I grew up in rural Liberia, West Africa and moved to the United States at age 13 when the Beatles had just landed and were all the rage. The cultural contrast was palpable, disorienting and untranslatable. As I matured, painting, a medium that bypassed the limitations of language, allowed me to express my longing to recreate a primal moment and an anchor of sorts. As an adult I am deeply involved in archeology of early peoples and preserving the meager material evidence of their lives. In the studio I apply paint gesturally, in stratified layers and then scrape it away in levels. I juxtapose shapes, fragments and diagrammatic structures in an attempt to find grounding in my restless life that has been described as “never coming to rest in a place I can call home.”
In one form or another, I keep revisiting recurring themes, among them: Cat’s Cradle which embeds motifs from my father’s chief’s robe, an honorific gift to him in Africa and inherited by me on his passing. Half My World emerges from the garden and poetry of Ann Spencer whose homeplace is near my studio in Virginia. Most recently, We are climbing is work based on the Biblical story of Jacob’s Ladder which holds the promise of a place called home.
Jeanette Cole has exhibited her work in solo exhibitions in New York at the John Gibson Gallery and LP projects; and in many group exhibitions in the metropolitan New York area including the Frumkin/Adams Gallery, Ben Shahn Galleries at William Paterson College and the Islip Museum. She has had thirty-two solo exhibitions at colleges and galleries across the country. In 2000, Central Florida University exhibited her Paradise Series, multicomponent mixed media paintings, which exemplified her interest in seemingly incompatible cultural systems. She is a recipient of a Howard Foundation Fellowship and a Virginia Museum Professional Fellowship. In 2008 she showed 12 paintings in “Couples” at the Islip Museum on Long Island, (reviewed in New York Newsday and New York Times). In 2012 she had a solo show at The Industry, Long Island City, NY an alternate space sponsored by Silver Cups Studios. In 2015 her work was in Heroes, at Satellite Contemporary in Las Vegas, Nevada, and a comprehensive group of 57 works, Cat’s Cradle, from 2011-13, was shown at the Barton Museum in Wilson, NC. The works on paper from that exhibition were shown at Hampden Gallery in spring, 2017. In 2022, five large new works were featured at Macon Museum of Art and Science in Georgia in their Emerging X. She is Professor Emeritus, Department of Art, University of Massachusetts Amherst. She currently lives and works in New York City and Virginia.