On a recent rainy New England day, the studio walls of New Bedford artist Pamela Hoss were hung with brightly colored paintings, portraits of flowers, and well-used art supplies. In stark contrast to the gray clouds outside, the interior glowed with the vibrant colors of still lives, rich drapery, painted portraits of her students, and depictions of her beloved garden. One wall prominently featured an image of a delicately sculpted ballet dancer’s face, hanging alongside drawings in various stages of completion.
Pamela Hoss is the youngest of 10, raised on a farm in Rockland. Her mother, tasked with keeping such a large family occupied, enrolled her children in art classes at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. That’s when Hoss had her first encounter with the art world. Experiencing in person an Edgar Degas sculpture, “The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer,” left an enduring mark.
“I think just walking through the museum and seeing Degas’ statue of the 14-year-old dancer made a big impact on me.” Hoss said. “For 55 years, the physicality of taking theatrical poses has helped me express myself through different stages of life.”
The image of a dancing figure frequently appears in her works. This early introduction to the art world would inspire Hoss’s lifelong love of creating art and supporting the artistic pursuits of others.
Central to Hoss’s artistic output are her self-portraits, an ongoing exploration of various life stages. These works offer insight into her artistic evolution, often featuring the figure dancing, a motif of deep personal significance. One room in her studio is almost entirely covered with collaged mixed-media drawings.
“The recent self-portraits with me at many different stages just help me, once again, get centered as to where I am in life. I retired from teaching after 30 years at UMass and looked at myself in the mirror, which I guess empowered me to continue being an artist in life.”
These self-portraits serve as a visual reminder, a timeline of her life, allowing Hoss to trace her personal growth from childhood to her current phase as an artist. She explains, “I’m 75 years old and, looking back at pictures of myself when I was in first grade and third grade, I would collage those into the works and come to grips with who I am and the history of my life.”
Drawing, particularly with charcoal, is the “essence of expression,” in Hoss’s opinion. She believes drawing serves as the foundation of all art, providing artists with an unfiltered medium to convey their thoughts and emotions onto canvas or paper.
“I think from the inside of the artist, through the fingertips onto the page, is the most honest and direct expression one can experience. It allows you to get to the core of what you need to express. With the burnt piece of wood on paper, just the spirit of the human, the spirit of people that you’re drawing, can come to life on the page.”
For Hoss, teaching was not just a profession. It was a means to impart knowledge and help students of all abilities build the courage and confidence to create. She said she believes in nurturing creative potential, empowering young people to believe in themselves and their artistic abilities.
Former students are often invited to her studio to sit for a portrait. “When we get together, we reconnect, and it’s meaningful for both of us. They inspire me. They let me know what I was able to give to them and how important it continues to be for them. So, it’s a joy for me.”
The mutual admiration between Hoss and her students speaks to the camaraderie built throughout the South Coast’s arts community. “Being a teacher in life, to me, was as important as being an artist in life. At UMass Dartmouth, I felt as though I could help the students grow as artists, get to the root of their expression as artists, and believe in themselves.”
David Walega is a photojournalist from the South Coast whose work has appeared in publications around the world. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org