Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead displays Fogle’s playful, eloquent art

Linda Werbner
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With its striking black-and-white palette, Jean Fogle’s bold and dynamic work, now on display at the Stetson Gallery, defies categorization or labels. The multimedia exhibition showcases several decades of Fogle’s vibrant and unconventional acrylics, drawings, collages and ceramics.

Stroll into the compact and sunny gallery inside the Unitarian Universalist Church, and your eye is pulled to her diverse and energetic work in various media. On one wall is a large canvas entitled “First Date” with two whimsically “nervous” chairs sitting side by side.

Flanking “First Date” are two painted ceramic plates with folk art images of a strutting rooster and flowers. On another wall is a collaged wreath of entwined hands made from antique gloves entitled “Friendship Wreath.”

Building a show around these two colors was natural for Fogle.

“I’ve worked in black-and-white over the years, and I wanted to put these pieces together at some point,” she said. 

She also felt that it would look good in a small space like the compact Stetson.

Fogle says the show is “a little bit of this and that” and is an introduction to her multi-faceted and eclectic approach to art.

“I like collage because I collect things and don’t like to throw stuff away,” she said. “When I walk into my studio, some materials will call out to me to use them.”

While some of Fogle’s work has an abstract expressionism feel with its strong color, vigorous brushstrokes and non-representational images, she is wary of labels.

“I’m a studio painter, so I don’t paint from life or nature,” she said. “Mostly, my work is abstract. I experiment. It’s very intuitive.”

Above all, Fogle stresses that the best art should feel like play.

A long-time member of the Marblehead Arts Association, Fogle has had local shows at the Abbot Public Library and MacRae’s Sustainable Goods in Marblehead and on Gloucester’s Rocky Neck Art Colony.

In the past, Fogle has enriched the community by teaching arts classes to kids at the Marblehead Arts Association as well as Arts at Tower, a summer program of the arts at the Tower School.

When asked about her creative process, she pauses thoughtfully and responds that she first gathers the materials and then “sees what happens once she picks up a brush and lays some paint on the page. The goal is to have the experience of doing it. Sometimes you get something, and sometimes you don’t.”

Before she became a fine artist, Fogle worked as a graphic designer for many years.

“When the computer world took over graphic design, I went in a different direction,” she says.

While the introduction of technology resulted in her exit from graphic design, these days Fogle takes full advantage of it. All of her work can be found on Instagram.

She says that painting the cinema-themed mural at the old Orson Welles repertory cinema in Cambridge, where she worked, was a pivotal moment in her artistic life.

“I began painting pottery and furniture and painting in people’s houses,” she says. “Someone would want a mural in the kitchen, a wall vignette and faux painting where you make the wall look like marble or old stone. That was popular in the 1990s.”

When she isn’t in her studio — a reconfigured barn behind her house — Fogle spends her time happily walking dogs for Creature Comforts three days a week.

“Typically, I will do three to six walks a day,” she says. “Today, I had three this morning and another one today at 4 p.m. It’s my exercise program. I get to be with these lovely little animals.”

A Marblehead resident since 1974, Fogle says the town is ideal for artists.

“I feel so lucky that I can walk to the ocean and Redd’s Pond,” she said. “You kind of get immune to it. There’s so much beauty here.”

Fogle’s work can be viewed at the Stetson Gallery through Feb. 10. The gallery is open 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays at 28 Mugford St., Marblehead.

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