Jean Hess

Train to Bluefield
8″x8″x.5″; paper collage, graphite, acrylic resin on cradled birch panel; 2020

Jean Hess
Knoxville, Tennessee, USA


I incorporate collaged ephemera in all my paintings and assemblages. I like random “surprises,” especially the discarded, old and damaged, including fragments and scraps. These compel me to go in directions I might not otherwise follow.

Found items are used in a way that obscures the original. I try not to ever use full images, only intriguing portions. I like the traces left in many old finds, especially old schoolbooks: flaking papers, stains from pressed flowers, ink blots, children’s graffiti, old tape used to repair pages. I paint over many elements to further incorporate the image into a larger field, and I also scrape paint away from what is covered, revealing an unforeseen new inspiration.

I typically use acrylic resin to anchor scraps permanently onto wood or canvas. This helps preserve fragile papers in centuries-old books. However, lately I have tried to learn about “pure” collage involving paper anchored to paper only with glue. The edges are vulnerable to being bent or wrinkled, and the work collects dust. Older papers remain fragile. This kind of work needs to be framed. But I like the purity retained–original colors and printing inks are truer to the original, often more luminous.

Signature elements include: Aerial perspective, Grid, Map, Floating spheres, Night skies, Luminosity, Visible under-layers, including original pencil marks, Secondary colors: Turquoise, coral, indigo, gold, gray

Recurring themes: Memory; Nostalgia; Place; Nature; Atmosphere; Transcendence. A new project focuses on Appalachian coal mining, the first political work I have done.


A native of Maryland, Jean Hess currently resides in Tennessee. Her work is influenced by her studies in cultural anthropology at the University of New Mexico (BA, MA) as well as in art at the Maryland Institute College of Art and the University of Maryland.

Hess was given a solo show at the Huntsville Museum of Art in 2004, with an award-winning catalogue accompanying that exhibition. In 2013, her work was featured in “Abstract America,” shown at Saatchi Online, curated by Rebecca Wilson, Saatchi Gallery, London. With two other artists her work was featured in a show at Knoxville Museum of Art in 2014.

Hess has had multiple shows at US colleges and universities. Public collections include: Huntsville Museum of Art; Evansville Museum of Art, History and Science; Knoxville Museum of Art; University of Virginia; Farm Credit Administration; Knoxville Convention Center; City of Chattanooga; St. Mary’s Hospital Heart Institute in Indiana; and Canon USA.

Much of her work is in private collections.


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9″x8.25″; paper collage, graphite on paper; 2020
10″x8″x.5″; paper collage, graphite, acrylic resin on cradled birch panel; 2020
Blue Evening
9.5″x7.5″; paper collage, graphite on paper; 2020
Matewan 2
36″x36″x2″; paper, acrylic paint and resin, graphite on cradled birch board; 2020