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Spotlight On: Irene Yesley

Irene Yesley started her art career at the tender age of four, making jewelry out of shells, playing with old paint cans, and stenciling on sheets and pillowcases. “My mother noticed I liked making things; from then on, I received every art kit ever made for birthdays and Christmas,” shares Yesley. Influenced over the years by artists such as Giorgio Morandi and Jacob El Hanani, Yesley now creates thought-provoking abstract monotype prints and Plexiglas paintings focused on shape, color, and patterns. Moving to El Dorado Hills two years ago from Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound, the artist has already shown her work at numerous galleries, including San Francisco Women Artists, Gold Country Artists’ Gallery, and Blue Line Arts. In July, she’ll have a solo show at Sacramento’s Arthouse Gallery & Studios.    

HLN: How has your artistry evolved? 

IY: After earning a Master of Fine Arts in printmaking at Arizona State University, I bought a four-foot loom and forgot about printmaking. For the next couple of decades, I was a fiber artist, making rugs then tapestries. In the ’90s, I began working with cloth—running it through a press to make color images. Gradually, I moved to painting; however, I wanted more dimensionality, so I began painting images on pieces of Plexiglas and stacking them in layers, making three-dimensional paintings. Now I’m also working on paper, drawing with markers or pencil and making monotypes using an etching press.  

HLN: What is ideal about printmaking and what are its challenges? 

IY: Making a monotype is exciting, because you can never be sure how your print will turn out. The print that comes off the press will be the reverse of the image you made, and the printing ink often has a way of creating an unexpected effect. This adds up to a loss of control for the artist, which is different from painting or drawing. Not having total control can lead to new ideas; of course, less control can also lead to the garbage can.

HLN: What do you hope your viewers gain from your work? 

IY: Because I work abstractly using patterns and shapes, and especially being conscious of the spaces between the shapes, there is no contextual message. Viewers of my work are free to bring their own ideas to the images and, hopefully, will have an instinctive positive reaction.  

HLN: Have you kept any of your own pieces? 

IY: Sometimes I want to keep particular pieces around for a while, and I often get new favorites as I continue to make things. I’m one of those artists who will hang their work on the wall to see if I grow tired of it or if it continues to interest me; that’s my test for success. 

HLN: What’s in store for the future? 

IY: I’m trying to make much larger pieces. I have a tendency to work small, so I’m making a conscious effort to go big. I also like entering juried competitions and have been in several California ones, including LA’s Works on Paper and Sacramento’s Magnum Opus.