The Art of Island Hoppin’

Jessica Pisano’s paintings evoke the spirit of Newport and the Vineyard

The Bay Magazine ·

Jessica Pisano has enjoyed extraordinary commissions for her work; they hang in some galleries like golden leaves. But her most wonderful commission involves a tree. The arbor in question was located on the childhood property of a client. Her parents had to relocate and they were saddened by the fact that they would have to leave their stately oak.

“I came to find out that birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and all other family celebrations took place under that large oak. So, it was a pleasure to recreate that tree and capture its essence in a painting that they could look at every day in their new home,” says Jessica.

Jessica is an island hopper. She grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and now lives in Newport. The aesthetic beauty of the Vineyard gave her endless inspiration and has supported her artwork as well, with the strong arts community providing endless encouragement. “As an aspiring young artist, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to grow up in such an amazing place that both fosters and supports the arts. As an artist now, I continually pull inspiration from the Vineyard landscape. Equally, I create a lot of paintings inspired by Rhode Island’s shoreline,” adds Jessica.

She loves Newport only a tad less than her husband, Michael, who brought her to the island. “I used to own an art gallery on the Vineyard years ago and I met my husband through the gallery. He was one of the photographers that we represented ( Moving to Newport wasn’t a huge culture shock. There are so many similarities between the Vineyard and Newport, which made the move an easy one. The Newport season, however, seems to outlive the Vineyard’s by a few months, which is nice,” she says.

A third fantastic village completed her influences. While studying art in Florence, Italy, Jessica learned to use the traditional technique of the Old Masters; where oil paint is applied in many translucent layers, waiting for one layer to dry before applying the next. “Using this technique creates an overall radiance and a rich appearance to the paintings. As a contrast, I also employ contemporary techniques where paint is applied in a more loose, experimental and intuitive manner. The combination of these two techniques builds depth and solidity,” she says.

Her technique stems from many years of art study and experimentation. Her materials include acrylic, oil, silver and gold leaf. She also incorporates a handmade paste made from marble for a subtle textural effect. The silver and gold leaf adds a unique luminous quality to the work.

“When light hits the surface of the painting it reflects off the leaf and emits a soft glow. As the natural light changes throughout the day so does the reflective surface of the painting. The gold and silver is really beautiful in person. I learned how to gild in Italy while I was there studying art back in 1997,” says Jessica.

She revels in Old Masters like Caravaggio, Michelangelo and Botticelli for their attention to detail and use of fine oil glazes, and admires the work of artists like Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele for their bold and abstract ways of depicting a subject. “I also really love the work of Andy Goldsworthy for his use of nature as his canvas. I don’t think I emulate any particular artist. I strive to tell my own story,” adds Jessica.

Her artistic statement makes nature a concert: “If you look closely in nature, there’s a dance in every tree, a song within every grassy field and a story behind each ocean wave – countless gestures and poses in nature’s landscape; ever-changing yet timeless – inspiring me to capture these moments through painting.”

She strives to extend her layered painting motion into the very scape of the work itself. “Every tree that I choose to paint has an interesting shape, sway or a bend to it. I’m drawn to that gesture of the tree because it gives the appearance as if the tree is in movement... like its dancing,” she says. “With a landscape I’ll paint in plain air, and the grassy fields, when hit by that certain kind of light, reminds me of a beautiful song.”

But the oldest painting in her family’s home isn’t by an Old Master or a brilliant elder contemporary. It’s her first major work: a crude version of her now mastered technique, layered in multi-colored blobs. “Yes, I still have a finger painting that I did when I was two years old. My mom had it framed. I have been painting ever since.”

Jessica Pisano

jessica pisano, newport, martha's vineyard, art, painting, oil paint, classical masters, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Botticelli