At first glance, Jason Bard Yarmosky’s hyper realistic oil paintings are…unsettling.
This is not how we like to see the senior members of our society portrayed. Where is the dignity here? The self-respect? How would the artist like it if these were his grandparents?
Turns out, they are. Or at least inspired by them.
INTERVIEW WITH JASON BARD YARMOSKY
New York USA ~
Deanna Phoenix Selene: Jason, when I first encountered your work, I found myself turning away then coming back to these pieces again and again, each time wrestling with emotions that came up, most of them uncomfortable. These images provoke, fascinate, haunt. Was there someone in your life who inspired this series?
Jason Bard Yarmosky: The lack of permanence and the inevitability of aging have always been on my mind growing up. I’ve been close to my grandparents since I was very young.
Jason Bard Yarmosky:
The inescapability of their aging is evident in their changing bodies, even as their view of the world has continued to expand. Seeing them approach life with exuberance, humor, and a little bit of mischief was something I wanted to explore and pay homage to.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: Why do you think we feel so uneasy when seniors “act up”? What is behind such terms as “dirty old man”? What are we really afraid of?
Jason Bard Yarmosky: Part of the answer is that we don’t value older people in the same way we celebrate youth. Older people are expected to live within boundaries that society draws for them.
My paintings examine the relationship between the limitations of social norms and the freedom to explore, particularly the juxtaposition between the young and old. People sometimes get uncomfortable when older people allow themselves that freedom. Remember, the dreams of the young, often sublimated by the years, never really disappear.
As Madeleine L’Engle said, “The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”
Deanna Phoenix Selene: Have you ever spent time in a senior rehab center or visited someone you loved in such a place?
Jason Bard Yarmosky: I am keenly aware of the fact that we all age differently. Sometimes, conditions beyond the control of an aging person irrevocably change the conditions of one’s existence. I spend a lot of time with my grandparents in New York in an environment with other elderly people. I also visit my grandfather in Florida where he lives among an overwhelmingly elderly population. I have seen the unpredictability of the aging process.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: Do you ever imagine what you yourself would be like when old?
Jason Bard Yarmosky: My hope is that I’ll have amassed enough wisdom and understanding from my life’s journey that I’ll be able to live peacefully and happily, surrounded by the people I care most about.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: What have been some of the responses you’ve received from your work? Any surprises?
Jason Bard Yarmosky: The overwhelming response from people of all ages has been positive. Older people have really connected to my work. Younger and older people recognize the inherent freedom of just being themselves. The occasional naysayer is more likely to be middle-aged.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: Must art be beautiful? Pleasing? What is the role of art in society?
Jason Bard Yarmosky: Although art can be beautiful and pleasing, it doesn’t have to be. A piece that is thought-provoking and acts as a catalyst for reflection and reexamination can also be beautiful.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: Do you have a piece of yours that is a particular favorite?
Jason Bard Yarmosky: There are elements of many of my paintings that I enjoy. “The Boxer,” a piece that was part of my last show, is one that I especially like compositionally and because of its content. The piece depicts two people having spent a life together, fighting through life’s challenges, emerging battered yet triumphant.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: What inspired you to become a painter? Was your family supportive?
Jason Bard Yarmosky: Drawing, painting, and creating things have always been a way for me to understand ideas and to communicate. My parents and grandparents have always supported and encouraged me. My parents were often questioned about the precariousness of allowing their son to pursue a career in art. Undeterred, they supported my efforts to follow my passion.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: What qualities make for a good artist?
Jason Bard Yarmosky: Good technique, curiosity, and lots of motivation to explore what you’re passionate about.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: What are you interested in exploring next?
Jason Bard Yarmosky: I will probably continue to explore the issue of the life cycle, but I’m also open to where that leads me in terms of future projects.
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Born in 1987 in Poughkeepsie, New York, Yarmosky began drawing as a child. He graduated with a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 2010. His paintings and drawings have been exhibited and collected throughout the United States and around the world. His work has appeared in numerous publications such as Azart Magazine, American Artist Drawing, New American Paintings, High Fructose, and the Huffington Post. He is a past winner of the Elizabeth Greenshields Award.