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Detail from
Overpass, oil on canvas 13" x 38"
ne of the new paintings I have in RoCo's State of the City show.
(click image for full painting, click here for a closer view),


2010 ROC-ART Tour
2009 Boston, China, Rome
2008 IAP Tour & Today Show
2007 IAP New England Tour

Signs West of State Street
Oil on canvasl 16" x 15" (detail).




State of the City Exhibit
Rochester Contemporary (RoCo)
Aug 5. - Sept. 25

Opening 8/5/11, 7-9 pm.
allery talk is Sunday 8/7/11, 1 pm.

The theme for this year's State of the City exhibit is the Inner Loop. When RoCo's director asked me to participate I felt a curious mixture of deeply honored and deeply frustrated. Honored because... it's an honor. Plus, other contemporary art centers tend to label my work too conventional for consideration; it's nice to get past that sort of (very conventional) pigeon-holing.

But I'd been hoping to show my year's worth of ROC-ART paintings -- not to have to come up with new work. And what would I do with a subject like the Inner Loop? Well, come and find out.

You'll also get to see a selection of my ROC-ART paintings, the ones that happened to be done within a few blocks of the Inner Loop. And new work by the other artists in the show, including the illustrious Bartow + Metzger.

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Field Trees, Ellis Hollow, oil on panel 6" x 9" (June 2011).
Click image for larger view.

Ithaca Residency

Painting Workshop Aug. 31, 6-9 pm.
State of the Art Gallery Exhibit opens Sept. 2
Gallery Talk Sept. 7

Contact the gallery or email me for more info.

Ithaca is where my ideas for the the Itinerant Artist project started to take shape, during a 9-month stay at the Saltonstall Colony in the late 1990s. So I gladly accepted when Ithaca's State of the Art Gallery (SOTA) invited me to do an extended residency there this summer.

Activities include a few painting "stops" with Ithaca residents (I'm still lining up hosts, email me if you're interested); a painting workshop; and a gallery talk. Paintings I make while in the area will be displayed at the SOTA gallery, as part of their annual members' show. And most will be FOR SALE -- a first for the IAP!

The WORKSHOP will be a double feature, combining my two most popular topics: simple and direct: small panel painting for artists on the go; and the shadow landscape: painting dusk and night. All for $35. What a deal!

Time: Aug. 31, 5:30-8:30 pm, at the Farmer's Market.
Contact the gallery for more info.

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Sketching from Brooklyn Bridge with my host: college friend and amazing architect, Jon Marvel.

Brooklyn Visit

One of these days I'll do an Itinerant Artist Project tour of the NY City area.

True, large urban areas make me uneasy. And even though (or because?) I was born there, I've tended to avoid NYC. I've somehow become a country mouse. But something appeals to me about bringing a project of gift exchange into the heart of the commercial art world.

The question is, can I manage it (i.e, get enough sleep and find enough focus to paint)?

A gentle trial run took place in mid-June, in Brooklyn, which my host told me was the place to do my tour, anyway.

I was most impressed by, but somehow didn't paint, the lovely green + orange interplay of brick houses on tree-lined streets.

During my short stay, I enjoyed grabbing fresh copies of the Village Voice...and even better, the Brooklyn Rail...from storefront stacks. I learned that the cool part of town is called "Dumbo" (or is it DUMBO?). I took a trip to the legendary Pearl Paint, having cleverly left my paint box at home in Rochester. I succeeded in finishing 6 paintings. And, best of all, at the end of the visit, I took a bike ride with Jon -- up the Brooklyn Bridge to sketch.

That was the most happily alive I've felt in a long time. So NYC could be soon. (interested in hosting? email me)

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Worm-eating Warbler
Oil on canvas, 11" x 12" (detail). click image to enlarge.

British Birds
watercolor, 9" x 9" (detail). click image to see more.

Painting Birds

One of the most curious surprises lately was being one of three locals featured in Rochester's City Newspaper in an article about becoming a naturalist. I didn't know I was one. But I've always had an interest in nature. And it was a desire to connect with nature, particularly birds, that drew me beyond the normal course of childhood art-making and set me on the artistic path.

Lately I've been wanting to paint birds again -- something I haven't done much of since I was 6 or 7. The irresistible motivation came on my drive to Brooklyn when I stopped in Sterling Forest to hunt for the one bird I'd most wanted to see for 10 years.

My obsession with the worm-eating warbler was based almost entirely on: my love of warblers, the rarity of the worm-eating warbler in Western NY, and my knowledge that every May migration one or two were spotted, but never by me. But also it is a graceful and charming creature, as I learned when I finally heard, and then tracked down a pair on that sunny mid-June afternoon.

Unlike many birders these days, I don't have a good camera to document my sightings. So, after Brooklyn, after getting home and pouring myself a Holy Grail Ale to celebrate the completion of a quest, I did my best to paint the bird in a pose I'd seen.

Later, for fun, and for my wife's trip to Scotland, I did a quick, whimsical set of British Birds.

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Corn Hill Night Scene #1
Oil on black panel, 6" x 9" . click to enlarge.

ROC-ART Continues

Also in June I made my first ROC-ART stop of 2011 -- living for a few days in Rochester's Corn Hill neighborhood.

ROC-ART is my hometown version of the Itinerant Artist Project. Somehow being a painting guest in a home just a few miles from my own is just about as challenging and rewarding as being on tour across the country. And I get to know a lot more about the area I live in.

Now I can drive by Corn Hill on my way downtown and say, I know where that street goes, and I know how enchanting the place can be, especially when fireflies come out after dusk, and I know where to go to climb onto the expressway bridge to sketch at midnight...

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Memphis, TN

Since my wife now has a tenure-track position in Creative Writing at the University of Memphis, I'll be spending a good chunk of time there, possibly using it as a base for further IAP tours of the south and west. But I'll be keeping a foot in Rochester, as well. Landscape painters get pretty attached to certain places.

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US-Mexico Border Project

It's not just charming nature, whimsical birds, or inviting landscapes that make me want to paint. Since before I started the IAP in 2000, I've felt something like a deep imperative to spend time along the Mexican border.

Why, I'm not sure. But there's something to witness in the harsh juxtaposition of our own culture -- the American culture of affluence, power and indulgence -- with another culture that, to some extent, embodies the costs and consequences of our reckless collective lifestyle. There's something in the desperation of border crossings by migrants and refugees, and the different varieties of viciousness that confront the good or helpless souls on either side of the border. And there's more, but I'm not sure what it is, or what words like this have to do with artistic purpose.

When I drove through El Paso, though, after midnight, on my first art tour around the US, and saw harsh neon give way to a shadowy gulf that was the Rio grande and, across the gap, a dim grid of distant lightbulbs that only highlighted the darkness of Juarez, I sensed that there was something in the spirit of the place I should try to paint or try to come to terms with through painting.

Indulgent or foolish -- I want to see what kind of artwork I can do along the border, what comes through. Maybe just more landscapes, of desert and city. Maybe it will remind me why I paint, or give me some necessary grounding, or be something like a monk contemplating the dark night of the soul and praying for those who are further lost to it.

Unfortunately, it has gotten a lot more dangerous along the border and especially in northern Mexico since my initial inspiration. I'll be a lot less likely to go into Mexico very much. But I'm open to ideas and suggestions for this project, as well as hosting offers, sponsorship, commissions.

I can be reached by email: jim @ jimmott . com

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