Today we’d like to introduce you to Baret Boisson.
So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was born in Florence, Italy to parents who were both artists and spent the earlier part of my childhood in South America and in France. As a teenager, we moved to New York where I attended high school and college. I loved literature, history, languages, and diplomacy. I loved art and visiting museums and galleries but had never considered a career in the arts.
Feeling restricted by societal norms in New York that seemed to dictate what professions to seek and when to get married, I moved to Los Angeles in my mid-twenties. Soon, though, I realized that now that I’d flown to the opposite side of the country, the exact opposite was true: I didn’t know a soul and had no idea what my life was supposed to look like. At all. The next few years would make up what became the most challenging period of my life as I attempted to navigate both LA’s sprawling landscape and my own personal challenges.
Fortunately, my story has a happy ending. One day a new friend l invited me over to his home to paint. When I got there, my friend invited me to join him as he painted on large paperboard pieces strewn on the floor. I remember great music filling the air as we sipped red wine and painted. Although I’d been born in Florence, Italy to two artists, this was the first time that I’d picked up a paintbrush. I took to it right away; sometimes describe it like being able to finally breathe. That’s how I started painting at 30 years old! Later, I began to get commissions, and although it would be another ten years before I would call myself an “artist,” from that point on, I never looked back.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Miraculously, being an artist hasn’t been as challenging for me as other things have. I didn’t choose to be an artist, I just am an artist. Certainly, I made the choice to make art for a living. But because it is essential to who I am, it always feels right.
Please tell us more about your art.
When I first started to paint, I chose to represent people who inspired me. Abraham Lincoln. Muhammad Ali. Rosa Parks… I am entirely self-taught, so while my portraits may not be exact representations of the subject, they seem to capture his or her essence. A few months after I started to paint, friends started requesting that I create portraits to mark special occasions, and soon I was very busy with commissions. Indeed, the very thing that might have been a challenge instead became my greatest asset- because I am self-taught, my artwork is entirely unique. In between commissions, I continued to work on my series of heroes, and in 2016 was asked to have a solo show at The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. Its campus is created around the motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. My portrait of Dr. King hangs in the permanent collection at the museum.
My bar for success may seem low to many because I do not measure my success financially. Since I wake up pain-free, have two dogs waiting for me to take them out, and am able to do my artwork, I consider myself successful. My portraits of historical figures and activists encourage discussion and learning. The fact that my work makes people happy is icing on the cake.
- Website: baretboisson.com
- Instagram: @baretboisson
- Facebook: @baretboissonart
Photo of Baret Boisson by Isaac Hernandez, All artwork photos by Gene Ogami