About Denise

I grew up in Mandeville, Louisiana, drawing and scribbling sentences into journals, post-its, and any scrap paper I could find, but it wasn’t until my first year at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama that I took my first art class. That class turned into a major and I graduated in 2004 with a Bachelor’s in Studio Art and English and no idea what to do with either. I opted to get a master’s in English from Louisiana State University to buy some time. 

After graduate school, I taught art and creative writing for six years in New Orleans before leaving the classroom only to stumble around a bit before eventually becoming a full time artist– something I never dreamed an option until my life started to crumble all around me. In 2012 I welcomed my son into the world and almost immediately afterward lost my marriage. By 2014 I was painting every day as a way to navigate the strange, challenging and surprisingly beautiful terrains of grief, single parenting, and being a sole provider.

My first painting subject was the pelicans I would watch from my porch on Bayou St. John in New Orleans. Watching the pelicans dive for food gave me peace when life felt most beyond my control. I loved the precision with which their beaks pierced the water. I loved the power I witnessed when they created a splash that disrupted previously still water. I watched them dive repeatedly. Sometimes they’d come up empty-handed, and I admired their persistence. What I loved most was their agency. I started to create a future for me and my son– one I could color and shape. When I put literal marks on literal surfaces I couldn’t help but realize that things weren’t just happening to me– I was making things happen. I was painting the way the pelicans fished– repeatedly, passionately, and necessarily. 

My interest in pelicans eventually turned into an interest in other birds which made good starting points to explore color, texture, and edges. I have since expanded into various other representational subjects and some abstract work. When I make art, I feel like I am forging a future. When I look at my paintings in this light, it seems natural that I would often use a lot of thick, heavy paint and a palette knife which allows me to apply it liberally. I want people to see the “marks” I make. They are intentional. 

In 2015, I started doing live paintings at weddings and events. The irony of becoming a “wedding painter” as the result of a painful divorce was not lost on me, but I love being present for one of the most intimate moments in people’s lives. I try to represent the feeling and spirit of their day on a canvas. Making those types of marks on that type of day seems a physical way of sharing in their joy. 

In 2020, having painted at hundreds of weddings and amid the pandemic, I experienced the joy of my own wedding on the steps of St. Rose de Lima church in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. My son and I now live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast with my adventurous and spirit-filled husband and two unique, funny, and wonderful stepsons.

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