A Horse Of A Different Color
Artist Norma Bessières’ Obsession with The Graphic Lines of the Zebra is Finding Her Fans Worldwide.
Norma Bessières has been celebrated for her evocative paintings of zebras, but that doesn’t mean she sees the world in black and white.
Nicknamed “La Dame Aux Zebres” in her native France, the Zebra Lady has been producing colorful images of the African animals, along with many other projects from her Paris home over the last 15 years to international acclaim. She says the graphic lines of a zebra simply appealed to her as an artist. “I cut up their shapes in several ways to get me closer to abstractions. The abstractions are alive because the eyes are always present to remind us that we are in the frontier of the abstracted and figurative art,” she tells Today’s Outlook at her studio in Paris. “Through research and volume, I allow my paintings to create emotions that only an artist can provoke.
The zebras are perfect support to my creation. When I paint, I don’t see the zebra, I only see enchanting stripes and vibrations that can take in the observer.”
The result has led her to multiple gallery shows in France, New York, Miami, Monaco and Hong Kong just to name a few. She says that her paintings are also regularly copied in China. Her zebra paintings are oil on canvas or linen and are sometimes in black and white and sometimes the animal is depicted with multi-colored stripes, all with an intense attention to detail.
“La Dame Aux Zebres” Norma Bessières
“When I paint a zebra in black and white, I work to juxtapose layers that highlight the animal fur,” she explains. “And when I paint in colors, I coordinate the warm and cold colors in a triangulation image. This way, I avoid loading the eye with lots of colors concentrated on one particular goal or one precise area. I try coordinating the colors to highlight the look of the zebra that is addressing and talking to our heart. The names of my paintings are also very important and carefully selected. They go along with the spirit of each painting,” she adds. “They are never given by chance.”
With names like L’Empereur, Angelina or Cascade, the paintings may all be of a similar subject, but all have a unique personality and feeling. Bessières is also working on a new series called “Ruptures” (or Break in English), where is in a diptych, the zebra is sort of deconstructed into a series of lines and swirls. “It’s where the zebra’s living geometry is contrasted with the inert geometry,” she explains.
Frédéric Elkaïm, the co-founder of the Swiss-French Circle of Art Lovers and Collectors, says he applauds the artist’s theme. “Norma Bessières is right to stick to her subject – we are in no doubt that it still holds many future inspirations,” he says. “The rich interpretations in the Ruptures series invite the viewing public to piece back together the equivalences between inanimate and symbolic objects and the pictorial idea of the zebra, through troubling and infinite compositions. The research into movement and the moment for the paintings in the Openings series. Or the Zebra caged in bar codes that, through the indeterminacy of its condition (geometric or living?) portrays our attempts to escape the digitization of our lives.”
Bessières, 52, has long worked in a home studio in suburban Paris in order to be close to her three children. “I don't have to waste my time running somewhere,” she says. “Especially since my children were young, it was practical for me to be near them.” The artist taught her kids to love and appreciate art, but doesn’t see a time when they may follow in her footsteps. “They love art but they are studying engineering and law,” she says.
Her own path to the art world was hardly linier either. She was a student of literature and a full time mom for many years. “My parents were very surprised when they saw my first paintings. I was in my 30’s! I always loved art but never painted seriously before.”
Bessières says she was inspired to explore her creative side because of her family’s encouragement. “My father is an architect and painter. I love watching him draw and paint while my two sisters and I were around him,” she remembers. Eventually, she decided to study art at La Cour Roland in Paris under famed painter and professor MOF "Meilleur Ouvrier de France”.
“I always loved Monet for his serious research on light and the powerful rendering of his wonderful paintings,” she says of her early inspiration. “This is a kind of obsession in my paintings the power of the light. love also Mondrian for the research on the Geometric pattern.”
Those influences have also played a part in her own work. “I'm on the borderline between figurative and abstraction. When I do some zoom on my zebras we wonder if it's abstraction or not. The succession of stripes troubles our perceptions,” she says. “I can do some close shots that help us to reach the abstraction. But it’s still alive because of the eye.”
Norma's painting exhibited at the Markowicz Fine Art gallery in the Miami Design District