It's the second consecutive year that a painting from Jim Thorpe artist Joel Le Bow has been selected for Pennsylvania Museum's Art of the State exhibit.
Is Le Bow happy?
"Being selected is better than being turned down," Le Bow said. "But overall, it's been a difficult year as an artist."
Although the recession has bottomed and a recovery has begun, art has not seen a recovery. In terms of sales, Le Bow calls this his "worse year ever." Since art is an investment rather than a necessity, people are waiting for a full recovery before opening their pocketbooks to invest in art.
This year, Le Bow submitted five paintings, as images on a compact disc. Shopping With a Forgotten List was selected. It was one of 150 pieces, and the only submission from Carbon County, selected from nearly 2,200 submissions.
"Shopping With a Forgotten List has a provocative title," said LeBow. "People use the title to get an impression of what I am talking about. It is like a shorthand.
"At first, it looks like an abstraction. Once you look at it awhile, you begin to see things within it. It represents something between the idea of just using paint as abstract expressionism, and painting with the idea that there is depth almost a sense of perspective," he added.
"You begin to see figures. I'm always amused when people look at it some see a sailboat, a bridge, or people walking by a river. This painting gives the effect of somebody with a whole lot of stuff that they were carrying or pushing in the midst. The interpretation is guided by the title. To some extent, I don't like titles. This one I did like the title. That's what it meant to me."
Le Bow completed Shopping With a Forgotten List six months ago. It is oil on a canvas measuring 40 inches high and 30 inches wide.
"I worked very hard until I got a composition and I knew then that the painting will work, and the eye would move around," Le Bow explained.
"I do studies, I have an idea in my mind, and I develop as it goes," he said. "I draw a little ball point pen sketch so I don't come untethered. My sketch controls the composition.
"Some put a streak of paint to see if it works. I don't work that way. It's very disingenuous. It would make me uncomfortable every time I looked at it."
Le Bow, 78, has become increasingly focused on composition. He is both older, and is recovering from eye and arm problems.
"As you get older, you start to spot where compositions don't work," Le Bow said. "It's like a symphony orchestra playing the wrong note. I have to be sincere with myself and control the composition from the beginning. The first person I have to satisfy is myself. I need to have the composition worked out before starting."
The tough economy has also affected the costs to exhibit. In prior years, the artist would ship the work via Fed Ex to the museum and the museum would ship it back. Because of the Pennsylvania budget crunch, they are not promising to be able to afford to pay the return shipment.
So, in effect, there is a cost to being selected. Besides the costs of shipping, Le Bow and the others selected are invited to a reception in Harrisburg.
He is feeling reluctant to go as he feels he is getting too old to stay until the event ends at 9 p.m. and then drive home to Carbon County. Likewise, staying over in Harrisburg would make the event that much more expensive.
To see more of Le Bow's work, visit his studio and gallery at 38 West Broadway in Jim Thorpe. For information, call (570) 325-8778, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.