“Jack McLarty in the Hand of God”
One of my portraits of him, in front of a self-portrait.
Artist Jack McLarty is a native son of Portland. He is a well-known artist both locally and nationally (you can find him in all the art encycolpedias on the web, and in many museum collections), with a long list of credits to his name. His paintings and prints are often described as ‘independent, personal, and urban.’
Jack is a thoughtful, articulate man, whose work spans decades and continents. His travels have taken him from New York to France, Mexico to Japan, and yet Portland is still home. He taught for many years at the Museum Art School (now Pacific NW College of Art), co-founded Print Arts Northwest with George Johansen, ran the Image Gallery with his wife, and more.
I had the privilege of spending some time with Jack and his energetic wife Barbara, talking about their work, and photographing them.
Jack McLarty’s studio is the one bedroom in their one bedroom apartment. Barely 8 feet by 10 feet, lit by a small window, it is filled with art supplies, books, memorabelia, print series, and paintings in progress. He talked me through 10 or 12 acrylic paintings in progress, many of which I wouldn’t mind having even in their current, unfinished state.
This is the second time I have had the privilege of talking with and photographing a respected, aging artist in his studio. Last year I visited with sculptor and printmaker Manuel Izquierdo, and the portrait of him and his studio that resulted were some of my favorite work of the year. I hope to do more of this work, documenting the lives and spaces of venerable artists. Perhaps it is the influence of the work of one of my favorite photographers, Arnold Newman; or just that I also am an artist, and love to document others in their native habitat: the studio. It’s inspiring work.
Jack has kept notebooks in his pocket for decades. Barbara showed me some of them, each dated on the cover with a year. They are compendia of his thoughts, quotes, and sketches. Though painting in his tiny studio, Jack tells me he paints from observation. He pays attention to life, remembers and records it, and paints from it.
The artist’s hands.
Jack has a collection of tin wind-up toys, dating back to his childrens’ childhoods and perhaps earlier. Most of them, he tells me, are broken; his art students used to come over and play with them, winding them far too tightly, until the springs broke….
Visit the PNCA website to see their cover story on Jack, using my images.
Editorial portrait assignments like this are some of my favorites, and it’s a real pleasure to document the lives of such venerable Portland citizens.