Constance M. Simon


Visual Arts: Painting

By: Gail Obenreder

“Researching exactly the right colors and combinations of colors to express non-verbal feelings and memories is indescribably sweet.”

Painter Constance M. Simon began her artistic studies at Cleveland Institute of Art, BFA working in etching because drawing, her first love, wasn’t available as a major. Over the course of her long, distinguished and fruitful artistic career, Simon grew frustrated with the indirect process of printmaking and returned to working with graphite and charcoal. But her work changed most dramatically when she taught a course on color at Delaware College of Art and Design (DCAD).

“Sunset Grid #1,” 2018, gouache on paper, 9 x 12 inches

Attracted to non-Western traditions of textiles and crafts – African kente cloth, Islamic tiles, kilim rugs and Nepalese quilts – Simon began to merge the influence of their strong two-dimensional patterns and vibrant colors with the forms from earlier three-dimensional representational work to create her current Grid Series.

The artist’s career has included 21 solo shows and inclusion in 30 group and 35 juried exhibitions. She’s pursued her practice while working as an art educator all over the United States – from Syracuse, New York to Los Angeles to Boston – but Simon has been a Delawarean for 36 years now. As well as commitment to an intensive work schedule, Simon’s family –  two children and six grandchildren – is an important part of her life. But “it’s always a challenge just to find (or make) time to paint” because she works very slowly, “little bits at a time.”

“Grid Poem #7,” 2018, gouache on paper, 9 x 12 inches

In her studies, Simon was influenced by painter William Bailey and printmaker Peter Milton, as well as Persian and Indian miniature painting and illuminated medieval manuscripts. As her practice developed, these interests fused with American Op-Art (“with its geometry and spatial illusions”) and her fascination with textiles. Simon found that “the flat patterns and expressive colors” in these seemingly disparate disciplines “gave me confidence to pursue pattern and color as ends in themselves without subject, conceptual theories, or social meaning.”

Simon has been passionate about opera since her teens. “Listening to Mozart, Verdi, Puccini . . . counters the confusions and fears of the modern world.” Also an avid exerciser (“I love my daily morning run outdoors”), she treasures her time alone in the natural world.

“Morning Light #3,” 2019, gouache on paper, 9 x 12 inches

Simon plans to use the award to cut back on her teaching load and expand her current artistic practice. “Making art is a lonely business,” and so the artist is greatly appreciative of the support and encouragement that her Fellowship provides.

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