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Abstract and on the Outside
April 6, 2003 - Lake City Reporter Prints Article on
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Jim Morris was born in 1950. He is the librarian at Lake City Community College, and has been painting since 1995. He has had no formal training as an artist, not even so much as a course in art appreciation. He reads books and journals on art. His favorite artists who have been most influential on his work include Cy Twombly, Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg, Jackson Pollock, and Helen Frankenthaler. He believes that painting is not dead, and that modern and post-modern art still has directions to pursue and gaps to fill. One of those gaps includes the merging of poetry and painting.
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My paintings fall into a narrow, non-traditional category of art. It is "outsider" art because I never had formal training, not even a course in art appreciation. Most outsider art is representational and primitive. It is often two dimensional, with images of persons and houses and trees and animals. My work is abstract expressionist, and that art is most often in the domain of professional artists, or at least artists trained in the academy.
Art has many purposes, but my art has only one. It is done as a meditation, and viewing it should be a meditative experience. The viewer needs to look closely at the art, let the eyes drift over the canvas from various distances, move in close and study discrete portions of the paintings. If the viewer is patient and gives the paintings time, it may lead to what might be called an altered state of consciousness. This can be a good thing, because it allows one to view the world in a different way, without the aid of drugs. But it does require patience and time, and an open mind to what the canvas has to say and reveal.
There is text in some of my paintings. My work to date contains brief text, often taken out of its context to alter the meaning or suggest ambiguous meanings. The text is not nonsensical, however. This represents a different direction from the primary use of text in modern painting, in which the words are indecipherable, or obscure, at times consisting of foreign or even random words. My text frequently is taken as direct quotes, or from book titles (a wonderful source for brief, high-impact text because it was so carefully chosen by the author), or most often, as parody or a play on words. Thus the text is sometimes jolting, humorous, or possibly offensive. It is an element of judo within the painting, to throw viewers off track and force them to work to find the thread of meaning again. The humor is important. I expect my work to not take itself too seriously. I certainly don't take it that way. While I am a serious artist, I reserve the right to poke fun at myself and my art, and at art and culture in general.
A trained artist once told me that my work is an "artist's art," meaning that it doesn't give itself over to easy appreciation and no obvious balance, symmetry, or meaning is readily available. Those elements are present, but it is found only through time and effort.
The direction I plan for future painting is to work large, on big canvases, and to incorporate more text. In fact, I want to do a series of paintings that will comprise an epic poem, and several essay paintings and perhaps a novel on canvas. The paintings will not be images created from the writing, as such, but the text will be imbedded within and among the abstractions and upon or beneath the painted surface (yet always sufficiently decipherable).
My work is not for sale to individual collectors at this time. I give paintings to friends, and would give a painting to any museum that would want to add my work to its permanent collection. I am seeking patron or grant support, perhaps from an organization such as the MacArthur Foundation.
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