Forrest Bess (b.1911-1977, Bay City, Texas) was a visionary American painter who produced an extraordinary body of work between the 1940s and 1970s.
Living in a shack on the bay of the Gulf in Chinquapin, Texas, and making a living as a bait fisherman, Bess painted the dreams and visions which he experienced throughout his life. Working on a small scale, with modest materials, his paintings developed a highly personal and often cryptic symbolist language, which also drew on his extensive research into various mythological, spiritual and alchemical traditions, as well as his own experiences and research into queer and non-normative gender identities. Drawing together rarely seen paintings from public and private collections across the world, the exhibition presents more than 40 works, many of which were hand-framed by the artist in driftwood. These are presented alongside extensive archival material relating to Bess’s wide-ranging research, including material from his ‘Thesis’, an ongoing research project around the conjunction of male and female energies and anatomies that preoccupied him for much of his life.
Forrest Bess, Untitled (Rainbow with Arc), n.d. Collection of Beth Rudin DeWoody. Photo: Robert Glowacki. Courtesy of Modern Art, London