The City Light: Works By Jessica Dunne
Comes to  the McAllen International Museum

A brilliant exhibition has arrived at the McAllen International 
Museum. Entitled "The City Light: Works by Jessica Dunne," this collection 
of paintings and prints documents the artist's fascination with the 
nocturnal world as illuminated by vapor street lights. Jessica Dunne 
explains the source of her inspiration and the artistic goals she has set 
for herself in this marvelous series of paintings and prints:

"A few years ago, while driving down the highway at night in my hometown, I 
was overwhelmed with nostalgia for my childhood. I then realized there was 
a brownout and with all the street lights extinguished the dark road was 
as I had experienced it as a child, before we replaced stars with 
sodium-vapor bulbs. Over the years, on visits to my childhood home, I had 
been incensed by the new three-story beach "mansions" and tee-shirt 
dealerships, yet had taken little notice of the street lighting that had 
altered the nature of night itself. The dark highway was a visual prompt 
into a memory of my past, something that rarely happens, especially in 
contrast to the constant reminders of other times through taste, sound and 

This is how I came upon my current project, an exploration of night as seen 
through a car's windshield. In a few years, the highway power cartel will 
replace the greenish mercury-vapor and pink sodium-vapor street lights that 
dominate my work with sun-like halide bulbs, once again altering our 
nocturnal world (and my palette). My goal is to get my present experience 
down on canvas before it disappears.

People sometimes think my work is critical of modem life because my 
landscapes comprise buildings and cars, not the more traditional trees and 
fields. In fact, I paint what I paint because I believe my subjects are 
beautiful. People have also told me they have more fin driving at night 
after seeing my work. Me too. Observing taillights reflect off wet pavement 
or comparing the distance at which different colored auras bleed into the 
mist makes hydroplaning in traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge bearable.

I call myself a painter, but I make monotypes and aquatints too. For the 
monotypes, I develop an image by dabbing etching ink onto a mylar plate 
with my fingertips, subtracting the lights with cotton swabs. I then print 
to create an image. The monotypes are really printed paintings: I make a 
single copy. The technique enables me to achieve a depth and subtlety of 
color that I have not found possible in any other medium.

The black and white 'spit-bite' aquatints are yet another process. 
'Spit-bite' means biting the image with a combination of acid and saliva 
directly into a rosin-coated copper plate. The copper becomes the matrix 
for several identical prints an edition. I find the fluid and painterly 
results worth the unsavory process.

Monotype and spit-bite aquatint combine the freedom of painting with the 
mysterious quality of printmaking, where ink is pressed into the paper as 
opposed to resting on the surface. In both techniques the final image is 
reversed from how I painted, and contains unexpected marks and nuances. 
That unpredictability is what draws me to printmaking and, inevitably, 
sends me fleeing back to the relative comfort of painting."

"The City Light: Works by Jessica Dunne" will be at the McAllen 
International Museum from 4 December 1999 to 27 February 2000.

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