Treasures from the Vault: Jeanette Pasin Sloan

Sachi Yanari-Rizzo, Curator of Prints & Drawings

Jeanette Pasin Sloan was born in Chicago in 1946 and grew up in the city’s western suburbs. Her Italian immigrant father, Antonio Pasin, is best known for starting the beloved Radio Flyer wagon company. His company even had a building at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. On one of his return trips back home to Italy he got married and, for their honeymoon, he and his wife traveled to Chicago, where they remained to run the business.   

Pasin Sloan studied art history and received her bachelor’s degree from Marymount College, a Catholic all-women’s college, in Tarrytown, NY. In the summers she enrolled in figure drawing and printmaking classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and it was in these classes that she received an introduction to etching and engraving. Although she continued to pursue art history in graduate school at the University of Chicago, she ultimately graduated in 1969 with an M.F.A. in Graphic Arts.   

Married to budding writer James Park Sloan in 1968 Pasin Sloan juggled both their relationship and raising two children, finding little time for art, and they divorced after nearly 20 years. She created a solution, however, by painting at her kitchen table after she put her young children to bed into the early hours of the morning. For two years she focused on the household objects around her, like a window air conditioner and highchair. It was the humble chrome toaster, however, that proved the catalyst for her lifelong fascination with capturing reflections. 

In the late 1970s, Pasin Sloan began staging domestic objects in front of colorful, geometric patterned fabrics like a backdrop for a photography setup. Her work shares an affinity with Photorealist artists, such as Tom Blackwell, who enjoyed the designs created by the glass surfaces of shop windows. Like them she shoots numerous, highly detailed photographs. Pasin Sloan works from both her photos and the actual still life to make her paintings and prints; in fact, sometimes the artist and her tripod even make an appearance in the reflections in her paintings! 

A lithograph of three glasses on a striped sheet that extends behind them. The stripes, alternating white, orange, blue, red, and green and of different sizes, are reflected on the outside of the glasses, creating an optical illusion.
Jeanette Pasin Sloan, American, b. 1946. Trinity. Lithograph on paper, 1989. Gift of Wells Fargo, 2004.25. Image courtesy of FWMoA. 

Trinity (1989) is an eleven color lithograph in the museum’s collection. Pasin Sloan magnified and cropped three silver party cups, as in the title, giving them a monumental presence. While there is an underlying classical order and balance in her composition, it is simultaneously a burst of movement as the stripes in the backdrop are seen everywhere. Its dazzling optical effects are reminiscent of the vertical striped paintings of Washington Color school artist Gene Davis. Pasin Sloan carefully translated the glistening patterns and metallic luster through color, not silver ink. Looking into the mirror-like surfaces, the reflected stripes are lighter in tone, distorted, and curved. She sees them as a world of their own. The artist described it as such: “Reflective objects tell us we are there but open up a world beyond us. And what is that world? It is clear, yet unclear. What we see is real; what we do not see is abstract. I try in my work to show what is real –that we can all share — but to also give the sense that what we do not know is often unsettling and perhaps chaotic.”i 

In the center, a single glass sits on a colored, striped sheet that is reflected on the outside of the glass. Around it are sketches of cotton plants dotting around the composition.
Jeanette Pasin Sloan, American, b. 1946. Cottonwood. Lithograph on paper, 2017. Museum purchase, 2018.46. Image courtesy of FWMoA. 

Many of the objects reappear throughout her still lifes. She seems to relish in the variations found by changing the grouping, arrangement, light, and, backdrop. In Cottonwood (2017), for example, Pasin Sloan returned to a similar format with a patterned backdrop but, this time, she included only a single metallic cup and placed blossoms and foliage around the border. The artist was drawn to the formal qualities in nature and not for its historical use as symbols in still life painting. Striped patterns in the fabric and reflections seem to draw our attention to the striations in the plant stems and leaves. In subsequent works, the borders are dense with foliage, setting the floral pattern against the pattern in the central motif.   

A poinsettia crowds the composition, nearly covering the single glass behind it. It lays on top of a Christmas blanket, alternating red and and yellow and green. The striped background is reflected on the outside of the glass.
Jeanette Pasin Sloan, American, b. 1946. Untitled Holiday Card. Lithograph on paper, 2018. Gift of Jack Lemon, 2019.12. Image courtesy of FWMoA. 

Pasin Sloan works in a variety of mediums: acrylic, watercolor, colored pencil, and printmaking. In 1977, at the suggestion of her friend and painter John Himmelfarb, she began making lithographs with Landfall Press, a printmaking studio in Chicago. She continues to collaborate with them today. As the perfect holiday gift, publisher Jack Lemon donated Pasin Sloan’s poinsettia print to FWMoA. Lithography is the perfect print medium if the artist wants to be able to draw with a pencil or crayon. Here, Pasin Sloan delicately rendered the venation and veins in the flower petals and leaves in black. Again, the poinsettia is cropped and pushed up to the picture plane. Her favorite metallic cup can be found yet again, peeking out with surfaces altering the festive plaid backdrop. 

To see more of FWMoA’s prints and drawings, visit the Print & Drawing Study Center Tuesday-Friday, 11am-3pm or by appointment.

i Douglas Fairfield, “Through a Glass, Sparkly,” Santa Fe New Mexican (7 November 2008).  

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