Jean Zaleski

I paint in series. I paint themes that fire the need to express how I feel about a particular subject. At times, it might be something buried deep in my subconcious that seeps into the present and fires that zeal. Then I must explore that subject until the fire burns out, or another subject captures my spirit.

The Ancestor Series evolved from a lifetime of carrying around childhood images of the magical prehistoric temples of my native Mediterranean island of Malta. In l989 and l990 I made two pilgrimages to these archaeological sites. I roamed through the miraculously preserved ruins, absorbing their essence and the environment, and making sketches. Back in my studio in the States, imagination converged with knowledge, and I made thirty paintings, using artistic license to people these ancient holy megaliths with imagined occupants.

Later, still involved with my heritage, I made a series I called Ancestor Cliffs and Caves, based on the exciting cliffs and caves that encircle Malta, which have always fascinated me. I painted Malta walls: those by the sea, those above ground or in underground temples. They all fascinated me. Finally, I painted the series Mnemonic Icons, memories of my childhood family life in Malta, sometimes asking questions, mostly an enchanted passage through my daily life as a child in a large family.

Sometimes it is a new environment that captures my imagination. In l995, wishing to physically explore my great interest in rain forests, I took a trip to Costa Rica. The extravagant life and richness of the rain forests and jungles seduced me. I was captured by their verdant and mysterious energy as well as the shelter they gave to rare and magnificent animals. Inspired by the power and movement of these animals, and the resonance they create within this space, I mentally started to paint the Rainforest Series while still there.

Similar experiences have led to other groups of paintings, like the Treespaces Series, which came to life at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. I took long walks among the marvelous old trees that exuded an anthropomorphic intimacy. They seemed to shimmer and dance in the moonlight. Trees thereafter continue to hold a druidic power over me.

I did not choose to create the Winged Spirits. They seemed to create themselves, and were a gift from the muse. The series started as a plaything - collages, a relief from the large paintings. The first one captivated my fancy and before I knew it I was making a second and a third and finally finished about thirty. Later, with the help of a poet friend, they ended up as a book with angel poetry accompanying the collages.

Passion demands expression from an artist. My paintings happen as a result of that demand.

Jean Zaleski

March 1, 2003


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