In 1968, Chestee began making art in her signature medium, wood polychromatic bas-relief. When her brother came
home from college for a visit, he brought along his own art project, a collection of wooden printing blocks,
stacked in the trunk of his Ford Mustang. When Chestee saw them, she experienced a eureka moment: she would use
wood, not only to transfer images, but as a primary medium.
Two years later, during an exhibit of her work at Louisiana State University, she learned that the medium
already had a name — wood polychromatic bas-relief — and is in fact, an ancient art.
In her hands, this technique is reinvented as a means of Southern storytelling, inspired by the Louisiana
landscape and waterways, its people and their traditions.
Chestee begins her low-relief carvings by sketching on the wood surface. Then she handles her tools —
chisels and gouges — much as she might use charcoal in drawing. She uses the tools with her hands alone, or
accompanied by the use of a mallet, to create depth and value. The images are developed with colored stains and
glazes to produce a striking, three-dimensional effect.