Jeannette Doné-Lagemann has lived on three continents, speaks five languages, and has flourished in several successful careers.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
Jeannette Doné-Lagemann has lived on three continents, speaks five languages, and has flourished in several successful careers. Her photography has been exhibited in New York, Connecticut, Paris, as well as in her native Dominican Republic. These days, as a mixed-media artist, she is savoring every moment of her oil painting evolution.
Encapsulating her eclectic interests, Doné-Lagemann’s artwork runs the gamut from photography to oil paintings and a combination of the two. She is intrigued with juxtaposing her photographs with oils and blurring the line of where one begins and the other ends.
“Whether I’m strolling through Rye or Stamford, visiting Coney Island, or traveling in Paris or South America, I have the eye of a photojournalist,” said the Rye resident. “I like to capture the fleeting moment, while illuminating the permanent details.”
Having immigrated to this country as a precocious teenager, Doné-Lagemann learned English and got a job at Purdue Pharma, a pharmaceutical company, right out of high school. At Marymount Manhattan College, she majored in business and French, while minoring in photography and Spanish. She also studied photography at Parsons School of Design with master photographers Lisette Model and George Tice.
Through networking, she landed a job at Time Inc.’s advertising department. “I felt advertising was going to give me exposure to the outside world. I had to work hard to get there, but I was always ambitious,” she recalled. “Then Elle magazine came to town.”
The idea of helping launch the French lifestyle magazine in this country in 1985 fit Doné-Lagemann like a glove. She boosted Elle’s advertising and learned all she could about the business and editorial ends. Five years later, as International Sales and Marketing Director, she launched the magazine in Chile and Argentina.
“I thrived in these environments. My creative side translated into the business side,” said Doné-Lagemann, who went on to work at other high-profile publications for Time Inc. and Condé Nast.
Once she made her way back to New York with her husband, she decided to slow down the pace to raise their daughter, Janina. Doné-Lagemann returned to Purdue Pharma in Stamford and is now their Coordinator of Corporate Travel and Events.
Along the way, no matter where life took her, she always took her Nikon. “Photography has been my passion for many years. I have a tremendous wealth of photographs from my travels. I look at a landscape the same way I look at a portrait,” she remarked.
When Janina, after graduating from Rye High School, enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania five years ago, her mother decided to take a new direction. “I decided I was going to mark the event by doing something strictly for myself, so I started oil painting,” she said.
Doné-Lagemann had studied art history at the Louvre Museum and had dabbled in sketching, but she had never picked up a paintbrush. Nevertheless, as she has tended to do with every twist and turn, she embraced painting wholeheartedly. The result is a compelling, textural complement to her photography, which has opened up alternative avenues of expression.
“I enjoy exhibiting in places where people don’t experience art, reaching a population that may not be exposed to art ordinarily, including children,” said Doné-Lagemann. “I love the element of surprise.” (A few of her works can be seen at Élan Yoga in downtown Rye.)
Participating in Stamford Downtown’s “Street Seats” sculpture exhibit last year, she painted a bench titled No One is an Island. It was auctioned and then donated to the University of Connecticut, its current home. This year for the same public exhibit with a “Dinosaurs Rule” theme, she assembled a group of her Purdue Pharma co-workers and together they created a Pollock-saurus sculpture, incorporating the iconic abstract painter’s vibrant, drip technique.
“Art should be shared. It is an extension of oneself and it tells a story,” she said. “In nearly all of my photography and painting, there’s a human element.”