In The Loop

painting by Jim Mott

Jim Mott is the itinerant painter traveling around the countryside bartering his talents and creating his life’s work.  Years ago, when I first met the artist, he had just come back from painting outdoors and I looked over his small plein air panel paintings ( which I just couldn’t resist).  Jim’s project is to travel and paint what he sees.  He has been around the United States, and even ended up as a subject for a “Today Show” broadcast featuring him scouting out locations and doing what he does best: landscape painting.

The Center at High Falls is hosting a selection of his panel paintings made on Jim’s most recent excursions around the Inner Loop here in Rochester, and out in the suburbs.  He and I share many interests including looking for birds, painting from nature, and making observations along the highways and byways if one has the time and the inclination.

Jim is not afraid to paint outside on the snowy days as well as the balmy afternoons, and his postcard sized paintings create mini-environments and containers of light that are very convincing, but not labored.  When the paintings are at their best, they have a guileless approach to matter-of-fact realism that reminds me of the late Fairfield Porter, and the panoramas of Rackstraw Downes.

In order to fulfill his vision, Jim reaches out to people who will let him spend a few days and nights at their home; he finds the challenge of painting in a new neighborhood that is fresh to his eye.  In return for room and board, Jim leaves his hosts a signed original painting, – and then it is back to the road for his next engagement with the land.  Is this a kind of Johnny Appleseed complex?

In a way,  this is a grassroots activist at work – returning to the landscape that has nourished us, and by calling our attention to the surrounding beauty ( and which we oftentimes fail to acknowledge ) we are nudged towards responsible stewardship of our country and countryside.

But Jim is not all birds and flowers;  in fact some of my favorite images in the present show are of Rochester’s landmark factories, signs and symbols, including the Little Theatre marquee, and the Rochester Art Supply store.

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