Direct and intensely intimate, Jason Yarmosky's figurative paintings are emotional studies of his subjects. On the heels of "Orpheus", a painting we took a look at here earlier this year and that Yarmosky recently showed at the 25th annual "New Directions" exhibition at The Barrett Art Center in Upstate NY, Yarmosky moved into a new studio on the Lower East Side. He invited me over to check out the new space, and we talked about painting yoga poses, his support of the Visual AIDS benefit, and having Pete Seeger sit for a portrait. (Click first two images for detail views.)
What was it like to hang out with Pete Seeger?
After a rally for the Green New Deal, Pete came over to lunch at my grandparent's house. I drew him there, naturally, as he ate and told stories. The portrait you see draws on his natural movement, with an addition of the neck of a banjo, which felt appropriate.
Pete Seeger truly deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. Growing up in the Hudson Valley I saw him on many occasions. He's been friends with my grandparents all the way back to the beginning of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. Pete has accomplished so much, and at 90 years of age he continues to work to make the world a better place. The words inscribed on his banjo say it all: "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender."
So you're really connected to the Hudson Valley.
Yes. I grew up here, and the area is home to many fine artists. Recently, it was an honor to have my work chosen for New Directions, an annual juried show curated by Joan Young of the Guggenheim Museum. The Barrett House is a local treasure for artists not only in the Mid-Hudson Valley, but also across the country.
I remember that for "Orpheus" you painted with tea. What other mediums do you like to work with?
I like to combine many materials including charcoal, gesso, acrylic and oil, sometimes collage elements and even tea. After working on large-scale canvases for some time, I am becoming more interested with working on wood. Wood is a very durable surface that can hold dry and wet mediums. Drawing and painting go hand in hand.
How did you get involved with the Visual AIDS benefit?
I was given a blank postcard by artist, Sherry Camhy. Sherry is an extremely talented artist and I was honored when she invited me to create an image and submit it for this event. Since it is a no-name concept show, the public will bid on the cards without knowing the artists who created them.
What are you working on lately?
I am working on a new series called "Swimming." (Pictured, in-progress, above.) I like the idea of taking kinetic laws that the eye is used to seeing one way and flipping them. Like taking the female form swimming in the deep end of a bathtub and painting it as though it were standing up. I am interested in the role gravity plays with the form and flexibility of the body. When youâre lying on the ground and you arch your back, the weight in your body shifts in areas like the rib cage or pelvis. This could never happen as dramatically if standing on your feet. Yoga comes to mind when trusting your body and releasing on habitual patterns of movement. It is a very Yogic approach to construct a body of different weight shifts and gravitational pulls.