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Longboat Key resident shows at Art Center Sarasota

Jeanne Guertin-Potoff's "Adjusting Focus" exhibition is on display through April 29.

Jeanne Guertin-Potoff has her first solo exhibit at Art Center Sarasota.
Jeanne Guertin-Potoff has her first solo exhibit at Art Center Sarasota.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer
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Jeanne Guertin-Potoff’s solo exhibition at Art Center Sarasota will leave you with a new respect for the humble paper so callously crinkled into gift bags. Titled “Adjusting Focus,” the collection was created using tissue paper. 

Art Center Sarasota is a nonprofit, contemporary art gallery that regularly features local artists. After Guertin-Potoff got up the courage to submit her work, and was accepted, her show was canceled because of COVID-19. The delay led to an entirely different collection of art.  

“The previous administration asked me to do a show in all black and white, but when Kinsey Robb and Christina Baril came in, they were like, do color.” Guertin-Potoff said. “And then they said, ‘Would you consider doing the whole thing in tissue because no one else is doing tissue?’”

Guertin-Potoff’s homebase is Connecticut, but each winter for the past 10, she and her husband have stayed a little bit longer in their Longboat Key condominium. 

“We love Sarasota. We love the Promenade,” she said. “It’s so stimulating to be here. It’s so culturally rich and outdoors all year-round. It’s just heaven.”

It took a little over one year for Guertin-Potoff to complete the collection. There are 29 pieces, ranging in size from 10x10 to 40x40, all abstract canvases inspired by family, feelings and current events. 

“My whole aesthetic is simplified. I take a lot of information and I pare it down, pare it down, pare it down. So you can see as you look around, there’s only one piece that’s complicated,” Guertin-Potoff said. “You know, how much information can I eliminate and still say something?”

Jeanne Guertin-Potoff has her first solo exhibition at Art Center Sarasota.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

The complicated piece, titled “Curly Hair,” was not initially going to be included in the exhibition. It stands out from the other pieces, which are balanced and contained within white space, and that’s the point. The contradiction of one fully covered canvas puts Guertin-Potoff’s process of paring down on display.

“I wanted it included because sometimes you need what’s not there in order to understand what is there,” she said.  

The paring down begins with 30-inch sheets of tissue paper applied to the canvas with a liquid medium. Because the paper is so thin, it needs to be hand cut when dry and tears easily when wet and soaked in the medium. 

On the other hand, its delicacy makes it easy to pull away from the canvas. “Life Support” illustrates the elimination process with an added emphasis through a color gradient that flows from a rubbed away blush pink paper down the canvas to a block of deep red.

The initial spark of inspiration came from the cycle of a young girl starting her period and then maturing into a life-giving woman.  

“At the same time, as you adjust your focus, the war in the Ukraine had just started. So when you have blood on the streets, they’re bleeding out and dying,” Guertin-Potoff said. “The blood became the focus. Could it support life and not support life?”

Jeanne Guertin-Potoff creates art using tissue paper.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

Guertin-Potoff describes herself as a creative child, but has only considered herself an artist over the past 10 to 15 years. She owned a massage therapy business and worked in advertising and promotions. Her mother was a seamstress and light opera singer, while her father was an engineer and inventor. She credits her unique perspective to the pairing of the two. 

“I always had this left brain, right brain thing going on,” she said. “In other words, I was always adjusting focus.”



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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