Chestee Harrington

Wood Polychromatic Bas-relief

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.