From the “You’re,” not “Your” Blog



JON SARKIN: make the art

Inspired by GMG

Jon Sarkin is one of the most interesting people I have ever encountered. And it just so happens that we each call Gloucester “home.” His impressive resume includes two, substantial Vanity Fair articles, staring in this Pulitzer finalist NJ Star Ledger story, and having sold pieces of his work to private collections held by, among others, icons Diane von Furstenburg and Annie Leibovitz. This, of course, fails to mention exhibits across the U.S. or placement in influential arenas like MOMA. Or how Tom Cruise bought the rights to his life story. Jon’s accolades go on and on… It’s wonderful and exciting for us. But it’s just life for him. Life post-trauma.

This past Fall, I had the opportunity to visit his now-empty Birds Eye studio on The Fort. The property itself — an abandoned factory on the harbor — is stunning. Not “stunning” so as to imply a pristine, novel, or grandeur sense of the word. But stunning in so far as the space was open, simple, and aged. Stunning as in perhaps perfect for Sarkin, right down to doorbell note. (He has since moved to a Main Street location.)

During a brief visit, Jon and I did not speak about his art; he rather chose to ignore the stacks of canvas and paper strewn about, one more impressive than the other. Instead, we dabbled in the niceties of small talk. The Velvet Underground. Local restaurants and sandwich shops. Carpentry. Of course, as it always will, the adult-go-to, “what do you do?” came up. Shrugging, visibly embarrassed by then empty attempts at both retail and for-sale art stuffs, it became painfully apparent that I didn’t want to talk about it.

Faced with what could have been yet another spoke-too-soon hole in which I dug and promptly laid, Jon was amazing. He said that one of the most important parts of life is respecting boundaries. I had set mine. He wasn’t going to try and sneak around it, duck under it, or trick me away from it. After sharing a few of his lines-were-crossed stories, he clapped his hands as if to wipe them clean of the trivial matter and — just like that — we moved on. I was touched by his approach. Bewildered by how the thing I should do and the thing I was doing, in all of it’s simplicity, was the same. Eloquent yet elementary. Letting go.

Discovery Science Channel aired this piece on Jon in December. Certainly worth the 20-odd minutes. I will say that he was much warmer in my meeting than he appears in this video. Though the buckets of chalks, paints, and crayons, and those boat shoes are very much real. In the best of ways.

One of Jon’s most recent endeavors involved Guster’s music video for “Do You Love Me.” A wonderful concept, executed in part by local advertising heroes, Bait and Tackle. Apparently, iTunes felt the same. The video’s success has lead to a  line of Sarkin-inspired merchandise, a re-skinning of the band’s MySpace page, and a fun new cover on the deluxe edition of the appropriately titled, Easy Wonderful.

I believe there is a lot of happiness to be had, through wisdom and acceptance, in the world of Jon Sarkin. I really, really do.