Artist Statement

Lawyer Trades Courtoom for Art Studio

“From an early age, I remember the joy of creating at home and in art class.  At every opportunity I found ways to create by crushing flower petals to dye fabric, by sewing clothes, crocheting, knitting, and painting. Even cooking was an adventure in color.

Eventually, due to life’s circumstances, my focus moved from artistic creativity to intellectual creativity as I began developing my analytical and reasoning skills for my careers in public policy, criminal justice, investigation, and law.

During graduate academic startist statementudies, I studied law and art in Italy, France and Austria and elsewhere in Europe. A few of my favorite memories are privately viewing the art in the archives of the Uffizi Museum Gallery in Florence, Italy with Director Antonio Natali, watching the sunset capture the light over the river Seine in Paris, France, and listening to the music of Mozart at a summer outdoor concert in Vienna, Austria.

Over the years I never stopped creating art, but in 2011 I officially considered myself an artist, and began painting in earnest.  At first I wondered how my work in urban planning, criminal justice and law would impact my painting.

Now I realize that my focus on strategy, persistence, attention to detail, and creative problem solving skills that I perfected in my previous careers were the exact skills I find invaluable as an artist creating art. Visual artists are innovators and creative thinkers, just like engineers or entrepreneurs. But artists have a different language — color, shape, pattern, medium, texture. Their expression of ideas visually makes me slow down and ponder.

Abstract painting is my passion; especially postwar abstract painting. Creating a painting is like taking a journey; getting lost, discovering, reframing my worldview, finding comfort in the familiar, exhilarating in the unknown, and never returning unchanged.

What I connect to most in life is the emotional side of things, and the images and textured surfaces of my paintings represent the energy and emotions I experience, while the open spaces signify the reflective moments.

My painting is a very physical process, exuding energy to drive the expression on the canvas. I am constantly editing, in hopes of reaching a balance of line and space.  It is my personal belief that abstract art is best felt intuitively rather than understood;  the question should be ‘”what does this painting make you feel?” – rather than, “what is this painting saying?


Nelisse works out of her art studio in Kihei, Maui (Hawaii). To see more of her work, you may also visit her on TWITTER or FACEBOOK or INSTAGRAM or PINTEREST or LINKEDIN.