Jean Brenner

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Artist Jean Brenner has explored abstraction, figure, and landscapes in her art. She has traveled extensively for the past seventeen years in order to experience traditional culture before it disappears under the rising tide of T-shirts, tennis shoes, and transistor radios. Since 1993, her paintings have centered on women and traditional life in developing countries. Jean Brenner received her BA in history from Stanford in 1957 and a degree from the Sorbonne in art history in 1956. Locations for her art shows include the Monterey Museum of Art, Stanford University, and the Pacific Grove Art Center. She may be contacted at 4105 Arroyo Trail, Carmel, CA 93923.


Listed below are descriptions of each of Jean Brenner's paintings featured on this web site.

Figure 1: "Preparing for the Wedding." Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

In preparation for this auspicious occasion, the bride and her female relatives embroider fabric that will make up the dowry she will bring to her husband’s home. The parakeets in the border represent the messenger of Kama, god of love. The hood worn by the baby is embellished with a figure of a child.


Figure 2: "Decorating for Divali." Luni, Rajasthan.

The Bishnoi people pictured here will not cut down tress but use only felled wood. Here the women decorate the walls of their homes for the important Hindu festival of Divali. They use paint made from powdered lime and water and apply it with a small wad of cloth. The designs feature peacocks and the lotus which are associated with Lakshmi. Homes are cleaned and repainted to honor the goddess on her holiday.


Figure 3: "Henna Hands." Nawalgarh, Rajasthan.

Shortly before her wedding, the bride’s female relatives create intricate designs in henna, or mehndi, on both her hands and feet. When found in the market, henna is a yellow green powder. But after it is put in a piece of plastic like a pastry tube and liquid is added, it turns almost black. The women squeeze it out like frosting and the resulting dark line of henna is left on for hours during which time the bride remains still so as not to disturb the design. When the henna is scrapped off, it leaves a red pattern on the skin which lasts about three weeks.


Figure 6: "Decorating for the Wedding." Padmapoda, Orissa

This beautiful traditional chita was created using only a small piece of cloth, a brush made from coconut fibers, and rice powder mixed with water. The artists did not sketch it on the wall first, she just worked from a design in her head. The rice paste is transparent initially, but soon dries to an opaque white. This, combined with the fact that the absorbent mud walls tend to flake, make this woman’s precise work amazing. The symbols represe3nted here, sinuous lotus vines, blossoms, buds, and whimsical peacocks, honor the goddess Lakshmi as well as the bride. The women say that they make these chitas for Lakshmi using the rice she has given them.


Figure 9: "Following the Footsteps of Lakshmi." Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

Just before Divali, the Hindu festival that honors the goddess Lakshmi, the women of rural Rajasthan pain stylized feet leading to the front doors of their houses. These footsteps are there to lead the goddess into their homes so that she will bless them with abundance. The intricate mandanas, or floor designs pictured here, are also done to please Lakshmi. These mandanas are magical diagrams and are usually placed before the threshold of the house. They also may be found in the courtyard. They are painted on the packed earth with white lime, but sometimes red ochre is used in the center to draw the gods’ attention to a specific intent. There are special designs for the major festivals as well as for life events. Young girls learn these designs from their mothers.


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