Jean Hess is known for her multi-layered collage works, that combine painting, drawing, printing, and found ephemera, merged together in translucent layers of resin. Her signature motifs of night skies, aerial prospectives, and celestial bodies lend themselves to layered imagery of underlying marks and rich color. The idea of water, floating in water, water imagery, and maps of rivers, lakes, and streams has also been used by her as a recurring theme whose perspective is almost always aerial.
Hess studied art at Maryland Institute, College of Art; the University of Maryland; and the University of New Mexico where she received her B.A. in art and anthropology. She additionally received her M.A. in cultural anthropology at the University of New Mexico.
Hess’s practice of imposing layer upon layer of material onto a map or a grid is central to her process. Her mixed-media assemblage and collage paintings often include fragments of her own prior works, antique wallpaper, pages from antique school text books, thread, and antique fabric. She frequently uses maps of places, significant for the many cities she has lived in, as an “infrastructure” for her work. Antique texts and documents are also added and are incorporated into the infrastructure to form a larger field. Hess often works in series, and she reworks paintings over time.
Hess creates visual puzzles to solve by collaging ephemera from nature with pressed flowers or leaves with additions of paint or graphite. She stitches in intricate grids in separate layers of clear acrylic placed between numerous layers of thin color washes.
She has recently exhibited in more than a dozen solo, dual, and juried shows at the San Diego Museum of Arts, University of North Carolina, Alexandria Museum of Art, Collage Artists of America, National Collage Society, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD), Tennessee’s Knoxville Museum of Art, Maryland Federation of Art, and others.
Her work is in the permanent collections of various corporations and museums: Alabama’s Huntsville Museum of Art; Knoxville Museum of Art; University of Virginia; and Indiana’s Evansville Museum of Art, History and Science among others.