Evelyne Pouget: Weaving Together the Formal and the Sacred
Artist Evelyne Pouget has always followed her heart and intuition when it comes to life decisions, with serendipity playing a recurring role. Originally from Paris, she lived in Italy, India (for a year at an ashram) and New York, before succumbing to the often referred to magic of San Miguel almost 18 years ago where she found a new direction and purpose. How she came to a life of art has its origins in the spiritual.
A self taught artist, Pouget only made her first painting in mid-life. She recalls that when she lived in Rome, she was surrounded by art and felt its influence strongly, but at the time it didn’t translate to becoming an artist herself. As it turned out, that idea fell into her capable hands like a dream.
She tells the story of her Indian spiritual teacher always referring to her as “the painter”, even though she had never picked up a brush. “I thought he was confusing me with someone else,” she laughs. At the time she was working as a graphic designer in the Manhattan perfume industry. After being encouraged by her husband and receiving rudimentary instructions on how to mix paint, she made her first painting of her teacher from a small blurry photograph. She felt guided by an unseen hand because the painting unfolded like magic and she realized, “I had a natural ability that I hadn’t explored before.” With a debt of gratitude to her teacher, she knew she had discovered a new path.
When Pouget first started painting, her favorite artists were portrait painters, like Vermeer and Sargent who she imitated in “order to understand the talent,” she says. She likes to work from photographs for her oil paintings and pastels, mostly of friends and “characters” from the streets of San Miguel: vendors, musicians, street people. Not only does she capture a true likeness of her subjects, her portraits aim to capture their essence built up in layers of sumptuous color.
Early on in San Miguel, Pouget discovered her favorite subjects were the traditional dancers she often photographed during festivals. The power and dedication of their traditions moved something in her, and she knew she had to discover more. She started to manipulate the images digitally, playing with heightened color and repetitive patterns and was excited by the layered results. The vibrating images function like collage and the compositions’ repetition recalls the rhythm of the dancers. While she works to create fluid images strong with color and form, she maintains her focus is to convey a feeling of sacredness.
With the discovery of this process, a new project emerged that became about more than the altered photographs. She understood instinctively the spirituality of the traditions and connected that to her own seeker-self. Focusing on two tribes: the Chicimecas, and Senor de la Conquista, she knocked on doors until she was invited to go “behind the scenes” to their practices. She was able to interview the dancers, learn about the costumes, makeup, how they prepare, asking the spirits to guide them before the dance. She started to see the layers of knowledge beyond what we see as tourists and now wants to help honor those traditions. “It’s all so much richer than the surface we see,” she says.
Creativity for Pouget has always revolved around sharing with her community. She says she is very old-fashioned and values person to person contact. “I love people and organizing efforts on-line feels cold.” Her desire to be surrounded by this creative force led her—for 38 years —to organize salons—intimate gatherings at her home where artists can share not only their talents, but also their philosophy, and support of one another. She is passionate about connecting people, especially for a good cause. Being dedicated to her own spiritual growth led her to organize festivals designed to bring peace awareness, through art and music. In her community in Woodstock, NY, she became known as the “peace artist” through her efforts. She continues both of these efforts in San Miguel.
Pouget’s spiritual, activist and artistic interests have all united in her pursuit of beauty and understanding of the world through her artwork, and feels certain of her ability to bring the right people and opportunities to her at the right time. Art for her is about expressing behind what she sees. “I feel like it’s a gift I open again and again.”