Artist Jesse Tobin McCauley wants you to be HAPPY

McCauley's new exhibit now on view at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts

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Jesse Tobin McCauley's abstract art show, "HAPPY," keeps it simple.

"You don't need to understand it; you don't need to wonder why I did it [and] you don't need to try to figure out what it is," she said. "It's more just the feeling it gives you."

On exhibit now through Aug. 31 at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, "HAPPY" is meant to bring viewers back to simpler times, when bright colors captivated our childhood and rules need not apply. Tobin McCauley uses washes of acrylic, streaks of charcoal, pencil, crayons and even sharpie to create, in her words, "a cohesive blast of colors."

"People think they're not creative, especially adults," she said. "You get worried you're going to do something wrong if you try to paint or draw. But it doesn't have to be so serious and set. It can just be fun and freeing."

In "HAPPY," a showcase of 38 abstract artworks, Tobin McCauley understands the value of creating art that doesn't necessarily have to follow fundamentals or rules.

"I learned going to art school for design all the background [knowledge] and then you take it from there," she said. "You know in the back of your mind the actual rules, but you don't have to follow them. And when I walk into my studio, I feel like there's no rules."

While Tobin McCauley wants her viewers to escape "a fear of color in their lives," for herself, "HAPPY" is an escape from the constraints of her day job as a graphic designer.

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"This is kind of my freedom from design and the preciseness of design" she said. "... I needed kind of an outlet [and] I was doing things that [were] really saturated, full-canvas colors, and I wanted something a little lighter and bright and kind of [less] serious."

Even the titles of the work connote a lighthearted tone. "Kapow," "Yawza" and "Zip Zam" are just a few of her named works, harkening back to the sound effects in comic books.

All this gets to Tobin McCauley's goal: to bring color back into our lives.

"I think that people have a little bit of a fear of color in their life," she said. "Like people's homes are all gray. They wear all black ... but when you were kids, you loved everything."

Art is not new for Tobin McCauley. Born into a family of artists in Pittsfield, Tobin McCauley is a member of the art group, Tobin Trifecta with two of her uncles.

This year's exhibit is especially significant for her. McCauley's father, F.X. Tobin, held his own art show at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts in 1989. Thirty years later, McCauley displays her own work in the same building.

"I think about it often and how proud I know he would be and how cool he would think it was," she said. "[Thirty] years ago, I never imagined standing at his opening that I'd have a solo show of mine years later."


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