Not every artist’s career takes off after graduation.
By Christina Stock
If you have been at a performance of the Roswell Community Little Theatre or Way Way Off Broadway Theatre Company in the last few years, chances are that you have enjoyed Jeorganna Simoes’ performances, sometimes as member of the cast, the choir or as one of the main actors, such as one of the grandmothers in the recent RCLT production of “Willy Wonka.”
The spirited actor has a bubbly personality with a smile that lights up the stage and — together with her husband Tony Simoes — she volunteers in as many plays, behind and on stage, as she can.
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Recently she caught the attention of a celebrity with a different art form; she has been expressing herself in paintings. One of her fans is GalactiCon’s guest of honor this year, Garrett Wang, who is known as ensign Harry Kim from the “Star Trek Voyager” series. Wang purchased a painting of hers, though at the time Simoes didn’t know that he was a famous TV actor.
“I didn’t realize who he was and he picked up this little dog sketch I’d done and he bought it,” Simoes said. “I said thank you and he walked away. I stood there for a minute, wondering where have I seen him before. So I went over to Michael Christopher (a friend of Simoes) and asked, ‘Who is that man?’ He told me and I said, ‘Wow. He just bought my painting.’”
Simoes paintings are unusual with a strong sense of individuality, including tendencies into the fantastic with multi-layered aspects that remind one of early surrealists and even impressionistic styles. Simoes, however, avoids painting realism.
“There are hundreds of people that paint flowers and beautiful skies and that’s nice, but I also take photographs, so why not just take a photograph?” Simoes said. “I can appreciate that, but that’s not what I am driving for. I want that undercurrent. I want somebody to look at my painting and go, ‘Wow. What is that? Why is that there?’ I name my paintings just to name them, but I want people do their own spin, put their own head into it. When you look at something surreal that I painted, I want you to see what it means, not what I told you what it meant.”
Asked when she became interested in painting, Simoes said, “I’ve always drawn for myself since I was a little girl, but I never really thought about doing anything with it. I have a thing — I would go to art shows and museums and would stare at paintings and would think, I could do that if I wanted to. I always needed to challenge myself.
“The theater is a group effort, but I needed a way to get my own voice out, my feelings,” Simoes said. “With my paintings, I paint strictly for myself, which I think every real artist does and then if somebody likes it or wants it then I am glad and it makes me happy, but basically it’s for my own satisfaction.”
As with so many others, Simoes only found time to express herself in theater after her children were grown.
“I did my first play when I was 14 in California, it was in junior high. I played a snobby little rich girl. Then, I just never really did it. I got married and raised my kids and worked just like everybody else does. When I was in my 30s I went back to college. I was married, I had two children and worked full time at Northern Telecom in California. At that time they made computer chips for phones and I was in production control.”
There are no regrets for Simoes, raising her two children and then later marrying Tony Simoes.
“I have a boy and a girl and I have a stepdaughter and a deceased stepson. I married my husband later in life. Tony makes it possible for me to do my art. He is an artist himself,” she said.
Asked if any of her children are artistically inclined, Simoes said, “Actually they are. My son, he was in high school, he was singing All-State in Colorado and in New Mexico. When he was a junior in high school he played the lead, Danny Zuko, in ‘Grease.’ In Farmington, they were both in ‘Li’l Abner’. It was funny, Brian played the papa, though he was a teenager. They dressed him up. His sister Donna was like her mother, of course. My daughter is a professor at the University of Alaska in Anchorage. She taught before in Austin at the University and she taught in Western Illinois.”
Simoes came to the theater serendipitously. “I knew a friend here in town who did theater work and she would talk about it. One time, I just thought, just go and do it and loved it ever since. Painting is the same,” she said.
“I am interested in people and what motivates them — the emotion. That’s why I like acting and why I like any type of art. I feel that I have stuff to give and most of my life has been motherhood and raising children. I was ready to express myself and express all these inner things that we don’t bring out. A lot of my work is horror or very macabre. I am in all aspects, I like happy people, but I am interested more on what drives them psychologically, and what drives me as a person,” Simoes said.
Asked if she is represented in a gallery, Simoes said that there are paintings of hers at Nancy Phillips’ gallery, Phillips Second Street Studio, 1004 E. Second St. She is also planning to be at the Roswell Farmer’s Market in the summer and again at Galacticon, which takes place at the same time as the UFO Festival.
Asked what she would tell others about finding a new challenge in life as she has, Simoes said, “My most favorite saying — it’s my whole life — is Alexander Pope’s ‘Hope springs eternal.’ I think my thing I want to say to people, is ‘Express yourself. Don’t worry what other people say. Don’t let somebody else shatter your life.’
“When I started theater one lady said to me, ‘Oh, I don’t know, you might last a year or two.’ I have been here eight years. I just thought, I just do it anyway. All my life I have been that way. My father gave me this drive. If you want to do something, just do it. Live your life. I live my life to the fullest. It may not be the life that others want but it’s the life that I love and my husband Tony makes that possible.”