Jazz music subject of photos and paintings in Elkhart exhibits
Posted: 06/22/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Marilyn Odendahl
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Osceola native Jay Mason talks about his jazz paintings series during a lecture at the Midwest Museum of Art Thursday, June 21, 2012. (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard)
Osceola native Jay Mason talks about his jazz paintings series following a lecture at the Midwest Museum of Art Thursday, June 21, 2012. (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard)
Osceola native Jay Mason talks about his jazz series during a lecture at the Midwest Museum of Art as he stands in front of his John Coltrane painting Thursday, June 21, 2012. (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard)
Paintings of Herbie Hancock (left) and Louis Armstrong by Osceola native Jay Mason are part of his jazz series displayed at the Midwest Museum of Art Thursday, June 21, 2012. (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard)
Fortunately, Mason created an image of saxophonist Lester Young for his sibling’s apartment and then continued painting portraits of famous jazz musicians. A sampling of that series along with a collection of black-and-white photographs of jazz singers and instrumentalists is part of two special exhibits on display during the 25th annual Elkhart Jazz Festival.
The Midwest Museum of American Art is hosting “Jay Mason: Images of Jazz,” while the Lerner Theatre is the showcase for the stunning photos by Duncan Schiedt.
Both exhibitions illustrate how the visual artists have used their respective mediums to convey the emotion and spontaneity of jazz. They have translated art for the ears into art for the eyes.
BLACK AND WHITE
Schiedt started snapping jazz pictures in earnest in 1951. As he traveled around the Midwest for his job, he would spend his off-hours in the clubs and theaters, listening to the jazz musicians with his camera in tow.
Sometimes he would take a picture of the musicians on stage in the spotlight, using a telephoto lens, and other times he would approach the artists between sets to get a more formal portrait. He always shot on film in black and white and developed the photos himself.
“The attraction for me is the love of the music,” Schiedt said. “I could carry away the memory of what I heard with my pictures. I look at the pictures and in my mind I hear what I was listening to.”
Clarinetist Benny Goodman was the subject of his first portrait. Behind the lens, Schiedt tried to take a picture that told the viewer something about the musician that is separate from the music.
Schiedt, who is 91, started playing the piano at 14 and was introduced to photography a short time later. Expanding on his affection for music and photography, he has written several books about jazz and has often traveled from his home in Indianapolis to attend the Elkhart Jazz Festival.
“I happen to love the music and I enjoy the opportunity to take pictures of the musicians,” he said.
OIL ON CANVAS
Mason’s original painting for his brother was busy and complex with a crowd of people, including trumpeter Miles Davis, surrounding Lester Young. A friend, looking at the partially finished work, suggested Mason dip his brush in the can of black paint and cover everything except Young.
The result was a dark intimacy that is the hallmark of Mason’s jazz portraits. He studies black and white photographs of the legendary musicians, then draws from the primary colors on this palette — red, yellow and blue — to put the mood of the music on canvas.
“I listen to jazz when I paint,” Mason said. “The notes that they play are driving my brush.”
Mason, 36, grew up in Osceola, graduated from Penn High School and attended Indiana University South Bend. He then moved to Seattle, where he now lives, to concentrate on his painting.
Along the way he spent nine months in Europe, viewing major works of arts in several cities. The heavy brush strokes and use of bright colors in his jazz portraits are inspired by the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh. In particular, Mason seeks to depict the colors as they appear under hot, unnatural light.
The locally born artist had a small display of his works at the 2011 Elkhart Jazz Festival inside downtown restaurant 523 Tap and Grill. He has been devoting himself to painting for 15 years and within the last five has begun to get some recognition with gallery showings like the one at the Midwest Museum.
“As far as being a famous artist, I hope so but you don’t know,” Mason said. “It’s just constantly doing the work, doing the work.”