Hester Simpson b. 1949

Hester Simpson’s small scale acrylic paintings layer color on color with an apparent waxy patina. Translucent fields hold geometric systems of repetition that seem to self-destruct and reinvent themselves—veering on and off the grid in a deceptively vast space.


Simpson concerns herself conceptually with celebrating the ordinary rather than the dramatic. By layering paint, she mimics life’s layering of events. If colors and surface signify moments, the artist accumulates time on her canvas. The abstract images evolve into a language of memory and the result, says the artist, is an irregular geometry that acknowledges imperfection and reflects a lived life.


“The grid—a model of routine—enthralls me,” writes Simpson, “whether the visual result be an embrace or a rejection. Color arrives unannounced, like an ancestor knocking at my door, presenting a palette of personal favorites. Some colors come to me in dreams, especially the greens, browns, yellow-oranges, and violets. In ‘Letters to a Young Poet,’ Rilke describes this phenomenon: ‘And yet they, who passed away long ago, still exist in us, as predisposition, as burden upon our fate, as murmuring blood, and as gesture that rises up from the depths of time.’ Working slowly on wood panels, I build strata of paint in even, smooth layers, evolving mutable patterns. In this way, I record time spent, an accumulation of memory and of returning again and again to the activity of brush on panel.”


Simpson’s work is included in many public collections around the United States, including the Library of Congress. She has taught at a number of institutions, such as the Parsons School of Design in New York, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. She lives and works in Manhattan.