Prairie Wife of the Week: Baret Boisson (artist) #giveaway
Posted June 27, 2016 by Prairie Wife - 26 comments
My first reaction when I see a painting is always emotional. It’s my emotional reaction that draws me into the painting, or has me walking away. Past Prairie Wife and current friend Kendra Richards introduced me to Baret Boisson’s work a few months ago. When I went to her website I was immediately struck by the vibrant colors and movement in her work. As I clicked through her gallery, I found my smile growing with each click. When I came across her La Vie en Rose collection, I was hooked. I can only imagine how lovely the paintings must look in person! I was nervous to ask Ms. Boisson for an interview, after all, her artwork can be found in the personal collections of Elizabeth Taylor, Kathy Ireland and Jimmy Fallon (just to name a few)! As I chatted back and forth through email with Ms. Boisson, I was captivated by her genuinely kind personality. As I read her interview, I realized that she is truly a woman of grit and grace. As you read her story, I hope you’ll be inspired not only by her art but, by her ability to create beauty from her struggles and hope for the future from people of the past.
Make sure you stop by the end of the blog and enter to win a set of La Vie en Rose Notecards!
Prairie Wife (PW): First tell us a little bit about you and your family.
Baret Boisson (BB): Well, my mom is an artist. She was born an artist, and also trained very seriously as an artist in New York and in Florence, Italy. I was actually born in Florence when my mother was studying there.
PW: You’ve mentioned that your childhood spent living in a variety of locations across the world has impacted you as both a woman and artist. Can you share a few of your favorite experiences?
BB: Yes, my peripatetic childhood really shaped who I am today. We mostly lived in different South American countries- Suriname and French Guyana and Brazil. All of my friends were of different cultures and nationalities, and I could already speak a few different languages as a young child.
When I was about 7 years old, we moved from South America to Dallas, Texas. What remains with me now is the sense that I didn’t fit in. The kids in my neighborhood all went to church (we didn’t) and brought neat white bread sandwiches to school at lunchtime. My mom would pack some leftovers from dinner the night before- something exotic like Bami Goreng, an Indonesian dish she learned to cook in Suriname. At the neighborhood pool, the girls all stared at my sister and I when we arrived in little bikini bottoms sans tops. The kids all seemed bigger than I was, and in gym class I was invariably picked last for teams. Each summer we left for a few months to go to Brazil, where my parents actually owned a small island. We lived with insects and bats and diseases, but I definitely felt more “at home” there than in Dallas.
After a few years in Dallas my parents decided to send my sister and I to boarding school in France. I was about 11 years old, and I was happy to leave Dallas and join a group of international misfits in my new school.
Dallas was, thankfully, the last time I ever felt out of place anywhere. Now that I’m a little older, I consider myself a citizen of the world. I realize that living in vastly different places has given me the ability to communicate with people from all walks of life. I have friends from different backgrounds, cultures, and religions; my experience has taught me to respect other views and perspectives even when I don’t agree. Moving frequently has allowed me to appreciate what it feels like to be an outsider, and to have empathy for others. And, it’s allowed me to feel at home anywhere.
This comes into play in my work as well. In my art, I try to foster communication and understanding between people, and to encourage a positive and compassionate view of the world.
PW: It wasn’t until the age of 30 that you became interested in being an artist. What are some of the pros and cons of entering such a challenging profession at that age?
BB: Because I was never trained as an artist and didn’t start painting until I was 30, I didn’t feel comfortable calling myself an artist for many years. In retrospect, I’ve always been an artist. I’m super creative. I see the world in a million colors. If it’s any indication, have no sense of direction and am horrible at math! When I did finally start painting it was with no intention of becoming an artist. But, it immediately felt right, and eventually it gave me the self-confidence to call myself an artist.
PW: What inspires you to create certain pieces?
BB: This is a really interesting question! I do everything completely organically, so it’s really only in retrospect that I’m able to see how things develop. When I first picked up a paintbrush, I didn’t know what to paint. I started with a subject that was close to my heart: my beloved dog Lucky. Then I decided to try capturing someone I admired. I think I might have started with Abraham Lincoln. I got two separate commissions to paint Rosa Parks, another to paint Will Rogers and then Muhammad Ali. In the meantime, I started getting commissions. Anniversary portraits, wedding portraits, and family portraits began to come my way. For many years I was mostly painting portraits representational work. Whenever I didn’t have a commission I would paint one of my heroes for my series that I called “Great Americans” – JFK, MLK, Jr., Harvey Milk. (Once I added Mother Teresa and Gandhi to the mix I changed the title to “Inspiring Greatness.”) The thing is…with figurative painting I have to hold the brush very carefully. Sometimes I find myself holding my breath when as I’m painting something detailed like little eyelashes.
A few years ago I started to feel like I needed to express myself more viscerally than I do with the portraits, and began to play with color on canvas, letting the process be as unrestrained as possible. I fell in love with the freedom that abstract art allows for, and found that my clients reacted in a more visceral way as well. There is no thinking involved, you either love it or you don’t! Ironically, it was only when I became more confident as an artist that I allowed myself to experiment in this way.
My “La Vie en Rose” series grew out of this same new period of freedom and joie de vivre that I’ve been experiencing over the past few years. In part a love letter to France, La Vie en Rose is also about embracing the good, making the most of each day, and appreciating time and experiences over material things.
PW: How do you balance your professional life with your personal life, especially with how much you still travel?
BB: There is really very little distinction for me between my professional and personal lives. Creating art is just how I express myself, an expression of the most honest part of myself. Unlike someone who has to dress a certain way for work and then sit in an office all day, I’m free to paint whenever I what. It’s very fluid. If there’s any line between the two, it’s very thin.
In terms of traveling, I think that there are benefits to it that affect me as a human being and as an artist. I find so much inspiration when I’m out on an adventure! I’m not sure that this would be the case if I were in the same environment day in and day out.
PW: For our readers that aren’t familiar with the process of selling paintings, can you talk to us about what it takes to get into a gallery or have an agent?
BB: The trajectory of my career is completely unique. I never picked up a paintbrush until I was 30, but within a months I was getting great commissions. While my early pieces aren’t technically sophisticated, they captured the energy of the subjects in a way that clients found appealing. Through word of mouth I was able to continue to sell my work and because of that, I never had to look for a gallery to represent me.
Traditionally artists want to be represented by a gallery, but paradoxically, they are not supposed to contact galleries themselves.
I was very fortunate to also be asked to have a solo show at a national museum, which is what most artists aspire to. So, even if your path looks a little different, there is still hope for finding success!
PW: What advice do you have for our readers that are interested in taking their art from a hobby to a profession?
BB: I didn’t call myself an artist for a number of years after I started painting. I was still doing commissions by word of mouth, but not really thinking of it as a profession. One day, Kathy Ireland, a friend and collector, called me to wish me a happy birthday.
“You’re being selfish,” she said to me (again, this was on my birthday!)
“What do you mean?” I asked, not understanding what she was referring to.
“You have a great talent and you are not sharing it widely enough. God gave you this unique gift and you have a responsibility to share it. The more people see your work, the more widely you can share your message of joy and hope.”
That lecture was a wake-up call, and started me thinking in a different way. I’m eternally grateful to Kathy for giving me this new perspective, and I hope to share the same message to artists. Don’t stand in your own way. If you can’t embrace your talent, no one else will.
PW: Your work can be found in the National Museum of Civil Rights and the homes of Jimmy Fallon and Kathy Ireland as well as Elizabeth Taylor’s private collection. What does this mean to you as an artist?
BB: Well, it’s an enormous honor! Dame Elizabeth Taylor collected works by Picasso, Van Gogh, and Degas to mention just a few. Her father was an art dealer and she was known to have a great eye for art. That my portrait of her was one of her favorites, that she decorated her bedroom around it, is one of the greatest compliments I could receive. Jimmy Fallon and his wife own many pieces of my work- I just finished a family portrait for him that his wife commissioned for father’s day.
One of the greatest honors is having the National Civil Rights museum in Memphis acquire my portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. That this portrait will live in those hallowed halls (where Dr. King was tragically assassinated) means that his beautiful dream will continue to be heard.
PW: Where do you hope to see yourself in the next few years?
BB: It’s very important for me to remain present, and to embrace every fleeting moment. I feel like if we live too far in the future, we can’t enjoy where we are right now. That said, I do see myself continuing to travel, enjoying the company of my close friends, and painting, of course!
PW: Any last Prairie Wife words of wisdom?
BB: Do what you love. It sounds cliché but it’s so important. Life is much too short to waste on a job that doesn’t resonate with you emotionally. When you do something that you are passionate about, it doesn’t feel like work. It feels like you are making a difference…you know that if tomorrow were your last day, you will have left the world a little better for it.
Take a moment to enter to WIN a set of La Vie en Rose Notecards! All you have to is comment below, tell us what you love about Ms. Boisson’s art. You can earn more points towards the giveaway by following us on social media. Please be honest, we will be checking!