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Charissa Jarrett: Histories, Abstracts, Feelings, and Physics.

Entice mixed media by Charissa Jarrett

Past Lives mixed media by Charissa Jarrett

The two little girls were about six and eight years old. Mom said, "Go pick a place to sit," as she turned to make their breakfast order there at the Pike's Perk Coffee Shop. The little ones stood in front of a wall of abstract paintings, considering them carefully. "I want to sit by this one," the eight-year-old said, moving one of the chairs in front of the all white heavily impastoed Past Lives. "I like this one," said the six-year-old and plopped down in front of the big black and white abstraction called Entice. The girls seemed quite pleased with the art they had laid claim to and waited smilingly for their mother.

When I thought of my own childhood, long ago, I remember puzzling over a Jackson Pollack. America in those days still viewed Abstract Expressionism with the cocked eyebrow of suspicion. Wasn't art supposed to represent some recognizable object? Well, we've all come a long way, and the very natural reaction that the little girls had to the paintings is proof positive of evolution in action.

Leonard Shlain in his masterpiece, Art and Physics, quotes Werner Heisenberg (of the Principle of Uncertainty) who said, "The common division of the world into subject and object, inner world and outer world, body and soul, is no longer adequate..." It was no longer about waves or particles but waves and particles. Art had changed along with the new perceptions of the universe. With that in mind, let's dive into the world of Charissa Jarrett's paintings.

Angels and Demons mixed media by Charissa Jarrett

Charissa sees her paintings as histories, of herself and of people and events. Born in

America and raised in Jamaica during her formative years, she embraces her ancestral mix: the people of Africa, Europe, and the Native Arawak-speaking Taino. The Taino were the first people to inhabit Jamaica, arriving from South America, around 600A.D. This sense of self is reflected in Jarrett's painting, Angels and Demons. One can see the dominant colors of red, black, gold, and white, swirling, colliding, fighting for space, but also mixing

together and blending in harmony. This blending is reflected in the Jamaican population.

Signifying that although the British brought with them a cultural overlay, instead of

usurping, they became entwined in the African and Arawak cultures. Over time Jamaica became one of the most culturally diverse places in the world and still is today, cementing the National saying “Out of Many, One People.” The dynamism in the way the paint is applied replicates the energy and creativity in the culture that produced reggae and the late great Bob Marley.

Souls of the Hanging Tree mixed media by Charissa Jarrett

Jarrett paints on a variety of surfaces, including steel, wood, and canvas. Her paints range from acrylic to oils to household laytex. Her use of impasto is about the creation of texture and shadows. In the painting Past Lives (above) and here, Souls of the Hanging Tree, the shadows speak subtly and effectively, holding the place that the grays and blacks hold in Entice. The flow of the impasto in Souls of the Hanging Tree takes on the aspect of a rooted tree, an image that can easily translate into our human commonality.

"As soon as I started facing myself, my creativity opened up more and more, and my belief in my abilities started increasing. It took time, but art was/is my healing spirit." Charissa Jarrett

Her awakening came during the pandemic. Like so many of us, Jarrett took stock of her life

and faced many of the things that she had kept hidden about herself and from herself.

Though she remembers always having family and community refer to her as an artist, she did not think of herself that way until recently. Even though she has owned her own graphic design business with a number of pop culture celebrity clients, she did not see herself as an artist, saying it is easier to promote someone else. However, as with many of us, the pandemic had its effect. "Every thought, encounter, emotion, kept leading to the arts. I dove, poured myself into painting on canvas, metal, glass. Anything I could paint on, I did and do," Jarrett says. As she worked and had her work seen and purchased, it hit her that in fact she is an artist.

A lot of her work is simply about capturing a feeling, as in Entice, which was inspired by a walk with her husband. She says, "I simply had to capture the feeling." However, she has a sense of history and the lives of people long gone upon whose shoulders she stands. Size is often important in Jarrett's paintings, as she sees them taking on big issues of ancestry and history and how they affect our future. That history is broad and deep, requiring space and size in order to express it adequately. Keenly aware of the lives of those who have gone before and whose efforts allow her the opportunity to shine, she became aware that indeed, she had to be true to herself and her distinct expression. In these two paintings (above and below), the black areas represent the struggles of Black people in the maelstrom of a turbulent history in relationship to the West. What is most outstanding is the energy and the beauty of the creation that has come from that turbulance. The expression in these paintings is true to what Jarrett says about what makes something a piece of art. "Art becomes art when it is created with true emotion," Jarrett says, adding, "Art is connection. People of different religions, sex, color, age, ethnicity can gaze upon a piece and be moved in some way emotionally without external bias."

To get a feeling for how Jarrett works on these big pieces, just take a look at this video.

"Life has gotten so hectic, we're rushing from the time we get up to the time we go to sleep. That is where art work, my art work, comes in. It is my goal with each piece, whether it is a feeling of joy, peace, somberness, elation, etc., that if one person slows down, connects, and feels for a few moments, it was/is all worth it." Charissa Jarrett

you, me. we mixed media by Charissa Jarrett

Making that personal connection can be relating some sweet moment as this lovely little piece would indicate. The heart-shaped mouth, the flirtacious eyelashes, the beautiful pastel colors create a charming figure whose calm exterior belies the fluttering of nerves inside, represented by the jittering blues and golds. The collage feeling of the piece, worked on two different colored surfaces, adds a sense of whimsy. Jarrett's background in graphic arts is on display in this piece, but the feeling goes well beyond what one might see in a greeting card or poster.

"According to the new physics, observer and observed are somehow connected, and the inner domain of subjective thought turns out to be intimately connected to the extenal sphere of objective facts," wrote Leonard Shlain. Certainly Jarrett's view of connecting feelings, the most inner human domain, to external events, histories, both personal and global, puts her art in alignment with the way things really work.

Charissa Jarrett standing beside Entice.

Her work is currently being shown through March at the Pike's Perk Coffee Shop, 6894 Centennial Blvd., Colorado Springs.

(719) 445-0627.

Jarrett can be reached at

Should you be interested in articles on art history combined with a discussion of wines, go to my other art blog,    Also see my author page at   

© Marjorie Vernelle 2024

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