the abandoned suicide. She and her counterpart are muscular, wrestling with one another and self. This epic-wrestling match is a quest for life and a struggle for self-identity.
  • Damen_Ariadne's Triumph 21.5 x 28.75" OL '16

    women wrestling, mythic characters, layered, muted figures
    “Ariadne’s Triumph” was completed during 2016. It brings this personal myth narrative to conclusion. The painting field is layered and muted. Within the field are the personages of Ariadne: wrestlers, brave and enduring, muscular women. She is the heroine, who completes her quest by killing the Minotaur.
  • Damen_Hold on Tight 62 x 28", OL,'08

    mythic heroine, warm and cool colors, symbols of the myth
    “Hold on Tight” is Ariadne before she decides her path. Back lit with stark, bright imagery, her facial profile is elegant and regal. Her hair is built with colorful, twisting palette knife marks. She sits within the belly of the bull. Her throne is both her power and nemesis. At her feet is the red thread, Theseus' lifeline and her fate. This Ariadne has muscular legs. She is an athlete, although she holds onto herself because it takes courage to defy. She is the author of her fate. I image her taking a sip of wine before her battle.
  • Damen_Shadows 37 x 29" OL '08

    myth, heroine, Minotauromachy, shadows, red field
    Picasso’s “Minotauromachy” inspired “Shadows”. Where Picasso’s print has a girl holding the lit candle, I have a young woman, Ariadne, her spine exposed, is bathed in red and black shadows. The woman is complex and full fleshed. A sense of quiet unease permeates the atmosphere. While the monster “other” lurks, it is the mature woman who holds the focal point.
  • Damen_Jumping Bulls, 52 x 77" OL 08

    myth, women, heroine
    The Surrealists concentrated on the dual nature of man and beast as personified in the Minotaur. But “Jumping Bulls” directs the viewer’s attention to the relationship of Ariadne and her girlfriends. It is a “what if” story, while recognizing that The Bull is a presence, this story is from the woman’s perspective. In the wall environment are images from Minoan wall mosaics of bare breasted women jumping bulls. Their near nakedness is not for the male gaze. This painting is a counterpoint to hyper-sexualized or helpless images of women.
  • Damen_Strange Guests 70 x 62" OL '07

    Minotaur, Picasso reference, family myth, bacchanian
    “Strange Guests” integrates one of Picasso’s bacchanian prints and two of his early 20th century somber women. I wove into this narrative my own family. The oil painting presents a picture of complementarities in color, line and form. The Minotaur, the projection of human’s dual nature, is also a bit of a fluff with his long eyelashes.
  • Damen_Who Opened the Window 65 x 77", OL,'08

    bacchanian, myth, family, magical realism,
    "Who Opened the Window" places Picasso’s depiction of libidinal and aggressive energies within the context of a family gathering. Here the grotesque double is an intruder at the dinner table and the bacchanian feast is integral to the family’s posturing.
  • Damen_Conundrum 24 x 18" OP,'09

    heroine, blue color field, bull and bull tamer
    "Conundrum” is a simple portrait of a pensive girl.
  • Damen_Touching the Beast 24 x 18" OP, '09

    mythic heroine, warm and cool colors, symbols of the myth
    Once again referencing a print by Picasso, I envision the girl heroine embracing her beast.
  • Damen_ Punch, 16 x 20" OP, '09

    mythic heroine, wrestlers
    Ariadne punches her way out of her conundrum.

It Is Rumored- Two sided Scroll

The “It is Rumored” project began with a question. “Why is this beautiful place in the Chesapeake Bay called Bloody Point?” The answers to that question led me to paint a 84 x 48" free hanging scroll on Mulberry paper using ink, watercolor, acrylic and gouache paints. The stories associated with this Point are unquestionably bloody. This scroll suspended by an American Eagle door knocker is inspired by mysteries that are legendary surrounding Bloody Point: the site of many horrific documented and rumored events. It was rumored that dead and dying slaves were tossed from ships at this deepest point of The Bay after the Middle Passage. Unquestionably many thousands of enslaved men and women were transported through these waters. Time is painted as “all over” flowing stories. The length of the scroll suggests the mysteries hidden by the water’s depth and obscured by time. A hung pirate is left to rot surrounded by the abundant beauty and bounty of The Bay even as Native Americans are slaughtered. To convey the idea that rumors and time obscure facts and sow confusion, the two paintings are mounted back-to-back. Consequently, while looking at one side, one can see the muted impressions of the other narrative image. Even though this is one painting, there is neither a front nor back. The image can be seen from both sides, encouraging many perspectives.

  • It is Rumored side A

    84 x 40" Chinese ink, watercolor, acrylic, gouache on Mulberry paper, suspended from a wood dowel and an American Eagle door knocker. I imagined side A of “It is Rumored” as a remembrance of murdered slaves who were cruelly tossed from ships. There is no documentation from insurance claims to support the practice of disposal of dead or near dying slaves at Bloody Point. But it is documented at other sites off the coast of Africa. (1) Although it does seem possible that if one wanted to hide nefarious deeds, the deepest part of the Chesapeake Bay would hide the evidence.
  • It is Rumored Side B

    84 x 40" (image size) Chinese ink, watercolor, acrylic, gouache on Mulberry paper, suspended from a wood dowel and an American Eagle door knocker. I imagined the B-side of “It is Rumored” as a remembrance of massacred Native Americans who unwittingly arrived for an "interview” only to be killed by colonists. There is a court record documenting the trial of a pirate who murdered four seamen. The pirate was tried, condemned to death by hanging and his body was left to rot at Bloody Point. I imagined the bounty of The Bay and its surrounding land.
  • detail upper A side of It is Rumored- Bloody Point

    Water fowl feed as bodies struggle to survive.
  • detail middle A of It is Rumored

    One is able to see the muted image of the hung pirate, as fish swim by and falling figures descend to the abyss.
  • detail of lower A side of It is Rumored

    Side A lower section is dense with black ink and saturated color creating a more chaotic scene.
  • detail of upper B side of It is Rumored

    Side B upper section: A ship under sail, one that brought slaves across the ocean is reflected in the water. Bubbles of expelled air are released. Elegant Blue Herons are reflected as other waterfowl dip into the Bay searching for food. One can see through to the other side, the falling side. Beauty and dread are combined within each frame.
  • detail of lower B side of It is Rumored

    The veins of the tobacco leaf are juxtaposed with falling figures.
  • Installation of It is Rumored

    Installation shot of Side A of "It is Rumored" from "Altered Truths - Fractured Myths" two person show with Oletha DeVane, at City Arts Gallery, Baltimore MD, Nov 2011- Jan 2012
  • Installation of It is Rumored- Bloody Point

    Installation shot of Side B of "It is Rumored" from "Altered Truths - Fractured Myths" two person show with Oletha DeVane, at City Arts Gallery, Baltimore MD, Nov 2011- Jan 2012

"The Past is never dead. It's not even past." Wm. Faulkner

The photograph, the modern person's means to immortal portrayal is often, the source for my work. This portfolio ends with “The Long Immortal Day ”, a portrait of my husband’s daughter, Adriana, who was tragically killed in a car accident. Her photographs, my husband and close family members’ memories are all that remain of her. We soothe mortality’s erasure with the consolation that a life fully lived is sufficient. But when death steals a child’s life, how does one find comfort? A parent, Vincenzo Gulotta, whose son was dying of leukemia, sought comfort from Janet Lewis with a poem request. I happened upon Lewis’ response poem, “For the Father of Sandro Gulotta” before I attempted Adriana’s memorial portrait. I needed the poet’s verse so I could reenter that time of irreplaceable lose. The poem crystalizes Lewis’ preoccupations with time, death and birth using the metaphor of the day lily to capture the simplicity of the child’s life and the recognition that the day lily’s purpose is completed within a day. And while the day lily serves as a “paradigm for the formal organization of time: days, seasons and years” (1)it also is a living thing that;“…drank the sunlit air.
In one long day
All that it needed to do in this world
It did,…” (2)
Keeping with the theme that, "The Past is never dead. It's not even past." (Wm. Faulkner), I also include paintings addressing contemporary issues: the long history of American racism, the indoctrinating a soldier identity in children, the facade of the "perfect" suburban white American family.
Early in this series my own children are models and they inspired my visual wanderings. Other times, I use found photographs. As the series progresses they move from being my child to, Child, a universal source for my bemused wonderment. She is a whisperer or a seer. Her role and demeanor changes as my interest lead me to and from fairytales, myths and tragedy. I paint energetically using both brushes and palette knives as if sculpting forms and carving planes, constantly erasing and re-applying images and lines. The “pentimenti” traces are Time’s marks, which are neither fully hidden nor, revealed.
[1] Lewis, Janet. Poems Old and New, 1918-1978. Swallow Press Books: Ohio University Press, 1982, from Introduction. Helen Trimpi, p.xv
[2] Ibid. p. 77

  • Touch Me Not, 60 x 48", OC,'15

    social psychological painting, meaning of confederate flag, children
    Inspired by an antique photograph of a named southern school boy dated, 1869 and placed in Marion, Alabama, I was struck by the ten year old school boy's arrogant, Napoleonic pose. The massacre of the welcoming parishioners of the Emmanuel African Methodist Church, June 2015 by Dylann Roof and his racist postings with the Confederate flag prompted me to add this controversial symbol into the composition.
  • Damen_ Raised With Walls, 77x47, OL, '14

    In a field of red, layered images of marching, saluting boys
    Several antique photographs were sources for "Raised With Walls - Bad Education". I identify with boys of an era. I feel their desire to please. They are not yet formed but are boys molded within a field of red blood. They are caught in an endless chain of mis-education. It is bad education when young boys are taught to fill boots they are too young to understand.
  • It's In Our Hands 23 x 13" O/L '14

    childhood trauma, guns, foreboding, frigthening creatures, bad education
    A small black and white snapshot, taken around 1948 inspires "It’s In Our Hands." The photograph both disturbing and provocative is of a very young girl holding a rifle. Around her are laughing adults as she struggles to hold it. My imagination wandered and I saw those adults as apparitions representing teachers of death and of unthinking callousness. My subtle use of red forebodes the loss of blood. Over the ensuing five decades, American society has witnessed an alarming rate of child deaths due to rifles and handguns.1. Guns kill children daily.
  • I Am Here, 37x27" OL '15

    daughter, father, dyad, oil painting, dolphins, dead fish, responsive painting poem
    A staring toddler crushes her solid leg upon a dying fish and a bewilder father looks on. I believe it is a strange juxtaposition since children are supposed to be cute or playful. This toddler is daring the viewer saying- I AM HERE. She crushes the wild life of the fish. Do not mess with her. Her dad has tight lips and eyes glaring. Distance and tension separates them, which is relieved by an environment of playful dolphins.
  • Easter Sunday Portrait 67x84 O/C 2007

    Surreal family portrait, using reference to art history. Father stiff, daughters, one gleeful the other snarly, mother in between, skull like face with an Easter bonnet
    I found an old Kodachrome color family photograph. My family is all dressed up for an Easter Day Portrait. The photo portrayed that perfect 1960 family: strong dad, adorable daughters dressed in pastels and a beautiful mom. But this painting is not a copy of the original. Instead, I saw something else: a stilted man, a girl with a snarly smile separated by a mother from the other girl, a gleeful girl from a more current time. The mother's face is skull like in her Easter bonnet. She is almost a monster pushing out children like so many decorated Easter eggs.
  • Who Are You, Children? 48 x 62" O/C '01

    September 11, 2001, painting, poetry, children, archetypes
    "Who are You? Children?" This painting was started during the idyllic summer of 2001 while I basked in the sun drenched days and intellectual bliss of the Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, MA residency. It was completed after the horrific events of September 11, 2001 and therefore took a ominous turn. Here are five archetypes: the impish demon, the seer, the male and female hapless witnesses and the fallen doll.
  • Hanging By A Limb 12x12"OC '01

    childhood trauma, Sept. 11, 2001, psychological reactions, oil paint, narrative
    September 11, 2001 occurred while my daughter was in the fourth grade. Her school, in Montgomery County, MD, about fifteen miles outside of DC was located in an area where parents were told not to pick up their children. Apparently there was concern that the roads would become too congested. Joanna told me that the kids in her class gave each other comfort. One girl's father was an American Airlines pilot and the kids rallied around her. I concentrated on the mutual comfort the children shared while the monkey holding on to the tree limb represents the horrors of the day's events.
  • Gifts, 44x72" OL'00

    immortal moment, memory, child psychology, oil painting
    "Gifts"- Three generations are pictured here. In the foreground two sisters have just opened a Christmas gift. The one girl gazes at an unknown sight and her eyes mirror the doll’s. Their mother is the recorder of this still moment in what could have been a frenzied morning. In the sunlit hallway is a blurred painting. Look closely you will see another Christmas morning pictured.
  • Long Immortal Day, 60 x 30" OC,'00

    portrait of child, death, immortality, remembrance, memorial
    Originally four-year old Adriana was photographed naked, holding a towel after shedding a sandy, wet bathing suit. Since the day lily represents the immortality of a child’s day, she holds it. Adriana is that sweet child frozen in time. The child herself has a different concept of time. “Who shall say if the day was too brief, For the flower, if time lack? Had it not, like the children, all Time In their long, immortal day? Ibid, p77
  • Slogging Thru the Hungry Ghost Swamp 30x28" O/C 2016

    imaginary environment of a lotus swamp and woman jogger, slogging through the swamp of hungry ghosts.
    Painted in shocked response to Donald Trump’s unexpected 2016 electoral win, I used a Buddhist bodhisattva symbol, the lotus and mythical “hungry ghosts”, creatures that did not control their appetites during life and are therefore condemned for eternity never to be satiated by food, wealth or sex, to express the anticipated slog needed to get through the next four years. I remembered my oldest daughter’s determination with painful long distance jogging and envisioned my heroine, a woman who persists even through a disgusting swamp.

Dashed Dreams, Family's Generational Pain

Dashed Dreams, A Family’s Generational Pain is a series of paintings and drawings I completed upon finding a manila envelope after my parents' deaths. The envelope, simply labeled, “Cynthia Damen” was filled with snapshots of a sister I never knew. Cynthia had died two months before I was born. Her death left a pall of sorrow over the family and myself for decades. The works inspired by these photographs are foundational to the artistic issues I have mined since 1999. They address the concerns of children’s emotional development, their manifested grief, the trauma of denial and the persistence of the past in the present.
My focus changes from parent to the older child, the forgotten one. My experiences as a pediatric nurse and studies of families’ emotional stresses while caring for severely disabled children inform my work. Healthy siblings children can get “lost in the shuffle. ” And even well intentioned parents expect the older sibling “to pitch in” too much relative to the child’s age. I see the older child as lonely and burdened. She is laden with too many responsibilities, guilt and anger.

This series envisions other fraught parent/child relationships. Black Forest Creature & Fairy Princess and Pachamama, The Mountain Mama represent a transition from my family’s tragedy to an imaginary contextualization using fairytale and myth.

  • Her Holding Onto, 42 x 30", charcoal, white conte/paper, '97

    drawing, reconstructed memories, American dream, Jacob's ladder
    "Her Holding Onto"- The Second World War is over but there is no housing for the newly married couple. The central rectangle separates a snapshot of a beautiful woman. She is my mother standing on the proverbial ladder to the American dream, a home being built by her husband. Energy and optimism abound. They survived the war, they are climbing up and she is holding onto to that ladder, to him and their dreams.
  • His Building, 42 x 30 charcoal, white conte/paper,'97

    drawing of builder, Jacob's ladder, memory through photography
    "His Building"- My father is building the foundation of their home. But it is balanced upon spindled legs, a precarious placement. Like the biblical Jacob, my mother and father must climb ladders with no clear terminus.
  • Suburban Mom 30 x 22" oil on panel,'99

    drawing of a madonna and child, memory
    My mother’s narrative says that Cindy’s “slow start” was diagnosed as cerebral palsy at six months. Her little girl had little strength or muscle tone. “Suburban Mom” is painted on wood panel reminiscent of early Renaissance portraits. I envision Anita, my mother, as the archetypal Madonna, a holy woman who intuits her child’s death. Her vacant eyes contrast with the baby’s penetrating gaze and light reflects off her dress shining a halo behind her upswept hair. There is no ascension for this wounded woman. This human Madonna suffers an unrelenting and understandable decline into depression.
  • Repose, 58 x 50" mixed media/paper,'97

    warm colors, pastel, oil stick, empty chair, shadows
    "Repose"- It was a hot summer afternoon. The snapshot cut off my father’s head. The image of tranquility was truncated. In opposition to that image I drew my shadow within the iconic Adirondack chair. That hastily captured moment of rest was forever lost to my sisters and I. We never talked about Cindy amongst ourselves. Even though the envelope was found, everything I painted or drew was just a shadow, a vision through a glass darkly. Nevertheless, the shadow of Cynthia’s death was always as palpable as summer’s heat.
  • Cynthia's Stance 32 x 24', oil on canvas,'99

    Memory, disability, interior space as metaphor, warm colors, oil
    Cindy’s baby book, “A Record of Baby’s Days”, begins with entries noting her weight. Not surprisingly, the developmental milestones are left blank. Found behind the cheerful pictures is my mother’s narrative written in careful cursive. She records with understatement the horror of Cindy’s botched delivery and therapies to make her better. A snapshot celebrates Cindy’s progress. She is finally able to stand and cruise with braces. Turning toward Cindy’s perspective I see hidden, beneath the table, girls leaping. Both triumph and anguish is in the painting.
  • Last Birthday Party 22 x 28"oil/panel '99

    Memory , interior space metaphor, photographic reference, two realities
    Shortly after her second birthday, Cindy died of aspirational pneumonia. She choked on her own phlegm. I labored over "Last Birthday Party" for weeks. The photo shows a pregnant mom who is worn out. Skinny Cindy is weak. I painted and re-painted my mother’s emotionless face, her puffy maternity dress and the sad, blue, Cindy. Grace Hartigan admonished me. “Are you still working on that painting?" Then I noticed that the kids’ expressions, weird and alive. The older sister’s impish glance and the boys’ smiles pointed to the two realities within this narrative.
  • Roll Over, Roll Over and Then There Was One 58 x 50",'97

    memory and present, religious rite and guilt, receeding space, contrasting hot cool colors
    "Roll Over, Roll Over and Then There Was One….referencing a children’s subtraction rhyme, this painting is imagined from the older sister’s perspective. The room is shaped like an opened book. Hanging above the two girls is a crucifix filled with Last Rites implements. The blue wall is a page with an imagined five-year-old's diary entry. If the older sister could write, would she have confessed, “I was so mad. Mommy didn’t listen to me. I wished Cindy would go away. I wanted her gone and in the morning mommy told me she was dead.” I see an older sister fading away.
  • Bedtime For Raggedy Ann, Isis & Others 44x36"OC,'03

    childhood, nighttime fears, oil painting, ancient Egyptian iconography,
    "Bedtime for Raggedy Ann, Isis and Others" begins with a small found photograph. An unknown child holds a birdcage like an Egyptian princess. It is the time for her to dream new worlds. The painting continues my interest in childhood fears and dreams. Maj Ragain’s response poem, “The Blue Eye Blinks Once Every Hundred Years,” ends with a call to move to the unknown.
  • Black Forest Creature, 65x35_30x35",OC,'06

     fairytale, myth, oil, expressive color, underlying danger
    Fairytales help children cope with painful emotions. “Black Forest Creature”, completed years after the previous works, recognizes darkness, even with those we trust. The naked girl is a pure soul. She seeks comfort from the monk-like man. The canvas is cut just at her knees. Flowers are huge, distorting perspective. Inspired by Grimm's Fairytales, the Black Forest is an apt metaphor for the dark, uncivilized forces lurking behind a sweet smile or candied house. Fairytales expose the unbearable.
  • Pachamama - The Mountain Mama 100 x 38.5 x 1.5" O/L '07&'03

    Smiling huge mama, arms folded and hands gently touching with two young girls floating in a dark mountainous environment.
    Pachamama - The Mountain Mama describes the oversized importance of mother. She is the mountain source of comfort and/or pain. The mother’s face is radiant, and the children, although not embraced by her arms are held within the embracing folds of her transparent skirt, much like The Christian Madonna. Her sacral chakra is her source of creativity and sexuality. The ornamental tulle obscures it. I imagine the children as two aspects of one child: shy, worried, clinging and the other more robust, angry, ready to punch. A mountain mama's presence is needed for psychological integration.

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