‘A Snapshot of Life’ Artist Jacqueline Chanda writes a love letter to Tucson

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

From her formative years in Detroit to her studies in France, Jacqueline Chanda has been inspired. She strived to become an artist, but her high school math teacher told her, frankly, it wouldn’t put food on the table.

Chanda did her undergraduate work in painting and drawing in the United States, and her graduate work in art education and plastic arts theory and aesthetics in France. Still, she kept her brush wet, painting one or two pieces a year.

“I did some drawing sessions, but in the back of my mind, I had this desire,” she says. “I needed to go back to my love. I retired earlier than I had planned. I wanted to devote myself to my art.”

Now that she’s retired, she’s taking on her second career – the one for which she longed – as an artist. Love Letters to Tucson: Unique Visions and Observations with artist Lisa Kanouse runs through January 4 at the YWCA, 525 N. Bonita.

“I think it’s a great show,” says Chanda, who worked as an art educator for 27 years. “The two of us, Lisa Kanouse and myself, are very different in what we do in our styles.

“She focuses mainly on historic downtown buildings and street scenes that are obviously Tucson. Me, I am more of a figurative artist. I focus on people. I love capturing people in situations when they’re not looking at you. They’re drinking coffee, talking to friends or whatever. I like capturing those things. It’s a snapshot of life.”

Her work is inspired by Edgar Degas and Toulouse Lautrec, who were influenced by compositional elements found in Japanese Ukiyo-e prints. According to the exhibit organizers, she uses accidental cropping as in a snapshot and off-centered compositions to impart a sense of movement and immediacy.

Chanda has a remarkable background. A UCLA graduate, she studied with Richard Diebenkorn, and from there, headed to the Sorbonne, where she earned a Ph.D. in art history.

Chanda, who returned to France to head the Institute for American Universities and the Aix Center in Aix-en-Provence, has always considered art as a career; however, she never saw it as an “outlet.”

“I don’t think of it that way,” she says. “It’s now so much a part of my life, I don’t know what else I would do. If I don’t lift a brush or draw for two or three days, I miss it.”