It’s been awhile since Jim has posted anything (my fault, really, because he doesn’t care for computers). We’ve been traveling, and if you’d like to see what we’ve been up to, you can have a look at our travel blog, here.
The main reason for this post, instead of trying to catch everybody up on Jim’s latest works, is because we’ve just had to put a bunch of effort into applying for a grant for under-appreciated artists, of which Jim is a prime example.
He chose a Venice theme because the organization wanted a body of work, and not simply the latest paintings. Jim has been painting Venice since the ’60s, and since we started visiting it in 2015, he’s concentrated on it more and more. No other subject gives him the room for such embellishment and detail.
So here is Jim’s art statement from the application, as well as the paintings he has submitted for consideration. Hope you enjoy them.
Symbolic representation is limited by our culture’s preference for fashion. Classical mythology holds little currency with a modern audience, and organized religion is reluctant to see the entertainment value in its message. Much of contemporary art poses the timeless questions by recasting myths in a fantasy or science fiction universe. But I prefer to speak directly to the Church about its role in the present paradigm, to bare the roots of the challenges facing us now.
I have chosen a Carnival/Lent theme for many of the paintings in this series, and make use of elaborate costumes to emphasize the subtle variation of self-expression that are possible within rigidly imposed social boundaries. The masks and costumes of my figures are their deliberate disguises, at odds with the people underneath, who use elaborate vestments to create fictitious characters, the same way we costume our everyday lives.
I began to be interested in painting both the architecture and the costumes of earlier times in the late 1950s. When the Carnival celebrations were revived in Venice in the late 1970s it was a perfect match for my inclinations. But it was several years before my wife and I made the journey. My first trip to Venice at Carnival was like living in reality and my imagination at the same time. I have a particular affection for the art and the artists of renaissance Venice that serves me well in my studies of Venice today.
My first experience with egg tempera was in art school in the late ‘50s and I have gradually done a larger portion of my work in that medium. This requires making my own paint in the studio as part of the painting process and I have continued in this direction. In a way, I could almost be categorized as an anti-contemporary painter, as my studio functions more like a renaissance studio, with handmade paints, hand prepared painting surfaces, customized handbuilt frames, and traditional materials.
The one painting I would like to comment on is the one entitled “Self Portrait in the House of Gold”, as it has a special place in my memories. I had begun this painting before visiting Venice, entranced by the beauty of detail in the portico and courtyard of a palazzo I had no knowledge of. Within a few days of our departure from Venice, we ran across this very house – the famous Ca’ D’Oro, and recognized the scene when we peered through a crack in the wooden gates. On touring the palazzo, I realized that the complexity of the scene was far greater than the photograph I had been working from in the studio. When I returned to my studio, I was able to add much of the detail I had studied on the spot, resulting in a much more satisfying painting.
Swirling Memories, a portrait of our friend Marie, who joined us for Carnival
Porta Della Carta, the entrance to the Doge’s Palace, one of the few of his paintings without a human subject
Under the Rialto, during an episode of acqua alta, when the streets look like the canals
Still Water Runs Shallow – in Venice, anyway
Nocturne of Old Age, a fantasy painting, because Venice is so beautiful at night, and because we’d visited the Maritime Museum and Jim wanted to paint the old ships
Self-Portrait in the House of Gold – there’s a great story about this painting, begun before we left for Venice, and finished afterwards. Jim is the guy in the costume on the left
The Fates of Venice – please note the handmade frame with cast medallions
Venetian Attitude. In old Venice, the courtesans were required to wear yellow
Lady with Many Secrets, not the least of which is the man lurking in the background – nobody we’ve shown this to notices him
The Church of Anonymity. A triptych from before our first trip to Venice, when Jim used the National Cathedral in Washington DC for the interior