A Grant Application

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.

Artist’s Statement:

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

SONY DSCPorta 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

8 Venetian Attitude
Venetian Attitude.  In old Venice, the courtesans were required to wear yellow

9 Lady with Many Secrets
Lady with Many Secrets, not the least of which is the man lurking in the background – nobody we’ve shown this to notices him

10 The Church of Anonymity
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




Pastels painted in Venice

As a matter of record, I’ve been meaning to make this post since returning from Venice, in April of 2016.  But it’s taken awhile.  Here are all the pastels I painted while I was in Venice this past winter.  My wife has written elsewhere about our trip, and has her own blog for her own work.  This blog entry is all about the work I did while I was in Venice for three months.  I have already written a post about the first half-dozen or dozen pastels, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much here.


This is the first painting I did in Venice.  It’s the bridge to Sant’Elena, where we stayed.  I worked on a piece of handmade paper that I had pulled myself in preparation to our trip.


Then I did a painting on handmade paper of the bridge going from Giardini to the Riva dei Sette Martiri, near sunset.


I’m not entirely sure of the order in which I painted these pieces at this point.  The earlier post is sure to have it more correctly, since it was done at the time.  This one is of one of the smaller side canals, with gondolas.  This one might have been done on a half sheet of Fabriano watercolor paper, I’m not sure.


I did this one on oval handmade paper.  I had my son Michael build me an oval papermaking frame.  The scene is the Grand Canal just at the Rialto Market.


This view was one we stumbled upon in our walks.  That’s the Salute church in the background, and a gondola stand in the foreground.  Handmade paper.


Everybody’s favorite painting, this one is on handmade paper, and it’s of the tide coming in over the steps along the waterfront at Giardini, I’m pretty sure.


At the end of January there is a costumed boat regatta down rio Canareggio, and we attended, taking many many photos.  I couldn’t resist doing this rather large painting, from a half sheet of Fabriano.  That’s me in the red cape.


This lady was one of the costumed figures we saw in San Marco during Carnivale.  She was actually just returning to her rented apartment after posing all morning, and we happened to get a shot of her, and her friends.  Their apartment was right next to the Contarini Palace, with the fabulous Scala Bovolo, and I vowed to make a panting of the scene.  I used a half sheet of Fabriano for this.


These are then studies for the painting of the Bovolo.  These figures all rented the apartment, and we hope they enjoyed seeing themselves painted in like this.


Another study, again on handmade paper.


And using a full sheet of Fabriano paper (something like 20″x30″), I put them all together in one painting.

Now to move on to cover the pastels painted from mid-February to mid-April, when we returned home.  In general, I used the larger sized paper; 8.5×11 or 11×17 just wasn’t enough anymore.  All along, my tools had been a choice of handmade or commercial paper, and a selection of pastels.  I started my drawings with graphite sticks and conte crayons.  I used soft pastels that I had bought over the years.  There were pastel pencils for detail work.  There was a specially made range of blues that I had made right before coming to Venice, and then left at home, so our friend Marie Matthews graciously collected them for the studio before coming to visit.  And my wife brought a selection of pigments for her use with watercolor medium, as she is learning all about handmade paint, and I used several pigments with an acrylic binder to make specific touches to the paintings.  The fixative I used was acrylic, diluted and sprayed on with a mouth atomizer (portable, efficient, and cheap).  And those are the ingredients of all of the paintings I painted in Venice.  Now that I am at home, and back to my regular studio, I can paint in any medium on any surface, but for traveling with luggage weight and size limits, I restricted my materials to the most lightweight and portable ones I could think of.


A trip to San Pietro yielded this wonderful courtyard, with a gnarled tree and a well-head I just couldn’t resist.


A chance view down a random canal made a fascinating subject.


Our friend Marie volunteered for many photos, and I actually painted her several times.


I thought it particularly ironic that there is a gift shop in the vestibule of San Marco, so I stole a picture of Christ and the money changers to paint above the hawkers and buyers.


Our grandson Connor  was a constant delight at three years old.  Here is is, chasing pigeons in a campo.

Again, sorry this is so tardy, but I have better things to do than talk about my paintings – namely, paint more paintings.

In Venice Again

Jim is in Venice again, for the second time.  The family is taking another two months to work on various art projects, collect reference material for future paintings, and make contacts in this most beautiful of cities.

The last time he went to Venice, he took along a sheaf of handmade paper and his pastels.  This time, he brought only a book of paper that he coated with a rough ground, and his silverpoint pens.

Silverpoint is a method of making marks that predates lead pencils, and is much older than graphite pencils.  It makes a subtle line that tarnishes with age, becoming more beautiful as time goes on.  Artists such as Durer, Rembrandt, Van Eyck, Da Vinci, and Holbein used silverpoint.  After graphite was discovered around 1500, the use of silverpoint declined, but it still makes a beautiful line, and old fashioned artists like Jim still make use of it.

Here are the drawings he has completed to date in Venice.  It has taken him about three weeks to complete them.  They will serve as artworks in their own right, and studies for much larger paintings, probably in egg tempera, when he returns to the studio.

One of the many wonderful palazzi on the Grand Canal

Medusa mask seen in a nearby mask shop featuring handmade creations

The view from the apartment the family is renting

And intricate pozzo (wellhead) in front of Palazzo Franchetti

The view of a confluence of two rivers in Sestiere San Polo

Jim at work in the bedroom, drawing the palazzo across the canal

Jim will be sure to make more drawings, and you will be able to see them here.  Stay tuned.

If you’d like to read about his adventures in Venice, please check out our travel blog at www.irishitinerary.wordpress.com.

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.


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.”


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


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″.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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.

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″.


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).

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…).
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.
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.

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.
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.
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.


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.

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


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.

mason murer yarbrough 1

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.