Artist Charlotte Hess. Photo by Jenn Hamm


Artist Charlotte Hess has had a lifelong fascination with patterns. One of her earliest memories is of lying in her crib as a baby and tracing the pattern of a quilt with her finger. That enduring interest is evident in Hess’ solo exhibit, Community, on display at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center. The show features more than 30 framed oil pastel and chalk pastel paintings, as well as a number of unframed drawings.

Hess’ works are all abstract pieces that explore patterns, textures, and round forms. Her most recent work focuses on the intersection of patterns in the human and natural worlds. She encourages viewers to approach abstract art with an open mind.

“Open up to your own exploration,” she says. “Try to look at it without making it anything.”

Though Hess, a native of New Albany, Indiana, grew up in an artistic household, she didn’t pursue formal training in art, instead earning degrees in Germanic studies and library science from Indiana University. A post-college stint in Paris sparked a passion for painting, and she began to pursue it seriously when she returned to the U.S.

In 1989, Hess became the director of library and information services for IU’s Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, a position she held for nearly 20 years. Throughout her academic career, she continued to paint and draw. She often traveled internationally for work, and she always brought a sketchbook to capture the patterns she saw in cultures and landscapes around the world.

Hess is now retired from academia, and she is delighted to have the opportunity to devote herself to her art full time.

“I’m so, so thrilled and excited,” she says. “My heart pounds every day.”

Hess’ show runs through October 22 in the Rosemary P. Miller Gallery at The Waldron.