Art of Place

by Sheila Bishop

    Welcome to Jared Whitham's world, a world where landscapes like "science fiction, quantum-supernatural hard boiled mysteries about garage sales in Gulf Coast Florida" mingle with Cat Attractors made from "patented Unified Field Textile, like the theory but smoother on the skin."

    Like the man-made island of Venice, Fla, Jared Whitham's art is full of tourist traps, snowbirds, golf courses and garage sales. Those of us who love and hate Florida find our ambivalence thickend in vivid colors on his canvasses. We see the baeautiful and the grotesque together. We encounter a more personal and moving engagement with the complexity of our home state than we might in most of the booths at our local art fairs.

    New York curator and lecturer at the Guggenhheim Museum and NYU, Renee Vara of Vara Fine Arts ( said, [whitham's work makes an important statement on often overlooked subcultures in America - the suburbanite and the early bird retiree. He also makes art about these cultuures from an insiders viewpoint, instead of the uburnaite ivory tower of the art world. People in the art wiorkd are obsessed with celebrity, butt Jared is interested in exploring banal suburban life and retirement funds.

    This interest is seen in paintings like "Man Digging" which is its title suggest, a painting of an older man digging in front of his suburban Florida home, "Jared is trying to put together a riddle to express something about place", friend and collaborator Will Maier says.

    For Fine Art Enthusiasts, some of Whitham's puzzling out questions will be exhibited in a show curated byv Sterling Krusing 6pm to 9p, Oct 28 at the tutoring Zone, 1010 N. Main St.

    When asked about Jared Whitham, a local artist, ceelebrity and provocateur Tom Miller remarked, he is "is like a broken hologram, with each differently shaped fragment containing sa picture of the whole man"

    Whitham's work trancends both paintings as a medium and Florida as subject matter. He brings his visions to an astounding number of art forms.. According to Miller, "Jared is so deeply talented in so many mediums. It was a year into it (knowing him) before I realized he was secretly a painter, sculptor, puppeteer, and co-founder of He might not tell you unless you asked."

    Whitham names Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman), David Lynch, Jim Henson, and Robert Rauschenberg as some of the artists who have most influnenced his work.

    "My missionis to bring fine art to the massess, to make art that is ssubversive, absolutely crazy, but also is valuable, family-oriented.

    Bill Cosby, Jim Henson, and Pee Wee Herman all walked the line, talking about stuff that was very adult without harming kids. Because if you know, you know, and if your don't it goes safely over your head".

    Jared Whitham was born in Connecticut and grew up in Venice. He discovered his "first language in art.", painting when very young..." Art was the only thing I was apparently good at. I failed at everything but art." Whithams antipathy toward our cookie cutter education system can be best seen in pieces like My Pubic Schooln Education, which starts with a pristine unsharpened pencil, continues down a line of penciles progressivle more splintered from within by a gooey mess and ends with a pencil almost completely engulfed by a bubble of wax..

    I was called an idiot in elementary and midedle school, made fun of all the time. I Failed vevery english class I ever had/. Nowadays, when people encounter my artwork andlike it, they'll give me a compliment and call me a gneius. which feels really good to the kid inside wgho was made fun of and called a 'retard'.

    At 15, after completing his first animated film, Whitham "decided hands down" that he was an artist. He then biuilt a small, functioning movie studfio in a condemned building because hge felt driven to make a full-length feature movie.

Without ever going to film school, after failing video and TV production class and backed only by his salary as a dishwasher, Whitham spent five and a half years making Project Omicron a retro 50's Sci Fi Art Film, which now can be found at Dia Art Foundation in New York.

Though he spent a year at Ringling Art school after highschool, Whitham is primarily self-taught.

These days Jared Whitham concentrates his considerable talents by making movies and his TV shows, which he feels is the "greatest combination of all the art forms" in which he works. "Every talent that I have and have been refining, my whole life. I'm putting into this show. I'm building puppets and sets, writing and directing, and creating the lighting design, performing and playling music."

The Jared Whitham Show; a show within a show within a show first "aired" in Sarasota in 2001, is an experimental web-based TV programs recorded in fromin front of a live audience.

The show is "taped" in front of several doiffernt audiences at different locations and thn editied into one episodfe that is put onloiine. Episode 9nine of the Jared Whitham Show:n What the pelecdant is going on?, was performed and taped at the Sha,mrock and The Atlantaic in mi9d-September and will be aired in late October or early November on

If you want to catch Whitham in action have missed the most recent episodes of The Jared Whitham Show, try The Tom Miller Show on Mondays at the Shamrock where he is often a guest or the Poetry Jam at the Civic Media Center on Thursdays where he drops in from time to time.

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