Jeanne Seagle has created colorful conversations between artist and viewer with inspiring public works throughout Memphis. Meet the lady whose creations you have seen in places such as City Hall, Le Bonheur Hospital, the trolley stops downtown and more. Welcome, Jeanne, as today’s FACES of Memphis feature!
Have you always called Memphis home?
I came to Memphis to attend the Memphis College of Art, called The Art Academy in those days. My family is from Colorado, but soon after I was born, my parents started traveling around a lot for my father’s job with the Department of Agriculture. He was a forest ranger, and we lived in small towns in Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee. My favorite memories of childhood are when we lived on ranger stations in the Ouachita Mountains of southwestern Arkansas. We moved to Jackson, MS, when I was in the fourth grade, and I finished high school there. I couldn’t wait to move to the great northern city of Memphis!
When did you know that art would be a big part of your life?
When I about 4 years old, I drew a profile of a little girl, and I thought that was the most wonderful thing ever! That was pretty much the start of it. I was always drawing. When I was supposed to be studying in class, I would be making paper dolls for the girls, pinups for the boys and selling them for 10 cents apiece. I was the “art kid” in school and elected Most Talented in Art in high school. I graduated from MCA with a fine arts degree in illustration and spent my early career doing illustrations for books, magazines and newspapers, as well as designing and illustrating corporate publications and print advertisements. The Memphis Flyer, Memphis Magazine and Memphis Parent were my major clients.
Tell us a bit about the painting that was chosen to hang in Memphis’ City Hall.
That painting [“Bean Fields, After a Rain,” oil on canvas] was chosen through an UrbanArt Commission competition. I entered the competition and was not notified that my painting had won until six months later. By that time, I had sold the painting, so I painted it over again. I have done a number of other public art projects with the UrbanArt Commission, notably two mosaic-decorated trolley stop platforms on Madison Avenue. That commission led to my being asked to design a large mosaic sculpture for the lobby of Le Bonheur Hospital. And that led to my being asked to create large paintings for the new lobby of the Methodist University Hospital in Midtown.
Where is your painting studio?
My studio is a little house next door to the house I live in, in Cooper-Young. There is one room that is a gallery, one where I do design work and illustration, another room where I paint and make large drawings, and one more room for storage and mechanical work. It is my dream studio. I go there every day and do something. When I’ve got a deadline or I am working on a show, it’s a 9-to-5 schedule.
Tell us about your affiliation with L Ross Gallery.
I have been with Linda Ross for about two years now. Being a fine artist has always been my career goal. When I was an illustrator, I was never able to put away enough money to finance the time it takes to create fine art. With funds from all the public art projects I’ve been doing in the last decade, I’ve been able to finally realize that dream. My fine art work is primarily making paintings and drawings inspired by the Delta landscape.
How did your partnership with St. Jude come about?
During a slump in my illustration career, I was offered a job to join a mural painting team at Bellevue Baptist Church. I reluctantly accepted the job (I wanted illustration jobs, not mural painting jobs), and to my great surprise, I loved it. After we finished muralizing Bellevue, we moved on to a commission at St. Jude. We spent about two years painting murals in all the areas where children spend time. I have also spent time there as an artist-in-residence, with a studio there, creating easel paintings for the two Chili’s buildings. And there’s this huge sculpture that I designed and produced.
What three adjectives describe you best?
Artistic, adventurous, curious; everybody says I’m easygoing.
Do you have a couple of favorite destinations you have been to in your travels as an artist, for art shows or for inspiration?
Wherever I travel, I go to the art museums that are there. But most of my trips have art museums as the destination. I love going to the museums in our region, such as The Frist in Nashville, The Arkansas Art Center in Little Rock and Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, AR. Last summer, my husband and I made a three-week tour of the art museums of the northeast United States. It was fabulous! When I was in my 30s, I spent three months touring the museums of France, Italy and Germany.
Do you have an activity, other than creating beautiful art, that is top on your list?
I love to explore the countryside. A favorite activity is to just set out with no destination and drive around. Several of my artist friends and I go out on painting trips. That’s my idea of fun!
What are some basic words of wisdom you can offer based on your experience as a professional artist?
If you are passionate about something, don’t give up. Keep at it, in spite of disappointment and discouragement.
Do you have a specific mentor? How has that person influenced you?
I had some wonderful teachers at MCA (especially Bill Womack and Gary Martin) who encouraged me. My artist friends and my husband, Fletcher Golden, encourage me every day. That means so much.
Do you have personal favorites within your extensive body of work?
Yes, I am partial to some of the black-and-white drawings I have been doing lately.
I’d also like to mention the sculpture that I designed for the lobby of Le Bonheur Hospital, titled “I Can Fly.” It is 16 feet tall and covered with glass mosaic tile. It was a labor of love and source of pride for the many people who helped build it.
What three lighthearted things could you not live without?
Hanging out at Otherlands! Ice cream! Walks in Overton Park!
Thank you, Jeanne, for sharing insights into an artist’s lifestyle. Your work truly makes Memphis a more colorful place!
Today’s photos of Jeanne in her studio were taken by Micki Martin.
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