PIECES like “The Secret” and “Thai Wisdom”
WBM october 2019
represent the more complex end of this
spectrum and showcase DeChesere’s eye for
composition, as well as his ability to make
unknowable and foreign scenes feel familiar.
“The Secret,” one of DeChesere’s newer
pastel works, is a domestic scene inspired by his experi-ence
with an arts organization benefiting women in
Guatemala. The piece features four women of varying ages
with long black ponytails, gathered around an interior
dining table. Their dark hair shines under a light source
that appears to originate from above and to the far right
of the composition. The group leans in closely toward one
another, reaching across a brightly colored and geometri-cally
patterned cloth that covers the table’s surface.
Though we can’t know what the women are saying,
that isn’t necessary to appreciate the moment captured
in the piece. It is clear from their facial expressions, body
language and physical proximity that the women are
exchanging some secret experience or story along with
the intimate kind of amusement that arises from sharing
it. Their smiles are bright, ranging from wide and open to
subtle and masked by a clenched hand, as they laugh at
whatever they are recounting.
The effect is that of having walked into the middle of a
story shared around a family dinner table. The enthusiasm
clearly experienced by the subjects inevitably elicits a smile
and likely reminds viewers of their own recounted secrets.
DeChesere employs a vibrant color palette, utilizing
shades of red, pink and yellow to depict the women’s
clothing and the adobe-like walls of the structure around
them, along with a loose and impressionistic style. “The
Secret” isn’t a photo-realistic rendering of this moment.
Instead, it captures a feeling, a fleeting and contradictory
sense of community and privacy.
These dueling impulses are shared by the four women,
but viewers are likely to experience a similar combination
of emotions themselves. By utilizing looser brushstrokes
and paint application, and by depicting the figures in
just enough abstraction that they can avoid becoming
portraits of specific individuals, DeChesere allows viewers
to connect this moment to one in their own memory or
experience. This is achieved even though the composition
takes place in a different country and cultural context from
most of those who will encounter it.
“Thai Wisdom” walks a similar line between abstraction
techniques and representational realism. Composed in
watercolor on paper, this work is inspired by elephants
that the artist encountered while volunteering with Cross-
Cultural Solutions in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
The piece provides a close-up depiction of two adult
elephants and employs an unexpected color palette of
rustic oranges and reds, accented by darker shades of
green and blue. The frame of the image is very tight and
one’s line of sight is immediately drawn to the eyes of the
elephants, which seem to gaze intently and knowingly
The Secret, 17.75 x 23.75 inches, pastel on paper.
Thai Wisdom, 13.25 x 19.75 inches, watercolor on paper.
Sun Salutation, 17.5 x 23.5 inches, pastel on paper.