CELEBRATION OF ART
STUDIO 395 presents CELEBRATION OF ART. Devised to be a series of unscheduled event/symposiums celebrating recognized artists by profiling their personal history, their process of creation, techniques/fabrication and rationalization of their works (both personal and critical). Each of these presentational journeys acts as a “celebration” to expand the value of the artist(s), as process to educate the public and recognize the personal and particular craft of the artist/art and the meaning that it brings to each of us.
WHO IS JON SERL?
This page is a result from a fairly quick Google search I made a couple weeks back. Here it is below
Cherry picked some and are represented on the following pages. Each of the links here are active and I have basically cut and pasted the text existing from the site page. Lots of RICH information to steal and leads for us to track down (Hurray for the telephone and Internet!) Check the links out to see JS paintings as/if described. Text in BOLDFACE is for tracking down family history (Thanks, Barb!)to get a better track on
JS life and family origins. I have also added notes in as personal notes/comments of my own
Hereʼs a unique site of organization based in Philadelphia that has a pretty colorful history about JS. There is a link at the bottom to view the Carson Show clips I put together for STUDIO 395.
Known as “Slats,” a vaudeville performer ; Jerry Palmer, a voice-over artist for early Hollywood talkies; and Ned Palmer, a migrant fruit picker; Jon Serl lived many lives under a number of names. While he was a two-time television guest of *Johnny Carson and a onetime friend to Clark Gable, Hedda Hopper, and Howard Hughes, Serl is best remembered for his work as a painter.
Born Joseph Searles in Oleans, New York, he grew up in poverty, drifting out West with his familyʼs vaudeville show and eventually settling in California. There he pursued a career as a minor actor and well-regarded voice-over artist. Never content with a single personna, he also worked as a screenwriter, dancer, waiter, and cherry-picker when Hollywood grew tiresome.
After WWII, he moved to the California desert and established an eccentric presence there as a kind of prophetic flea-market forager, turning to painting in 1949 when he couldnʼt afford the fifty-dollar price of a painting to hang in his adobe home. By the
1960s Serl began dressing in a Catholic priestʼs robes, taking in runaways, and was heavily involved in gardening, painting, and poetry.
Ranging in subject from everyday scenes to imaginary landscapes, the work reflects his patchwork personality as the consummate performer, often memorializing episodes and characters from his Hollywood days and other travels. Usually painted on found boards, in oils or sometimes in homemade pigments, Serlʼs pictures are figurative and narrative. The expressionistic brushwork is easily recognizable. Serl died at age 99 in 1993 (ED.
In Lake Elsinore, CA.)
* The clip is available to view at: https://vimeo.com/94610104
Like many folk artists, Jon Serl started painting late in life. His first hasty attempts were made around World War II. By this time, Serl had already experienced a full life, working in vaudeville, in film, and as a laborer in California and the Southwest. A pacifist, he fled to Canada during both world wars to avoid service. He was married three times, but each union ended in divorce.
In the 1970s, fed up with Americaʼs capitalist consumer culture, Serl settled in the California desert town of Lake Elsinore and began to paint. Executed in oil paint on found surfaces, his works are often brash, bold, and expressionistic. He explored the whole range of techniques with paint and brush, and his paintings are sophisticated and complex. A true painterʼs painter, Serl applied paint in a thick impasto as well as light washes of color. Perhaps because he began painting so late in life, he didnʼt waste much time and was quite prolific.
Serlʼs work abound with characters. Often compared to theatrical stages, his canvases usually have a mysterious narrative that explore both inner and outer worlds, the emotional and physical. The figures that people his paintings often express dualities: male versus female, nature versus technology, good versus evil. The twinning of lifeʼs experiences may reference Serlʼs struggle with his sexual identity.
Between Two Worlds is a cunningly seductive painting. Its complex composition hinges on the central character, who stands at the base of the painting in a blue sheath dress and whose hands are gnarled and tense. Although clothed in a dress, this figure reads male. The two worlds referenced in the title are neatly represented by the pale, bubblelike space and the darker landscape bordering the central activity. The protagonistʼs pain seems to be from knowing that he is being watched, literally, by everyone in this painted environment. His hands lead one to view the screaming mouth of a tortured face. Odd goblinlike creatures and tadpolelike ghosts loom overhead. The canvas is crowded with peering faces that taunt the central figure. Under their gazes, the main figure is caught in a terrified state, creating a haunted feeling for the entire piece. Could this be a representation of Serlʼs bisexuality? Serl spent considerable time and effort rendering the distorted face, adding importance to its emotive quality, and the crowded, confused composition is brought together by the central figure. The sensitive use of color, a characteristic of Serlʼs best artworks, only heightens the drama of this painting.
(The original link that I had for this site - http://www.contemporary-art-dialogue.com/
jon-serl.html - no longer exists but the main site does [below]..curious. Anywho, the text below is what I pulled from it back when. The author is a SoCal Art Journalist and I have a note on her at the end)
Jon Serl (1894-1993) was an outsider artist, an unschooled painter who created primarily primitive works while working outside the mainstream art world. I reviewed his work in 2006 for OC Metromagazine, recently re-discovered that review, revised it and am publishing a new version here.
Jon Serlʼs Vivid Oils of Mid 20th Century Culture
The artistʼs brightly colored oils are blatant, in-your-face portrayals of mid-20th-century society. Much of his work, featuring elongated, ethereal figures and bright colors, has been compared in color, style and expressive brushwork to work of modern artists Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, Arthur Dove and Edvard Munch.
While painting from his subconscious, from his memories and from his perceptions of the world around him, Jon Serl depicted the idiosyncratic and politically left-leaning people he spent time with. About the fluid characters who appear to dance on his canvasses, he wrote: “You never walk, you dance. You don't run, you dance! How are you going to tell movement except to make it move?” He also said. “The painting is inside, I just find it.” He also said, "I have a way of painting that is mine
His paintings of hip West Coast characters include: Comedians of a colorfully clad skinny couple roller-skate gracefully; The Balloon Man of a man in a hot pink suit and sombrero who sells balloons; San Francisco of two hippies; and Old Lovers of a woman admiring her many portraits, possibly of her old lovers.
Theatrical and Movie Career
Born in New York State to a theatrical family, Jon Serl performed onstage from an early age with his sisters. He attended Texas Christian University, later acted and wrote screenplays in Hollywood, and moved to Laguna Beach in 1937. As an anti-war advocate, moved to Canada during World War II and worked there a fire-lookout. In his spare time, he painted using a variety of cast-off materials as canvasses. After the war, returned to Laguna Beach, worked at odd jobs, and devoted his spare time to painting.
For the next 40 plus years, he painted more than 1,200 works, often making his own paints from plants and the earth, again working on cast-off materials as wood scraps and old signs. He refused to sell or exhibit any of his paintings initially, but began to exhibit his works in 1970 at age 76. The Los Angeles Municipal Arts Department organized a touring display of 41 of his paintings, described as "California primitives, authentic and of great importance."
Jon Serl exhibited work at the Newport Harbor Art Museum, at San Diego's Oneiros Gallery, and at the Laguna Art Museum, among other venues. Two of his works are in The Smithsonian Institutionʼs folk art collection. In 1990, the New York Times described his work as "complex and sophisticated in both meaning and style" and wrote that his images are "cartoonishly buoyant yet emotionally weighted, spiritual yet worldly and sexually aware."
Whitney Museum curator Susan Larsen said in 1989: "Jon Serl has a highly sophisticated mind and an extraordinarily broad perception of reality. He never takes anything at face value and is always searching for the deeper reality of things. His work encompasses everything from small-town parades to mystical interpretations of after- death experiences, but the theme that seems to color all his work is the intermingling of the spiritual and the physical.”
Jon Serlʼs paintings are available through Art Resource Group of Newport Beach, CA
and New York City.
- Liz Goldner
(Added the link above that goes to the ABOUT ME page on this site. Seems to me a local person [Laguna Beach]who may be a good local historical contact... still funny that the JS page/info no longer exists here... WTF?)
This link tied to ARTNET site where Jon Serl paintings are for sale. This list below is copied from the Biography & Links page associated with the site.
CELEBRATION OF ART
California (1894 - 1993)
Little is certain about Serlʼs life before he became famous. He was a great story teller. According to acquaintances his character varied wildly between playful and ornery. He was born Joseph Searles in Olean, New York. He spent much of the first half of his life since the age of ten traveling the country as a vaudeville performer. He eventually made his way to southern California. In the 1930ʼs and 1940ʼs he had some walk-on parts in films for Fox Studio under the name Jerry Palmer. Though he began painting perhaps as early as the 1940ʼs, he became most prolific after moving to Lake Elsinore from San Juan Capistrano around 1970. For the rest of his life, Serl painted almost daily with oil
on found boards, masonite, canvas and even over discarded paintings.
He is widely recognized for his dramatic figurative style. Many of his paintings have a fable like quality. They seem to depict costumed stage performers. Often scenes are charged with a sense of anxiety but include elements of comic relief, much like theatre. Think of Edvard Munchʼs late 19th century expressionism combined with a dose of late
20th century ironic humor. Serl is a significant American painter. He is likely to become even more widely recognized given that he was prolific, worked in oil, had a very distinct style, and had an overall high level of quality in his oeuvre. Noteworthy trademarks include the elegant elongated arms, large round eyes, and clownish expressions of his often anthropomorphic figures; as well as his penchant for bright colors and quirky mysterious scenes. His work is in permanent collections of many museums including The American Folk Art Museum and The Smithsonian American Art Museum. The sizes noted are actual painting sizes. Please inquire for exact framed dimensions.
George Jacobs Self-Taught Art
PO Box 476
Newport, Rhode Island 02840