Two artists with deep roots in southern Indiana — and for years have found inspiration in Jackson County’s rich landscape and history — are planning a state bicentennial-themed exhibit of pastel paintings and photography at Southern Indiana Center for the Arts.

The mother-and-son exhibit, featuring pastels by Maureen O’Hara Pesta and the black-and-white photography of Jesse Pesta, will open Wednesday at SICA in Seymour. The show will remain on display through Sept. 27.

The title of the exhibit is ”Home Grown: Two Indiana Visions.”

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Both artists will be in attendance for a reception scheduled for 3 to 5 p.m. Sept. 11 at SICA.

The event marks the eighth collaborative exhibit for the two, who select a theme and present their individual interpretations in photography and painting.

Celebrating the Indiana bicentennial, the artists have sought to represent unique aspects of life in Jackson County — a place that both call home, even though Jesse has in more recent years lived in New Delhi, India, and currently resides in New York City.

Maureen lives and maintains a studio and gallery near Vallonia, where the family has lived for decades and where Jesse grew up.

During an extended visit to the family home, Jesse said he spent a month around Vallonia taking long walks just to rediscover things — the lakes, the woods and the country roads out toward Medora.

“It was eye-opening,” he said. “I had to leave and come back to appreciate what we have.”

This month’s exhibit at SICA captures the very different but complementary visions of a place that the two artists have developed over a lifetime.

While they work in different mediums — Jesse in black-and-white photography and Maureen in pastels — the two have identified some unifying ideas in their approach to making art.

“I’ve traveled the backroads for years, a tattered map of Jackson County in the glove compartment, drawing and painting as I go,” Maureen said. “For this project, Jesse and I have both tried to get closer to the soul and mood and history of this place. Our varied approaches, complementing one another, tell a little story of a big place.”

Jesse said he tries to keep his eye out for photos that express more than one idea.

“Maybe it captures something beautiful but sinister — but makes you wish you were there anyway,” he said.

Humor helps, too.

“Contradictory feelings can make something feel real because after all, that’s life,” Jesse said.

Maureen is a familiar sight around the county, often working outdoors at her French easel creating plein air pastel paintings. She has traveled the United States, Europe and Asia sketching and painting along the way.

A longstanding signature member of the Pastel Society of America, she has received awards in juried shows at national, regional and state levels. Her paintings have hung in museums and art galleries throughout the United States, including the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio, and the National Arts Club and Salmagundi Club, both in New York City.

For 21 years, she created the featured artwork for the arts center’s annual Artful Affair auction gala. Posters of her work were published and sold to benefit the center annually.

Maureen also creates studio work, developing an idea using various sources combined with her imagination. Her studio and gallery adjoin the Jackson-Washington State Forest in Starve Hollow.

Jesse is an editor at The New York Times, where he works with the staff writers to develop investigative and storytelling projects. Before that, he was a roving reporter and photographer focused on India and South Asia for The Wall Street Journal.

Last year, he traveled to Nepal to cover the massive earthquake there. And in 2014 and 2015, he spent months reporting and photographing an in-depth project about a young woman in India who maintained that her in-laws intentionally set her on fire to punish her for giving birth to two daughters and no sons.

Jesse’s photography has been published in various magazines, including Marie Claire. The Wall Street Journal has published his photo essays related to the Nepal earthquake, the burning victim and an unusual orphanage in New Delhi that accepts babies left anonymously in a wicker basket, among others.

He has exhibited in and around New York City at the Front Street Gallery, Exit Art, Christie Street Gallery and Edward Hopper House, a gallery in Nyack, New York, located in the home where the painter Edward Hopper grew up.

Jesse’s writing has won awards for feature and enterprise reporting. A piece that he wrote and photographed in 2015 about a road accident in India where an overnight bus fell off a bridge and tumbled into a river was a finalist this year in the photography category of the South Asian Journalists Association awards.


The Southern Indiana Center for the Arts is located at 2001 N. Ewing St. in Seymour.

The “Home Grown: Two Indiana Visions” exhibit, featuring the work of Maureen O’Hara Pesta and her son, Jesse Pesta, will open Wednesday and remain on display through Sept. 27.

The exhibit will be open from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.

Both artists will be in attendance for a reception from 3 to 5 p.m. Sept. 11.

Information: 812-522-1178 or