Artists’ work a ‘gift from God’

Kile Brewer
Posted 12/6/17

ORANGE PARK – Orange Park artist Jeanne Pellegrino never thought she would be an abstract painter.

Like most artists, she started out doing realistic drawing, won some awards in her youth, and …

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Artists’ work a ‘gift from God’


ORANGE PARK – Orange Park artist Jeanne Pellegrino never thought she would be an abstract painter.

Like most artists, she started out doing realistic drawing, won some awards in her youth, and enrolled in art school after high school graduation. Pellegrino attended Bowling Green State University in Ohio in the 1950s, and while attending the school she heard the famous artist Helen Frankenthaler speak.

“She was a pioneer in color field painting,” Pellegrino said. “And she did it better than anybody else.”

Frankenthaler, inspired by the work of abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock and other early painters, devised a technique for diluting her oil paints and spreading them horizontally across an unprimed canvas. She spoke about this in that presentation that Pellegrino attended, but nothing really stuck and she went back to her studies.

Eventually, Pellegrino would find herself in Florida attending Florida State University where she received her master of fine arts. During her MFA studies she was selected from a group of her peers to assist English artist Trevor Bell during his residency at the school. This is when Pellegrino discovered her voice as an abstract artist.

“It was just such a wonderful time,” Pellegrino said. “When it happened, it happened.”

Since then Pellegrino has produced numerous works incorporating techniques that Frankenthaler spoke on in Pellegrino’s youth. She works with acrylics, but the influence of Frankenthaler’s color field painting is there.

In her current exhibition, “In the Spirit,” which just opened at the Thrasher Horne Center, Pellegrino brought together several works she considers to have been driven through her Christian faith, even going as far as to say that God’s hand guides her paint to its final resting place on the canvas.

“This is God’s, not mine,” she said while welcoming patrons to the gallery.

The work has an astral quality, specifically the Genesis series which features multiple panels that take the viewer through the Bible’s version of Earth’s creation.

Pellegrino works almost exclusively with acrylics, but using various thicknesses of paint and pouring it onto the canvas she is able to create a transparency of layers that gives each painting a three-dimensional quality. On close inspection, the viewer can see each layer of paint poured over the others, seeping into every crevice of the textured canvas, spinning and mixing until coming to a halt and drying in place. The paintings seem to have a living quality to them, as if they are not static but still in motion. Further study brings out shapes, planets, mountains, or the sea.

“As much as I’ve practiced this technique, it’s still an experience every time,” Pellegrino said. “And it’s just so darn exciting!”

Pellegrino is offering up every piece for sale, as well as some archival prints of her piece “America’s Grace,” which was completed in the hours following the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. She sent a print to the White House and received a letter from then-President George W. Bush thanking her for the artwork. Those prints, an edition that Pellegrino said mirrors the print sent to Washington, are for sale at the Thrasher Horne Center’s front desk.

The exhibition will run through the month of December until January 15 before all shows and during intermissions at the TH Center, as well as during regular business hours from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays.


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