After being furloughed from her job due to COVID-19, Helena artist JeCe Wise took her passion for painting and turned it into a full-time job to support her family.
“In this era of COVID, we are all a little isolated, and that’s how I have kind of been with doing this and raising my kids, so I have always had a little level of that, and that’s how Van Gogh felt. He was very lonely in isolation,” Wise says.
Wise grew up in Helena and began painting when she was a young teen. She used painting as an avenue to handle stress in her life, and she found inspiration in Vincent Van Gogh.
JeCe says, “More in my adult life I would say that he’s become more relevant, and I have related to him on a lot of levels, and it’s just such a sad story. But you know, it is history and it's beautiful that everyone can come together and recognize this image, people who don’t know, it’s exciting because that’s what he would’ve wanted.”
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Wise was furloughed from her job and went through a difficult divorce. Despite her family asking her to leave her art behind, she pressed on.
Wise added, “These (pointing to her paintings) helped me get through that big time,” she said. “You know I have never left my town so it is a blessing and a curse sometimes, but it's home and I don’t ever plan on leaving. So this (is)my way of paying homage to that. I didn’t know if anyone would ever want to see them or anything like that.”
People not only wanted to see her renditions of Starry Night, now her paintings are in such high demand, she paints full time, and even has a waiting list of customers wanting to own her paintings.
“People start eating them up, and they’re like I want a copy of that, and I’m like 'sweet', so I started ordering prints, and it just kind of snowballed from there. Each painting that I released, like the Cathedral, it’s just been huge,” Wise said.
Wise has sold more than 100 copies of her Helena renditions of Starry Night. She plans on having 12 paintings in the series, but each painting takes several months to complete.
JeCe says, “Well, these three took me over a year, combined, so they take a few months, minimum, each. The cathedral took a little longer. It’s twice as big.”
Her fifth piece in the series is the Sleeping Giant, and she is still adding the final touches to that painting. Wise still can’t believe how far her art has taken her, and she’s sure Vincent would be proud.
She says “this has opened so many doors, I have met so many people and heard so many stories and I just think he would love what has come out of this.”
Wise has recently been hired by the Civic Center to design pieces of art for their green room renovation.
To see more of JeCe’s art, visit here.