Jordan Deschene cites Dr. Seuss and the surrealist school of painters as primary influences in his fantasy artwork, which is on display at the Farmington Valley Arts Center.
Completing a summer residence at the end of September, Deschene was thankful for the opportunity to devote more time to completing new pieces of artwork.
Deschene said he has always been drawing, starting in childhood, but got serious about art as a career after spending time in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston as part of Americorps. At the Spontaneous Celebrations community center, he got to work at teaching students in various artistic disciplines.
Upon returning from Boston, he enrolled at Manchester Community College and from there proceeded to the University of Hartford. Deschene graduated with a degree in illustration in 2008.
He sees teaching as a likely career path, “I am never going to stop being a working artist,” he said, “I would like to make a living of this in any way possible. I taught art at Manchester college for a year, and am very anxious to get back to that kind of work.”
Working in his preferred medium of oil paints on canvas, Deschene's creations have a fantasy quality with a “Through the Looking Glass” sensibility with vivid colors and childlike characters with a hallucinogenic edge.
“My work is very much inspired by the surrealists. It all started with my mom reading Dr. Seuss to me,” said Deschene. “As far as I can see, that's where this style started, was [with] Dr. Seuss.”
In his formal training, he was introduced to the surrealists, and drew influence from such greats as Salvador Dali and Yves Tanguy. He cites the currently working Los Angeles based Greg “Craola” Simkins as another primary inspiration.
“His work is based in his dreams, and in this idea of falling down a rabbit hole, into these Alice in Wonderland worlds," said Deschene. "He is the best there at what he does."
One of the recurring themes in Deschene's work are a kind of “demented pink bunnies” as he describes them. He believes the theme arises from his childhood bedroom, with a décor featuring shag carpeting, and yellow, orange, and brown wallpaper sporting images of rabbits munching on carrots.
“It was a combination of having these bunnies staring at me all night long and these Dr. Seuss stories that I loved and mixing together in my dreams all night long,” said Deschene.
Aside from artistic influences, Deschene also said he was inspired by the style of writing of beat author Jack Kerouac - specifically the quality of spontaneous prose, of just getting ideas down without regard to style. He says his own work begins with a doodle and allows the work to grow from there.
He also lists the musical work of Les Claypool as a source of inspiration. Lyricist and bassist for the band Primus, Deschene admires his free spirit and weird, jumpy music, and feels like he captures some of that manic energy in his artwork.
As the residency draws to a close, Deschene said he is considering staying at the art center, and maintaining the studio space. He also helps run the Paris in Plantsville gallery with five other resident artists. He took a leave of absence from teaching at the gallery to do the residency, and looks forward to taking on more students in the fall.
Deschene's art can be viewed at the Farmington Valley Arts Center studio 6A on Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
He will also be teaching a course on “Storytelling Through Illustration” Wednesday evenings from 6 pm to 8 pm for the next five weeks. For appointments to view the art, Deschene can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.