About the Artist: Baret Boisson
Self-taught artist Baret Boisson was born in Florence, Italy, to a young American couple, setting the tone for a peripatetic childhood that saw her family move to such faraway places as Barcelona, Suriname and French Guyana. Boisson’s nomadic life continued into her teen years, each experience a lesson in multiculturalism and diversity that would shape the future that was to come.
After graduating from The Emma Willard School, an all-girls boarding school in Troy, New York, Boisson attended Barnard College in New York City where she majored in political science. With a keen desire to encourage communication between people and share other people’s stories, Boisson imagined a career in international politics.
It would take another 10 years before Boisson realized that her passion for fostering mutual understanding and respect between people would find its ultimate expression in the form of being an artist.
It was at age 30 that Boisson first took up painting. The occasion was very casual: in an effort to cheer her up one day, a friend in Los Angeles invited her over for a glass of wine. Her friend had laid out some art boards, paintbrushes and paint on the floor, and while they listened to music and drank wine, Boisson completed a painting that very evening. It was the first time that she had picked up a paintbrush, and she likens the experience to a fish finding water. Since the completion of that first painting—a portrait of two boys—Boisson has dedicated herself to making art.
Besides works on canvas, Boisson has brought her unique painting language to three-dimensional objects, such as ceramics and cigar boxes.
Looking back on Boisson’s most formative years, it is clear that her nomadic lifestyle provided her with a wealth of aesthetic sources to draw upon. Boisson’s work pulsates with a color palette and energy that speaks to her South American experiences while blending the accessibility and charm of American folk art.
While she had no formal art instruction in school, she received her aesthetic training throughout her life. Indeed, Boisson’s mother, an artist herself, encouraged her daughter to see art and beauty in everything, and taught her the importance of experiencing life with all 5 senses. That training is the foundation of the work that she has made since she started painting.
Today, Boisson is best known for her portraits that uncannily capture the authentic character of her subjects, whether they are historic icons or private individuals. Her Inspiring Greatness series features portraits of men and women whose words and deeds have inspired her, people such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and Billie Jean King. She is especially moved by those who have overcome hardships and succeeded in doing exceptionally meaningful work, transcending the limits of one lifespan and affecting change for generations to come.
Boisson began to add text to her images very organically; her chosen words provide an additional layer by which to engage with her subject. The texts she includes are varied: they might include biographical information, a witty phrase, the sitter’s favorite saying or, in the case of a public figure, a quote from a famous speech. The words invite the viewer to look more closely, and ideally to connect more deeply, with the work.
In recent years, Boisson has begun to create a series of abstract paintings as she explores the freedom that nonrepresentational work allows. While text and figures might not appear in these latest pieces, what remains consistent are the vitality and exuberant color palette that have become her signature style.
Boisson’s works reside in numerous private collections around the world. Collectors in the United States include Jimmy Fallon, Kathy Ireland, and the estate of Elizabeth Taylor, to name a few.
In June 2016, the National Museum of Civil Rights in Memphis, Tennessee will present a solo show of Boisson’s work entitled Inspiring Greatness: Words and Deeds that Changed the World. On the occasion of this exhibition, the Museum will accession a donation of Boisson’s portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. into its permanent collection.
Boisson currently divides her time between Southampton, New York, Santa Barbara, California and Paris, France.