I am fortunate to live in Berkeley, CA, next door to a noted artist, Jesse Allen. This past weekend I went into San Francisco to see Jesse’s new show, at Chandler Fine Art, 170 Minna. The gallery is literally across the street from SFMOMA if you happen to be headed to San Francisco for an “art travel” outing.
As I stood with Jesse in front of one of his new works, titled “Valley With Elephants,” there were several things that struck me.
Jesse Allen has a special vision in his paintings. It is as if you are in his lush, secret garden, with its own layers of mythology.
The blue parrots, the elephants, and the valley are recollections of his youth in Kenya. His family was English, but living in Kenya.
However, Jesse’s paintings are anything but primitive. One can see the sophistication that crept in when he took his degree at Oxford in French and Italian. Like other major artists, working with words or images, he has created his own world, a new landscape.
Jesse has also consistently followed his vision for a long time. It was touching to see at the exhibit an article about Jesse in California Living, the former magazine of the San Francisco Chronicle. This was one of the early places where I published my work. The article about Jesse was from 1967, describing this new and young artist from Kenya who had come to the Bay Area. The photos of Jesse’s paintings in 1967 showed that same beguiling secret garden landscape. Today, at age 71, Jesse still carries on with his artistic production.
Part of the joy of travel is the refreshment that comes when one stumbles across a new artistic vision, emphasizing again the wondrous diversity of perspective that helps make life rewarding. At the SFMOMA now, for example, there is a major show on how Picasso influenced American artists. And, right across the street, a traveler in the neighborhood can see the lush, secret gardens of Jesse Allen, which are one-of-a-kind.