Seven Deadly Sins and recent Works by Jamies Wyeth
Foreword by Warren Adelson
Published: Adelson Galleries, Inc. 2008
50 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9741621-9-5
Seven Deadly Sins and Recent Works by Jamie Wyeth
Seven Deadly Sins and Recent Works by Jamie Wyeth Foreword by Warren Adelson In 1975 we were in Omaha, Nebraska, to open an exhibition, “James Wyeth” at the Joslyn Art Museum. At the age of 29, it was Jamie’s first retrospective, composed of 72 oil paintings, watercolors, and drawings, including portraits of John F. Kennedy, Paul Mellon, and Jamie’s father, Andrew Wyeth. The museum and the community were delighted with the prospect of this important show and posters for the exhibition could be seen everywhere throughout the city and were prominently displayed in store windows. The image on the poster was a showstopper, Portrait of Pig (Brandywine River Museum), depicting the artist’s huge and adored pet, “Den Den,” who was gigantic in life and likewise dominated the 4 x 7 foot canvas. Portrait of Pig was one of the stars of the show, painted with a bravura realism typical of the artist. The image was so convincing that local Nebraska farmers commented on the particulars of the animal’s physiognomy. Portrait of Pig was the real thing. The exhibition was a great success.

Over the decades Jamie has continued to paint the subjects and places which has mesmerized him: the inhabitants and landscape of his farm in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and the coastal flora, fauna and jagged coastline of his island home in Maine. I have witnessed Jamie’s metamorphosis as a painter over these years. The brushwork has become broader, the color more bold, and the application of paint far more varied. He smears the paint with his fingers, rubbing the canvas with pigment, and splashing and flicking it with the brush. He scratches and marks the surface with the palette knife and brush handle to punctuate gesture and accentuate form. These stylistic effects are different from the more traditionally rendered work of his early years. The subjects, too, have evolved even though they are essentially the same cast of characters. Symbols replace objects, landscapes pulsate in eerie light, and the animals and birds transcend their species; they become fellow travelers in the proceedings of our world.

Jamie’s recent series, Seven Deadly Sins, interprets the time-honored biblical teachings in a starkly original way. Seabirds enact the vices in these seven paintings in a manner as resolute and taut as ever portrayed. The distended throat of Gluttony (pg. 11), the scream of Anger (pg. 9), and the grisly spectacle of Sloth (pg. 17) are chilling as well as graphic.

Inferno (pp.27-28) is the largest work in the exhibition (60 x 80 inches), and was completed in 2006. It is accompanied by a video showing the artist at work painting it, which is a rare opportunity for the viewer to see the techniques described above. The invasion of gulls swarming the burning trash is at odds with the fresh coastal setting. A local boy stokes the blaze, and he seems unaffected by the Hitchcockian attack all around him. It is a curious and unexpected vision of Maine: savage birds, polluting smoke, and roaring fire.

Smashing Pumpkins, Monhegan(pp.50-51) is a large painting that records a Halloween tradition on the isolated Maine island. Local kids heave carved jack-o-lanterns off the cliffs in celebration of the holiday, and Jamie’s image is provocative and bizarre. It conjures an unexpected scene of violence, going beyond Halloween pranks, as though heads were rolling.

Fred Hughes and Andy Warhol, 2005 (pg. 39), represents Jamie’s third venue, New York City. This grisaille oil painting is a reminiscence of the artist’s involvement with these two iconic figures who defined in the art scene in their heyday. Jamie knew Warhol well, and besides Jean-Michel Basquiat, was the only other artist painting at the Factory in the late 1970s up until Warhol’s premature death in 1986. The canvas is a ghostly evocation of Warhol, clutching his ever-present tape recorder, seated beneath the unlikely moose head that hung prominently in the Factory. Beside him stands Fred Hughes, stylish and poised; he was Andy’s manager and a constant presence, the business voice of the artist. Both are gone, but come alive in this tribute to them.

The paintings in this exhibition were all painted within the last few years – several within the last few months – and as an ensemble, they create a portrait of the artist today. Jamie Wyeth’s perception has gone beyond the literal, and his subjects have morphed into the frailties, blunted mores, and moral ambiguities of the world in the present day. The artist strikes the beat of our 21st century culture. These are paintings of our time. Their technical brilliance and insightful imagery are stimulating to see, and their relevance is discernible to all who care to look.

Foreword by Warren Adelson
2014 Adelson Galleries
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