Pastel Painting – The Scala Contarini Del Bovolo during Venice Carnevale

During Carnival this year, I hosted an artist friend of mine, Marie Matthews for a couple of weeks at my rented apartment in Venice.  Marie and I went down to San Marco almost every morning to photograph the costumes.  These costumes are very elaborate, and take their wearers months to make, in most cases.  Most of them adhere to the styles of the 18th Century, tho there are some variations (for instance, a man dressed all in silver, portraying a time traveller).

One morning, when all of us – myself, Marie, my wife and our grandson – got up before dawn and went down to San Marco, Jeanne and Marie decided to go off on their own after the sun rose and the costumes drifted away, while I took Connor back to the apartment.  They wandered all around, Marie in her costume, Jeanne with our camera, and had several adventures which Jeanne has written about here.

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One of the places they explored was the staircase of the Contarini house, which is spiral, like the shell of a snail, which is where it got its name – bovolo.  It’s a bit hard to find.  You have to turn down a narrow street that takes a blind turn, and then another narrow street which opens out on a small campo with the usual well head in the middle of it.  After taking several photos of the building and campo, they began to wander off, but met some of the very costumed figures we had just photographed at San Marco, coming back to their rented apartment to divest themselves and perhaps take a nap.  It turned out that they were Americans teaching in Germany, and were very forthcoming.  They’d been coming to Carnival in Venice for years, and always rented the apartment in the campo.  Marie, a novice at carnival costumes, took the opportunity to ask questions about their costumes, such as, “How do you get the neck drapery to stick around your mask?” “Glue gun.”  And, “Where do you get the hoops for your skirt?” “Turkey.”

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They followed the costumed figures back to the Bovolo, where Jeanne took more photos, and thus was the idea for a painting formed.

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The first thing I did was to make a pastel painting of one of the costumed figures as she unlocked the door to their house and went in.  I was enchanted by the view of the stairs behind her, and the look of invitation in her mask, tho she might well have been desiring only to be alone so she could remove the pounds of unwieldy costume.  I used a sheet of the paper I made and brought with me from home.  This painting is 8.5″x11″.

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Then I made some studies of the costumes with pastel on handmade paper, also 8.5″x11″.

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These figures were photographed on a nearby street, where they were first encountered, and so I left out the background to focus on the details of their costumes.  They were already very familiar, since I had photographed them in San Marco.  I don’t need to tell you that I used handmade paper, because you can see by the ragged edges that I made it by hand.

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The next step was to get out a full sheet of Fabriano paper – 22″x30″, and start with the graphite drawing.  At first I only sketched in the details of the staircase and the house next to it, and concentrated on placing the figures.  I had decided to use all the figures that my wife had photographed near the house, instead of sifting thru all the hundreds of photos we had taken of figures at San Marco, and perhaps including people who weren’t staying there.  This was of minor importance, as we had formed the plan of giving a print of the final painting to the costumed figures, who had kindly given my wife a card so we could contact them.

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However faint the drawing looks on the computer screen, it was dark enough for me to be satisfied with the proportions and placement, and to begin work in color.

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I started with pastel pencils, which will take an edge, and put in the details bit by bit.

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On a whim, I included a picture of Marie in the upper window, as I had plenty of photos of her in her costume.  The pose I used was taken at the top of the Rialto bridge, but that’s the wonderful thing about art – it’s better than reality.

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The painting went thru several more stages than I managed to take photos of, but the finished painting is here.  When I get home, I suspect I will do a much larger painting, to do justice to the wealth of detail I couldn’t capture with pastel on paper, but we will see about that.

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Here are some details of the figures.  The objects they are standing near are carved well heads, called pozzo in Italian.  They are everywhere in Venice, and it seems the people who own the Bovolo are particularly fond of them, because there is a collection of them in the yard.  None of them work, of course, as all the wells in Venice were capped when the city began getting its water piped in from the nearby alps.

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Here is my tribute to Marie, without whom I would never have gotten up before dawn to go take pictures.

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hello from venice, italy

I have taken my wife and grandson to Venice, Italy, for three months, and we are approaching the halfway point, which has arrived much faster than we had expected. Nevertheless, I am working at my usual rate, and have produced several pastel paintings in that time. Before I left my home in Atlanta, I made a lot of handmade paper, as well as a whole range of pastels to supplement the spotty offerings available commercially, and I brought them all with me.  So I am working on paper I have pulled myself, with some of the pastels I made myself.  None of them are framed; they’ll all be going home with me in a box, and I’ll mount and frame them when I get back to Atlanta.

Here are the ones I have finished so far.  I hope you like them.

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This is the first one I painted.  It’s about 8″x10″, and it’s of the little bridge that crosses over into the island where we are staying.  I walk across this bridge once or twice a day, at least.  You might not notice how raggedy the edges are, because these pictures were taken with the paintings resting on our back steps, and the color of the marble is similar to the base color of the paper.

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This next one is of the Salute church, across the Grand Canal.  It’s about 9″x12″.  I was standing in a station for gondolas when I looked up and down the Grand Canal, and this was the view down to my left, toward the Giudecca Canal.  I also have some material for another painting with the view to the right, which is quite different.  But that hasn’t happened yet.

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I did this one next, of the water at high tide, flooding the steps down to the canal along the Biennale walkway.  This is one of those little scenes of water and marble that no-one would notice, looking at the beautiful scenes of Venice.  It’s just a common little waterway next to a vaporetto dock.  But I liked it a lot.  In fact, as well as anything I’ve done here.

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This is a little bridge that I also cross every day, between the Giardini and the Riva de Siette Martiri.  It has four angels carved on the side, but I’m going to have to do a bigger painting of it to show the angels.  (Incidently, it’s the bridge my wife painted for her first Venice painting.)

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Then I did this one, from the Rialto market.  There are so many wonderful scenes to paint; I can’t get them all.  But I’m going to try, even if I have to keep painting for two years after I get home.

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Next I tried something on a half sheet of Fabriano paper I brought with me in case I wanted to do something larger.  It’s about 8″x20″.  I did several preliminary pastels to collect the material as the costume regatta was passing us on opening day of Carnival.  (That’s me in the red cape, by the way.)  There were hundreds of people standing all around us, and on top of the next bridge, and I was delighted to leave them all out.  Carnival would be a great event to attend if only all the tourists would stay away, because they keep getting in the way of my camera.  There were about about 150 boats in the regatta, but the one with the black figures in the white masks was my favorite.

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After messing with the regatta painting for about a week, I wanted to do something really quiet, so this is what came out.  A quiet little canal, with three little gondolas passing by.  They would be coming under me as I was standing on the bridge to view this. Once again, the reflections in the water was one of my main interests in this painting.  Also, the tone of the painting allowed for a great deal of the untouched paper to show thru.  About 8.5″x11″.

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This costumed carnival figure is seen at the front door of her rented apartment as she is coming home with her friends, all of whom we photographed earlier at San Marco, posing for the cameras at dawn.  She and her friends are teachers in Germany, and they come to Carnival every year and rent this same apartment (the owners of which didn’t want to rent to us next year, because there are only 3 of us, and it’s a 5 bedroom apartment).  They came back to the apartment after a tiring morning posing, were going to have a nap, and then get dressed and go back out for the evening session on San Giorgio Maggiore, after which there was undoubtedly a ball or two to attend.  This is done on the largest paper I made, which is 11″x17″.

I’m going to begin studies for another, larger painting of these ladies this afternoon, posed in front of their apartment, which is in the same campo as the Contarini del Bovolo staircase (the famous spiral one).

I’ll have more soon.  Please let me know what you think.

Join me in Venice

I’m in Venice Italy for three months, starting just a week ago, and going all the way to the middle of April.  As you can imagine, I’m in the city of water and old buildings, light and architecture, history and romance.  And I’ve got my art supplies.  You can read about the journey itself on our travel blog, here, but the artwork I’m doing is going to be posted here on this blog, and if you feel like purchasing any of the pieces I’m making while I’m here, you can do so on our Etsy site, here.

When I decided, back in August, that I wanted to spend a lot of time in Venice, I started preparing right away.  First I made a whole lot of handmade paper, then sized and in some cases toned the paper for pastel.  Then I made a bunch of pastels, and bought a bunch more pastels.  And finally I packed them all up securely and brought them with me on the plane, along with my wife and three-year-old grandson.  My wife found a great little apartment, and we moved in just last week.  And we’ve been taking walks and accumulating photo references like mad – only a week, and we’ve got over a thousand photos already.

What interests me is the age of the city, and the non-tourist sights.  I like brick walls, peeling stucco, crazy angles.  The lagoon views are magnificent, of course, and the palazzi on the grand canal are palatial, and I’ll be painting all of them, but my exclamations of amazement come at the most prosaic moments – rounding a corner and seeing a canal full of boats and reflections, with laundry hanging right across the canal.

Before leaving for Venice, one of the preparations I made was to make a few paintings of scenes I found on Google street view (which cruises down the canals as well as the streets).

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The first of these pastels, done on handmade paper (you can tell because of the ragged edges) I then mounted down on a board and framed, then painted in the frame to extend the image.  It’s of the Rialto Bridge, which I have since seen and photographed from a number of angles, all of them including tourists, which are everywhere, even in the winter (one of the reasons I chose to come in the winter is the relative lack of tourists.  But still…).
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This second painting is likewise mounted on a board and framed.  In this case, I did two pastels, of the lower and upper parts of the buildings, and left a nice gap in the painting for emphasis.  You might notice all the women in the windows of the buildings.  Traditionally, way in the past, women were relegated to private spaces, and hardly went outside at all.  Which is one of the reasons the windows in Venice are so prominent.
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This one I call the Gondolier of Death, and it features a self portrait, and a portrait of my grandson Avery next to me.  The Gondolier is transporting a coffin, or rather a body, to Isola di San Michele, the burial ground.  It’s a rather large painting, and I did it on board, rather than handmade paper.
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This little gem is on handmade paper, and I framed it up to give to my friend Jack as a bon voyage painting, seeing as how he threw me a bon voyage party.  Here’s looking at you, Jack.
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At this point, still at home, I decided I might try some paintings on oval paper.  My son Michael had made me an oval paper screen some months back, so I used it to quickly turn out several dozen sheets of oval paper, which I then toned and sized, and used a picture of the Salute church as the subject.  The photo was pulled from street view, which I though was an excellent resource.  We actually spent some time on street view before we came, trying to orient ourselves.
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The second oval I did was rather more fancy.  It’s also of the Salute, but I spent a little effort decorating the board that it is mounted onto, using sprayed lace.

And now, to the paintings actually done in Venice.  Once we arrived, it wasn’t hard to select the first subject, because it’s the bridge to our own little island, where our rented house is.  It’s a cute little bridge, and we cross it every day on the way to the shopping area to buy our groceries.  There are only two bridges to get onto this island, and I’m quite fond of this one.  Handmade paper, of course.

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And I just finished this painting today, of the Salute again, but from the other side of the canal, rather than street view from a boat.  I really love the poles sticking up everywhere along the river.

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So that’s the start of my Venice paintings.  I will be doing many of them while I’m here in Venice, but taking home years of material to make much larger paintings back in the studio.

I hope you join me in my trip, and hope you like my pastels.  I do, and I’m having a lot of fun making them.

2014 show: Unsuitable for Public Display

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Jim’s recent show at Mason Murer, which has just come down, featured about 30 large paintings, most of which were stashed in the storage area, behind the curtain.  There were one or two very unsuitable paintings among the stash.  On display were some of Jim’s most recent paintings, featuring his latest model – a life size skeleton replica – and commenting on the nature of life and death (as usual).

Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to take individual photos, but here are links to two clips that show the paintings displayed in the public gallery.

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mason murer  yarbrough 2

By jim yarbrough Posted in art

exhibition review in the marietta daily journal

Works from former east Cobb resident on display at Museum of Art through March 24

February 20, 2013 12:38 AM
Former east Cobb resident Jim Yarbrough currently has his exhibit, ‘Yarbrough: 53.9 Years and Still Unpredictable,’ on display at the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art through March 24. <br> Staff/Laura Moon

Former east Cobb resident Jim Yarbrough currently has his exhibit, ‘Yarbrough: 53.9 Years and Still Unpredictable,’ on display at the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art through March 24.
Staff/Laura Moon
Minotaur, a 1978 mixed media acrylic sculpture.

Minotaur, a 1978 mixed media acrylic sculpture.
Cabbage Town Morning, a 1980 egg tempera.

Cabbage Town Morning, a 1980 egg tempera.

James Yarbrough, 74, brings to art the unexpected. His diverse subject matters and striking detail will enchant the eye.

Yarbrough’s works are mainly in pastels, acrylics, egg tempera, and oils. His paintings include streets of Venice, dancers, musicians, fish, history and myth, fantasy and diabolic conflict. Through March 24 his paintings are exhibited at Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art, titled “Yarbrough: 53.9 Years & Still Unpredictable.” The museum is located at 30 Atlanta St. in Marietta.

“I am an intuitive painter even though I work with some standard techniques. You can’t be quite sure what I am going to be doing six months from now,” said Yarbrough, a former east Cobb resident who now lives in Atlanta.

Though some of Yarbrough’s paintings appear traditional, he enjoys pushing the visual edge. Among his recent visual experiments is a painting of a woman floating under water.

“I’ve never done anything like that before. It’s different from anything either that I’ve done before or that I’ve seen before. The way they looked different from what I expected is what intrigued me,” Yarbrough said.

Born in Chattanooga, Yarbrough moved to East Point as a child where he live until he married in 1960. At age 4, he received chalk and a blackboard from his parents.

“I was in art from there on,” Yarbrough said.

During high school, he explored art through various means. He attended the Junior School, a professional art school, at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta for three years during high school. “I was always wanting to draw and paint,” said Yarbrough, who is married to Jeanne.

After completing his studies including time in Paris he taught at the High Museum as well as privately until 1980. In 1980 wanting “more hands on” work he painted murals and wall treatments for interior designers. Now retired, Yarbrough focuses on painting.

“I enjoyed drawing ever since I was a little boy. Painting is just an extension of drawing,” he said.

One of Yarbrough’s interesting techniques is his use of egg tempera that he estimates dates back to pre-Roman times. “Since I make all my paints from dry pigments you just add a mixture of egg yolk and water to the pigments and they’re ready to paint,” he said.

“There is a renaissance of egg tempera painters. It was the standard best way to work on a panel until the 1500s,” he explained.

For Yarbrough, painting is an extension of himself. “You think in visual terms more than verbal terms if you spend time in visual arts. Painting is way to see what you think about this that and the other,” he said.

To view Yarbrough’s works online visit http://www.2021collectionsgalleryrodin.com

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Works from former east Cobb resident on display at Museum of Art through March 24

My Hudgens Prize entry

The Hudgens Prize, now in its second iteration, is a competition of Georgia artists, curated by noted museum professionals, and in their first year they selected an artist whose work bears no relation to my own, and speak poorly for my chances in this type of competition.  But I often like to be rejected by different art professionals, just in case I meet one I like.

I got in just under the wire on this one.  Last year I applied for something that took weeks to prepare for, and then I missed the deadline by a day.

My artist statement follows:

A gallery setting of these five entries would have the viewer encountering a shaman, alone in the center of an intimate space, interacting through the volume with mythic women on the four walls around him. Physical aspects that others view with horror and revulsion, the shaman understands as essential and expressive; badges of experience and valor. Neither victim nor victor, the shaman is a third type of male, who by his study and self knowledge develops mastery and autonomy, earning the right to stand as equal and adjunct to these elemental females in dynamic dialectic.

The two-dimensional works represent strong archetypal figures interpreted in rich mythical symbolism, expressing their innermost struggles vividly, invoking primal forces in the working out of their destinies.

These women perform a counterpoint to the musing shaman, who stands apart from them, but also between them, and inside of them. He journeys, in his shamanic vision, deep into the mysteries of life and death that these women embody, repeatedly merging with the maelstrom of female energy around him, always returning to himself as the stillpoint in the center.

As the artist, I symbolize my personal journey among the mysteries of life and death. This current series does not sum up my career, but represents another branch in my continuing investigation. It is a collaboration between me and my wife, also an artist, as we explore our encroaching decrepitude playfully, pre-enacting scenes of demisement in Judith, releasing the inner demons with Medusa, viscerally exploring the intimate circle of death and rebirth at the hands of Kali, surrendering to the tide of oblivion with the Sirens. The Shaman, as himself, incessantly explores death’s contours, its metaphors and meaning, its lessons for the living.

Though my practice functions as the artistic equivalent of the shaman’s journey, I tend to see myself as a craftsman rather than as a magician, although the magic is there in the art if the viewer is attuned to the symbolism.”

I share an interest in depicting the grotesque with artists such as Durer, Goya, Bruegel, Rembrandt, da Vinci, and others who painted less than flattering portraits of their fellow humans and got in trouble for it.

As a young artist, I illustrated stories that interested me without any thought of the underlying themes or patterns of interest; following instead the popular comic book themes of the day – war, superhero, science fiction. Absent from art school in the 1950s was the concept of art as the expression of mythological themes. Abstraction prevailed, and we paid attention only to materials, techniques and styles. Nobody wanted to discuss meaning. So I invented my own lexicon, and only gradually recognized the canon of myth and symbol as I discovered Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung in my attempt to explain myself to myself.

This exploration continues in my daily practice.

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1. Shaman, acrylic polychrome sculpture with attachments. 6″x33″x6″ 2012

A Shaman sees the world through its mysteries, where everything is reduced to overarching themes of sex and death, light and dark — with a concentration along the edge where one transforms into the other. This sculpture is a self portrait, a shaman with a brush instead of a drum, a student of the unconscious who sketches the hidden and ugly, revealing life as part of an endless and universal Dance of Death — a dance with death.

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2. Medusa, encaustic and egg tempera on lenticular panels. 48″x48″ 2012

Medusa has been much maligned as a result of the patriarchal denigration of female strength. I choose to explore that strength directly, incorporating the snakes as metaphors of sexual power, exploring my wife’s image and self-image as she copes with the reality of living with breast cancer.

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3. Judith, encaustic on panel. 24″x48″ 2012

Judith has always appealed to me as someone who trusted her own perceptions, and was unafraid to act on her beliefs no matter the opposition. Because of my wife’s acceptance of her cancer, we are able to explore the darker issues of life in our art, encouraging bolder enquiries and enriching our understanding of death.

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4. Kali, acrylic on canvas mounted on lenticular panels. 70″x60″x4″ 2011

Kali was a reflection on the death of my first wife and my efforts to build a new life after 43 years. It marks the beginning of a thanatological series that deals more directly with issues I have explored throughout my career.

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5. Sirens, pastel on panel. 36″x70″ 2013

Sirens is like my recent Venice Carnival series in that the reality of the person beneath the mask is completely obscured by the costume. In Sirens, the current series, the paintings are photorealistic, but the subject is endlessly fractured and indistinct, and in some of the paintings impossible to tell. But the paintings are all of my wife, giving herself like Ophelia to the emotional currents of the waters of dissolution. The metaphor here is the relentless pull of inertia, mediated through the constant interpretation and reinterpretation of reality that occurs in our minds.

A Night at the Art Museum – 15

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Jim Yarbrough: 53.9 Years and Still Unpredictable at the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art.

The night of the opening finally came, and everybody and their neighbors showed up for it.  Here are some pictures, and notes on who’s who if we could figure it out.

In this first photo, Paula Stone and Susan Hajek examine the etching “Haunted Carousel” and its copper etching plate.

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Mary Booth Cabot is one of the luminaries attending the show, along with the back of Rick McClung.

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A genial ambiance.

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Jim says hello to Elsa and Jack Sheahan.

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Close scrutiny of the miniature paintings proves rewarding.

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Estelle Hosch and Bob Meredith discuss working with their hands, in clay and oil paint, respectively.

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Margaret Grenleski dashed in to judge the work.  Her verdict?  Life!

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Sally Macaulay, Ben Smith, and Marie Matthews pause momentarily on their rounds.

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David Brown and Nicole Vincent document the evening’s luminaries.

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Even people there doing a job had fun at the opening.  It was that kind of event.

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There were so many artists at the opening that it got to where we introduced each other by discipline.  Jim talks to Lee Staven the painter, while his wife, Laura, is photobombed by Jim’s son Jay.

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Perfect gentleman Bob Meredith showing his encyclopedic knowledge to his daughter, Scarlett Jimison.  You smudge it, you fix it, Bob.

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Artist Rick McClung leading all eyes left.

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Scarlett Jimison trying to get someone to stand by one of the huge Moses paintings, for scale, with Shirley Yarbrough, Jim’s son Michael Orrin, and Shirley’s 95 year old Aunt Sarah.  You go, girl.

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Jim and the back of Donna Colebeck.

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Nick and Pamela Cole looking at the fine points of Jim’s background techniques.

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Jim talking to Philip Moulthrop and his wife, while Jennifer Germain photobombs.

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There they are again, with Jim’s son Michael Orrin looking on, and someone with a cold photobombing this time.

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Michael Leidl of Steem Creative designed the banner that hangs outside the museum, and the wall graphics inside; he did a wonderful job, and it looks magnificent.  Drive by 30 Atlanta Street, just south of Marietta Square, to see it.  The show runs until March 24, 2013.

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This is Jennifer Fox, who did the hands-on organizing of the whole show, aided by Sally Macaulay and Kat Bush.  She was too busy organizing to stop, and we’re lucky this shot isn’t blurry.

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Jim’s friends, furniture maker Andreas Dopheide and his lovely Bride, violinist Jane McRae, speaking to artist Laura Surace about something important while the boys look on.

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And this is Cassie Lung Stewart and her family.  Jim has known Cassie forever.

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Photographer Joan Terry and Noel Tillman, with Tomeka Jackson accidentally photobombing in the back.
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At the front desk, brave volunteers coordinate the masses of museumgoers.   From left to right, Donna Colebeck, Kat Bush, Katie Macaulay, Kelsey Moran, and Laura Surace.

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Nick and Pamela Cole discussing the finer points of string finger tricks with Joan Terry.

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Paula Stone and a friend sample the delights of the goodie table.  The mushroom souffle was amazing.

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Jim’s son Michael and daughter-in-law Shirley, interviewed by Nicole Vincent.

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Laura Staven having fun while husband Lee makes sure he talks to everybody.

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Nothing like a crowded art gallery on a Saturday night.

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Here’s a family portrait plus.  Family friend Andreas Dopheide joins Jim’s sons Michael and Jay for a picture with MCMA’s Sally Macaulay, featuring the youngest James Yarbrough in front, looking oddly like his grandfather.

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Here a few women artists plot to take over the world.  Gail Wegodsky, Marie Matthews, and Margaret Dyer all at the top of their game and looking for more.

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Joan Terry talks with Kat Bush and Noel Tillman.

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Eileen Thompson and Suzanne Dlugosz do more than their fair share of volunteer work.

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Here’s Jim with Rick McClung, Robert Meredith, and someone I can’t identify.

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That’s Bill Needs in the camelhair jacket.

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Jim’s son Jay and son Jamie with ex-neighbors, handweaver Lyn and husband Larry Montagne.

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They were having a whole lot of fun in the corner.  Amelia Rose, Gail Wegodsky, and Kat Burns, up to no good.

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Kat Burns with a bronze sculpture in the back, photobombing.

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Scarlett Jimison tells off Bob Meredith while Estelle Hosch keeps score.

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I’m afraid we can’t identify this couple, even tho they were obviously artists.

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Here’s a gentleman who noticed Jim’s tendency to paint himself, reacting to a suggestion that he himself might could have posed for Moses.

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Finally, waiting for everyone to leave so they can close up, Sally Macaulay and Shae Avery talk art.

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I’m sure there is room for more, but I think that’s enough.  If anybody can help identify any of these people, please leave a comment.

Now I’ll post a list of all the art in the show, gallery room by room.  That’s 3 different posts.  Coming real soon now.

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Hanging day at the museum – 14

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Hanging days always start with everybody looking like they stayed up all night.  Vacant stares, aimless gestures, slow spinning in circles looking at the blank walls.  But these folks are total professionals and artists, and their minds are busy doing what they do best, which is to take three rooms of very disparate artwork and turn it into an intelligent and thoughtful placement so that no visitor will miss any detail.  At times there were lengthy discussions about where a painting could be seen to best advantage.

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At this point, in the large back gallery, Jennifer, Sally and Anthony wait for clarity.  Jennifer is leaning on a freshly painted pedestal that will hold one of the sculptures.  Anthony is responsible for all the painted pedestals, and for the precise placement of the wallcards next to each picture (later on).

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In the small back gallery, Sally and Jennifer ponder where to put everything to best advantage.  Jennifer calls Terri in to help.

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Cat, taking a break from wordsmithing all the descriptions you’ll see in the show, takes a break while Terri measures the painting and Jennifer works the program to tell them how far and what height to put the nail.   Unfortunately, my hanging conventions and theirs don’t really mesh, so there was a lot of remeasuring and eyeballing also going on.

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The tools of the trade for modern museum curation.  calculator, paper, spreadsheet, drill.

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Jennifer, Cat and Terri perparing to mark the wall for the painting’s nail and hang the painting.

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here’s the small back gallery all beautiful and awaiting wallcards.  The bronze is awaiting its plinth, so it’s still on a dolly.

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As soon as one thing is settled, it’s on to the next.  In the large back gallery, they have decided that they don’t need three fish paintings on one wall.  The smaller ones just distract from the main one in the middle.  Here Terri and Jennifer examine one of the boxes of butterfly paintings that are going to go on separate pedestals on either side of the big fish painting.

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They wanted to tilt the box up slightly, for ease of viewing.  But the lids aren’t meant to stay open at that angle, so I had to go to the local hardware store and buy some stiff wire to prop the lids with.  The wire had to be measured, straightened, and painted black, which I let my assistant do, as my attention was constantly being required elsewhere.

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In this case, I needed to go around for a final look at all the frames, to see what needed touching up.  There were a lot of dings, which always happens when you move paintings, whether you’re careful or not.  But just imagine if artwork didn’t have frames.  The dings would be on the painting instead.

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After they decided to clear out the space around the big fish painting and put in the butterfly boxes, they still had to hang the painting, which is 100 inches long.  This meant measuring the whole wall and centering the painting on it.  Terri holds the tape measure while Jennifer marks the wall.

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One of the other fish paintings was moved to the back wall, where Sally and Anthony are feeling for the nail to hang the wire on, and the other one went back home with me.

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The biggest issue of the day was the Jeanne d’Arc triptych.  It’s a very heavy set of three paintings, and I usually hang it by individual hanging loops attached to each side, suspended from a ceiling picture rail that I have in my house.  But at the museum, they like to hang everything from the center, balanced on a side-to-side wire hung over a nail.  And the problem with this painting was that the wire was too thin, and kept snapping.  We finally had to rewire the backs of all three paintings in order to get them to stay on the wall, and then the wires stretched to different lengths depending on the weight on them, and the pictures refused to hang even with one another.  It took a lot of fussing and frustration, but Sally, who worked to hang it, kept taking them down and adjusting the wires and then putting them up again.  And they look wonderful  now.

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It was such a difficult hang partly because we had to cover a service panel with the right wing of the triptych, and it’s no joke putting nails into hatch doors.

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Near the end, the whole thing became coordinated like a dance, with everybody doing their individual tasks in various parts of the gallery.  It was exhausting just to see them flow around each other, their minds on their work.  In the end, I think we were all exhausted.

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Finally it was almost done.  All the pictures were on the walls, a nd most of the statues were in place.  The ones you can see on the table in the middle ground have yet to be placed on their plinth, and the central figure needed a better, less wobbly base, so I took her home to repair, and will take her back in the morning when I go in with some raw umber to repair some frames I couldn’t get to yesterday (because I didn’t have any raw umber).

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I don’t look exhausted, but I am leaning against a wall.  Good thing I brought a sandwich.  My studio assistant wasn’t quite as forward looking, and figured on a lunch break.

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After it was all done for the day, my assistant loaded up the trucklet with all the rejected paintings, including some that it was just too bad we had to disinclude.  The bishop didn’t fit, and has to come back with me tomorrow.

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At the last minute, they asked me if I had another small painting to go over the miniature case in the front gallery.  What was there wasn’t working, a small encaustic and an etching.  And of course I have lots of other small paintings, but I picked this one because it’s one of my favorite small paintings, and epitomises my fascination with the Venice Carnival.  It’s called Portrait of a Mask, and I love the absurdity of the title, because of course all you see of the person underneath are the eyes, and they could be male or female.  This painting is the last addition to the show, and it’s now ready to be finalized.

The show opens next Saturday, January the 12th, from 6-8 pm at the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art, 50 Atlanta St, Marietta.  I hope to see you there.

The wire had to be measured, straightened, and painted black, which I let my assistant do, as my attention was constantly being required elsewhere.

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Final preparations for hanging day – 13

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After a week of holidays, I am ready to go back to the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art to finish preparing for my big retrospective, opening on January 12, 2013.  When I say holiday, I don’t mean taking time off.  I mean having uninterrupted time in the studio.

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I’ve been getting ready to go back in with the repaired objects all week. There were a few things that needed repairs, and had to come back to the studio to be fixed.  There were also several things that came back from the gallery that shows my work, and I thought they’d look good in the show, so I spruced them up as well.  And I had to make a few frames for things I’d decided I wanted to swap out with paintings already up at the museum.

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This is one of the skeletal figurines of acrylic and wire.  The base was all broken up, and I had to build it out with acrylic molding paste and then paint it.

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This is one of the things I brought back from the gallery, a bronze I did years ago, which, because of unorthodox foundry methods, is a one of a kind – they broke the mold.

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And this is one of my shaman sculptures.  It has been at the gallery for awhile, and it’s just too strong not to have in the show, so it’s going in on my lap tomorrow, because I don’t dare try to wrap it and lay it flat, and there won’t be any room other than on top of me by the time we’re finished loading my little trucklet.

Altho the curator sent this next painting back, because it truly didn’t fit in with the rest of the paintings, it represents current work, and the show as it is at the moment neglects the work of the last three years.  Once I decided to submit a few of my latest works, this picture didn’t seem so outré, so it’s coming back tomorrow.

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Along with the new paintings.  This next one is part of my recent mythic women series, which includes Medusa, Mary Magdalene, Judith (and Holofernes), and Kali.  I call this one Ophelia.

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Ophelia is part of an ongoing series of paintings of my model underwater, something that I’ve wanted to do for some time.  First I painted the most realistic shots of several hundred I took over two days.  But after half a dozen, I find I”m interested in the more abstract figures, like the one below.  And it gets even more interesting with the pictures you can’t even tell what are.

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I’m quite fond of this next painting, which stars my neighborhood, an old, working-class part of Atlanta that still retains its character into the 21st Century.  The scene out the window is a composite of five different locations, and all the furniture is sitting around my house being used even now.  The model is almost thirty years older, however.

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Another of the Dance of Death series that I did last year, both in celebration of the ‘end of the world’ theme they had going around, but also because I was recently given a lifesized skeleton, and couldn’t resist indulging my love of the grotesque and bizarre.

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And I was very glad to decide to include one of the larger dragon paintings that I did in 2010, after being asked to show at Dragoncon.  It resulted also from a tour thru the Kerry mountains in Ireland that year, on which I developed the notion that there must be dragon breeding grounds just off the southwestern shores.

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So now everything is framed, with hanging wire, and all the frames are well built and reinforced, and the edges are mended and all the same color now.  And the sculptures are all cleaned and repaired, oh yes and there’s a tiny miniature portrait of a Venetian Carnival lady that I don’t have a picture of yet.  And everything is sitting ready to be packed into the truck tomorrow (including the camera, which I forgot last time).  And I’ll be going up to Marietta Museum first thing after the dogs are walked in the morning.  It’ll take all day long, I’m sure, but by the end of the day, I should have a show hung up on the walls, almost ready to open.

The opening is Saturday, January 12th, from 6-8 pm, at the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art.  Admission is $8 at the door, and there’ll be light refreshments and a cash bar.  Art sales will benefit the Museum.

I hope you can come to the show.  The opening is only ten days away.  And boy are my arms tired.

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Switching paintings – 12

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Getting ready for the Marietta/Cobb Art Museum show on January 12th, I decided I didn’t like one of the walls very much, so I’m proposing a few other paintings for that wall, which happen to be paintings I’ve done in the past two years, none of which are represented in this show.

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This is the wall as it currently stands

I have sculptures in the show already, and limited the selection to those that would fit inside a glass case.  But since they’re not using the case for them, I thought I would suggest some larger acrylic sculptures which I think are more interesting.

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The first batch of sculptures range from 24-36″ high

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The second batch are all about 25″ high

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Then there’s a lovely dragon painting in egg tempera, 48×60″

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And a charming dance of death painting, this one called ‘The string quartet of death”

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And finally a painting with the buildings of Cabbagetown and Grant Park in the background, egg tempera, measuring 36×48″

That’s my idea of a wall.

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