Carolina Parent: Jane Seymour Raleigh Exhibition Reveals Inner Life of Artist

Reprinted from Carolina Parent

Award-winning actress Jane Seymour has slipped into many roles in her career in movies, on TV and on Broadway. She garnered an Emmy for her portrayal of Maria Callas in “Onassis: The Richest Man in the World” and a Golden Globe for the title role on “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.” She also starred as a James Bond girl in the 1973 movie “Live and Let Die.” But the one person who inspires her life’s work hits close to home and to her heart — her mother.

A Dutch national, Seymour’s mother was imprisoned in a concentration camp in Indonesia by the Japanese during World War II. She worked to assist other prisoners and emerged from her ordeal inspired to teach her children the importance of always reaching out to others, no matter what challenges life throws at them. In a recent interview, Seymour explained how her mother’s philosophy has shaped the direction of her own work, which stretches beyond acting to creating works of fine art and jewelry, and to assisting others through the Open Hearts Foundation that she co-founded.

“My mother inspired the whole Open Heart philosophy,” Seymour says. “Having come from these unbelievable circumstances, when she was raising my sisters and I, she always said to us, ‘Darling, when life is tough and you think something is insurmountable, your instinct will be to close up your heart.’ And she said, ‘If you close up your heart, you can’t give or receive love. But if you open your heart, accept what has happened and reach out in some way to uniquely help someone else, purpose and love will come into your life.’”

Although she is best known as an actress, Seymour has always nurtured another talent — creating art. From an early age, she began painting and drawing, and it is her art that brings her to Raleigh this month. Triangle residents can meet Seymour when her paintings will be on exhibition and for sale at The Mahler Fine Art Gallery Saturday, Feb. 28, 6-8 p.m., and Sunday, March 1, 2-4 p.m. Seymour is also accepting requests for commissioned works and is hosting an event for children on Saturday, Feb. 28, 11 a.m.-noon, when she will offer an art experience for children. Events are free but reservations are required.

“I love children’s art, and I love the idea of letting children communicate through visuals and color, and I love giving a kind of interactive art program with kids,” she says. “I just think the best way really of communicating with anyone is through art. It’s something I’ve always done with my children.”

Many of the paintings on exhibition in Raleigh reflect Seymour’s mother’s “Open Heart” wisdom, which Seymour embraced and expressed over the years in a variety of forms. “I found it to be true, and so I interpreted that as a series of paintings and then as bronze paintings, which will also be shown in the [The Mahler Fine Art] gallery. And ultimately, it became jewelry, which is now at Kay Jewelers, Jared, Zales, and is now just launching in Canada and in England as well.

“I’ve always loved art. It’s something I’ve done for me. It has always been very personal,” she says, noting that art helped her heal after she went through a “terrible” divorce about 25 years ago. “I lost everything – financially and emotionally — and art and painting and drawing became my healing,” she says. On the set of “Dr. Quinn,” people noticed her art, and her career took off with commissions. One of her early paintings sold for $25,000 at an auction in aid of Make a Wish Foundation. “So all of that kind of happened, and the next thing I knew, I was being invited to show in galleries, and I am very happy to say that I’ve raised over a million dollars just from my artwork alone, obviously separate from the gallery showings I do.”

Those who venture to the exhibition can expect to see a “huge variety of styles and subject matters,” and each work is like her baby, she says. “I do it not because I have to – I do it because I love to do it. And I really enjoy it when people say, ‘Oh, I have your painting in my house.’ It’s meaningful to me and I love it, and it brings a smile on my face.”

In order for art to to do its “job,” Seymour says it must make an emotional connection with its viewer. “I always feel that the person who collects art is as much the artist as the person that creates it. Because when you find a piece and you decide to have it in a place that you look at every day, it will impact your life, it constantly gives you the feeling of either joy or it reminds you of someone or something — it has an emotional connection. And until a piece of work has an emotional connection with someone, it hasn’t really done its job.’

Seymour says she has had three near-death experiences, and one — when she says she left her body long enough to see people resuscitating her — left her with a new outlook she carries to this day.

“It did change my life completely because after that I realized that the only thing you take with you in life when you die is the love you’ve shared and the difference you’ve made,” she says. “I think that is in some ways where the Open Heart theme comes from. That’s really the message behind all of my paintings, I suppose, because each one of them is about love, whether it is love of nature, love of a child in the ocean or a mother and a child, or the beauty of unique petals of a flower or the open heart symbols themselves. I chose to look at the world in a positive way rather than some people who celebrate the negative.”

Note: All artist appearances are free, but reservations are required. Seymour’s artwork will also be on view at The Mahler Fine Art Gallery from Feb. 21-March 1.