Amy Ellis Nutt Archive


Interview with Amy Ellis Nutt- “Shadows Bright as Glass”

Watch the Interview with Amy Ellis Nutt- “Shadows Bright as Glass” 


Sarkin’s Resume


94R Main Street

Rockport, MA  01930

(978) 282-0334

cell:  (978) 888-5320


1967-71:  The Pingry School, Elizabeth, NJ (now in Martinsville, NJ)

1971-75: Univ. of Penn. (BA, Biology)

1975-77:  Rutgers Univ. (MS, Environmental Science)

1977-80:  Palmer College of Chiropractic, Davenport, IA

  (DC {Doctor of Chiropractic})

EXHIBITIONS (asterisk indicates solo exhibition):

*Mar., 2012:  The Pingry School, Martinsville, NJ
*Jan. – Mar., 2012:  Open Door Gallery,  Boston
*Dec., 2011:  Princeton Day School, Princeton, NJ
*April 2011:  PEAC Gallery, Pennington, NJ
*Feb., 2011:  Traylor Gallery, Hightstown, NJ
July 2010:  Bass Rocks Beach Club, Gloucester, MA 

Mar. – Apr. 2010:  Straube Gallery, Princeton, NJ

*Sept. 2009:  Blackburn Gallery, Gloucester, MA

Sept. 2009:  Traylor Gallery, Princeton, NJ

May 2009:  Riverfront Gallery, Millville, NJ

Sept. – Oct. 2008:  The Pingry School, Martinsville, NJ

*Sept. 2008:  Bait and Tackle Gallery, Gloucester, MA

*Aug. – Oct. 2008:  Shrine Gallery, Gloucester, MA

July 2008:  Bass Rocks Beach Club, Gloucester, MA 

July 2008:  Flat Rocks Gallery, Gloucester, MA

July 2008:  Blackburn Performing Arts Center, Gloucester, MA

July 2008:  Jane Deering Gallery, Gloucester, MA

June 2008:  Bob Woolf Gallery, Gloucester, MA

*Apr. 2008:  Home of Martin B. O’Connor II, New Vernon, NJ

Feb. 2008:  Novas Centre, Liverpool, England

Oct. 2007:  Philoctetes Center, New York

July 2007:  Bass Rocks Beach Club, Gloucester, MA

Mar. 2007:  Jane Deering Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA

*Sept. 2006:  Bigzanda Gallery, Gloucester, MA

Apr. – Aug. 2006:  Decordova Museum, Lincoln, MA

Aug. 2006:  Jane Deering Gallery, Boston

July 2006:  Jane Deering Gallery, Gloucester, MA

*July 2006:  Earl McGrath Gallery, Los Angeles

July 2006:  Bass Rocks Beach Club, Gloucester, MA

Mar. 2007:  Jane Deering Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA

*Sept. 2005:  Artspace Gallery, Gloucester, MA

*Aug. 2005:  Bigzanda Gallery, Gloucester, MA

July – Aug. 2005:  Jane Deering Gallery, Gloucester, MA

Mar. 2005:  Jane Deering Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA

*Apr. 2005:  The Revolving Museum, Lowell, MA

July – Aug. 2004:  Jane Deering Gallery, Gloucester, MA

*Dec. 2004:  For Rent Gallery, Gloucester, MA

*Nov.  2004:  The Pingry School, New Vernon, NJ

*Nov. 2003:  Jim Budman Gallery, New York

*July 2003:  Sunny Day Gallery, Gloucester MA

*Mar. 2003:  Home of Martin B. O’Connor II, New Vernon, NJ 

Apr. 2003:  Diane von Furstenburg Gallery, New York

May 2000:  School Street Gallery, Rockport, MA

Oct. 1999:  School Street Galllery, Rockport, MA

Apr. 1999:  Organization of Independent Artists, New York 


Papers of Calvin Tomkins (The New Yorker Art Critic),  

Museum of Modern Art, New York

Tom Cruise (Actor), Los Angeles

Graydon Carter (Editor of Vanity Fair), New York

Annie Leibovitz (Photographer), New York

Bryan Lourd (Film Agent), Los Angeles

Paula Wagner (Head of United Artists Films), Los Angeles

Kevin Huvane (Film Agent), Los Angeles

Richard Lovett (Film Agent), Los Angeles

Billy Ray (Screenwriter), Los Angeles

Robert Bookman (Literary Agent), Los Angeles

Diane von Furstenburg (Fashion Designer), New York

Barry Diller (Media Mogul), New York

Mullen Advertising, Boston

Mark Wenneker (Creative Director, Mullen Advertising, Boston)

Alice Flaherty, MD (Neurologist, Author), Boston

Ira Glass (Radio Personality), Chicago

Amy Ellis Nutt (Journalist, Author), Newark, NJ

Jennifer Brown (Photographer), Newark, NJ

Andre Malok (Graphic Designer), Newark, NJ

Tony Millionaire (Artist), Pasadena, CA

Willie Alexander (Recording Artist), Gloucester, MA

Chris Lydon (Radio Personality), Boston

Jane Deering (Art Dealer), Boston

Mac Bell (Real Estate Developer), Gloucester, MA

Chris Brady (Chart Group), New York

Frank Shephard (Chart Group), New York

Decordova Museum, Lincoln, MA

Revolving Museum, Lowell, MA

The Pingry School, Martinsville, NJ 

Brian Rosenworcel (of the band Guster)

Adam Gardner (Guster)

Ryan Miller (Guster)


“Zine Dreams,” New York Times Magazine, David Gross, Dec. 3. 1996 

“Metamorphosis,” GQ , Andrew Corsello, Jan., 1997:

“Tom Cruise Buys Stroke Victim’s Story,” Mr. Showbiz,  Anonymous, Feb. 2, 1997

“Cruise Could Play Stroke Victim,” E! Online, Jeff B. Copeland, Feb. 5, 1997

“Hunting for the Sark,” The Finger, Sam Pratt, Apr. 20, 1998

“Artist Unleashed,” The Penn Gazette, Susan Lonkevich, May, 1999:

“Artistic Lightning,” Awakenings, Terri Knudsen, May 24, 1999

“Interview with Jon Sarkin,” The Boston Globe MagazineJohn Koch, May 9, 1999

“Seven Questions for Jon Sarkin,” Seven Questions, Tom Mangan, Jan., 2000

“An Oscar Story in the Making:  The Life Tom Cruise Just Had to Have,”

   The New York Post, Peter Sheridan, March 26, 2000:

“A Stroke of Genius,” North Shore Weekly, Linda Roth, June 4, 2000

“Sight and Sound,” ARTnews, Elisabeth Morse, July, 2000

“An Explosion That Changed Everything,” The London Telegraph,

   James Langton, Jan. 20, 2001:

“Heady Stuff,” Town Online, David Rattigan, Aug. 24, 2001

“Art out of Adversity,” Backroads of New England (Book Excerpt), Chris Spurling, 2001

“Getting a Good Laugh out of Life,” Gloucester Daily TimesGreg Cook, Feb. 12, 2003

“Stroke of Genius,” Newark Star-Ledger, Amy Ellis Nutt, Apr. 25, 2003:

“The Art of Healing:  Jon Sarkin’s Kinetic Vision,” Vanity Fair,

Kevin Sessums, May, 2003:

“The Awakening of Dr. Jonathan Sarkin, Artist,” Pingry ReviewRenee Walker, Nov., 2004:

“Life Through Paint and Canvas,” Gloucester Daily TimesGail McCarthy, Nov. 20, 2004:

“Stroke of Genius,” Reader’s Digest, Ellen Sherman, Sep., 2005:

“A Changed Man,” The Boston Globe, Geoff Edgers, June 11, 2006: 

“Jon Sarkin:  An Audio Slide Show,” The Boston Globe WebsiteJune 11, 2006: 

“Melding Art, Music and Words, ‘Big Top Road’ takes Cape Ann on a Ride

This  Weekend,” Gloucester Daily Times, Gail McCarthy, Oct. 12, 2006:

“The Science of Art,” Neurology Now, Linda Carroll, Nov.-Dec., 2006: 200602060-00020

“Local Artist Honored for Overcoming Disability with his Art,”  Gloucester Daily Times, Matthew Webster, 

March 13, 2007: 

“Painting the Mind,” Four Corners (Australia) June, 2007:  

“Sarkin Photo, Explained,” The Exhibitionist, Geoff Edgers, June 26, 2007

“A Rewired Mind” (Audiovisual Slide Show), Gloucester Daily Times,

    Oct. 2, 2007:

“Sarkin and McHugh at Novas Centre,” Novas Website, April 27, 2008

“Artist and Poet Jon Sarkin ’71 Donates His Time and Talent,”

The Pingry School, May 6, 2008:

“Jon Sarkin Hosts First Art Show on Rocky Neck,” Gloucester Daily Times, August 28, 2008

“On the Brain,” Publishers Weekly, Matthew Thorton, Oct. 27, 2008

“An Accidental Artist,” Newark Star Ledger, Amy Nutt, Nov. 23, 2008:

“Chat with ‘Accidental Artist’ Author Amy Ellis Nutt,” Newark Star Ledger On-line, Brian Donohue, Dec. 9. 2008:  

“Jon Sarkin:  A Medical Mystery and Artistic Savant,” Adam Klappholz, 

GQ On-line, Dec. 18. 2008:

“From Stroke Victim to Commissioned Artist:  The Curious Case of Jon Sarkin, Adam Klappholz, GQ On-line

  June 18, 2009:

“Unbound Creativity,”, June 5, 2009:

“Unbound,” Videography by Jess Pearson, Youtube, June 19, 2009:

“Jon Sarkin at Mullen Advertising,” Videography by Jess Pearson, Youtube, June 19, 2009

“Jon Sarkin Donates Art to WGBH Auction,” Youtube, May, 2010

“Tour of Jon Sarkin’s Studio,” YoutubeApril 27, 2010

“Life in a Day,” Youtube, July 24, 2010     

“Interview with Terry Gross on NPR re:  my biography, Shadows Bright as Glass, by Amy Ellis Nutt, NPR’s Fresh 

 Air, May, 2011:

“Broad Brushstrokes Obscure a View of Brain Trauma,” (Review of Shadows Bright as Glass), Abigail Zuger, 

 New York Times, May 31, 2011: 

“Mental Images,” Jan. 18, 2012, CHS Research Bulletin,, Alexandra Pappas:

“Jon Sarkin:  Compulsive Creativity,”

“Six People Who Gained Amazing Skills From Brain Injuries,”, Dec. 1. 2011:

“Healing Arts, Healing Hands,” Dec. 1, 2011, Today’s Chiropractic, Katie Brown:

Wikipedia entry:

“Showcasing the Work of an Outsider Artist,” Jan. 31, 2012, Boston Globe, Cate McQuaid:


The New Yorker

Penn Gazette

CD Cover: “Dog Bar Yacht Club,”  Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band

CD Cover:  “Light City,” Dan King

CD Cover:  “Western Lands,” Dan King

CD Cover:  “Easy Wonderful,” Guster

CD Cover:  “Welcome to the Carnival,” Bandit Kings


“The Connection,” (Chris Lydon, host), WBUR-FM

This American Life, (Ira Glass, host), WBUR-FM

BBC:  The World,” WGBH-FM


“Chronicle,” WCVB-TV (Boston)

“Stroke,” Discovery Channel

“Painting the Mind,” Australian and British TV

“Medical Mysteries,” ABC-News

“My Strange Brain,” Granada TV (UK)

“Profiles,” Cape Ann (MA) TV


“What’s Your Story:  Jon Sarkin at The Budman Studio, August, 

   2002,” Beautiful Films 


    *The rights to my life story have been purchased by United Artists for

        a film to be developed by Tom Cruise’s production company.  A script 

        has been written and a director has been chosen.

     *A website about me has been established.  Its URL is

      *A biography is being written about me by Pulitzer Prize finalist Amy Ellis Nutt.  Release date is April, 2011.

*In 2005, I taught a master class at The Revolving Museum in Lowell, MA. 

*In 2000 and 2001, I was an artist-in-residence at the Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, MA.

*From 2005 – 2009, I have been an artist-in-residence at The Pingry School in Martinsville, NJ, where, I have taught both art and English.

*I am currently writing my autobiography.


*I am currently writing an illustrating a novel.

*In 2007, I was awarded a Wynn Newhouse Foundation prize for artists with disabiltiies.

*I have written dozens of volumes of poetry.

*I have produced several hours of music.

*I starred in a multimedia show, Big Top Road, at the West End Theater in Gloucester, MA in October of 2006.   It featured the musicians Dave Mattucks on drums (George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Richard Thompson, Fairport Convention, Roseanne Cash, XTC), David Brown, guitar (Billy Joel, Paul McCartney), Wolf Ginandes, bass (Light City), Dan King, guitar (Light City), and Matt Webster, soundscapes.

*I was featured in the film “Polis is This:  The Life and Poetry of Charles Olson,” by filmaker Henry Ferrini.

*I was in the short film “The Ghost of Dogtown, by film-maker Chad Carlberg.

* I wrote a concert review abiout Bob Dylan that was published on The Boston Globe website.

*I created a music video (“I Never Wanted Everything”) for the musician Sten Bowen

in August of 2007 (Available on Youtube).

*I was the guest artist for the comic strip Maakies, by artist Tony Millionaire.

*I acted in the short film “Daniel” by film-maker Emile Doucette (Available on Youtube).

*I created a mural (26′ X 5′) for Mullen Advertising in Boston.

*I did a large painting as the backdrop for a music video by the guitarist David Patterson. This video is currently in production.

*From 2008 – 2012, I’ve donated artwork to an on-air auction on WGBH-TV (Boston).

*I served on a committee at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston that was forming an interdisciplinary program between doctors and artists.

*I did a music video with the band Guster in August, 2010.   

*I’ve done two performance art pieces while the band Guster plays:  one at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in March, 2011, and one at the Pingry School in Martinsville, NJ in March of 2012. 

*I designed a shirt for the Large Pelagics Research Center in Gloucester, MA.


“Showcasing the work of an outsider artist”

Maybe you’ve heard of Jon Sarkin. A former chiropractor, he had a brain hemorrhage back in the late 1980s, followed by a stroke that nearly killed him, and he came through the ordeal an artist with an antic need to create. He has received a lot of media attention, not so much for his art as for his story, and last year a biography of Sarkin came out, “Shadows Bright as Glass: The Remarkable Story of One Man’s Journey From Brain Trauma to Artistic Triumph,’’ by Amy Ellis Nutt.

But what about his art?

Check out the rest of the article here


Amy Ellis Nutt: “We Must Tell Stories”

The first time Amy Ellis Nutt came across John Sarkin’s art, it was hanging on the wall of a neurologist’s office.

Amy, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for Newark’s Star-Ledger, was researching a story on the elusive wonders of science. Her investigation led to the office of Dr. Todd Feinberg, who authored a book on the mysterious human mind.

Check out the rest here


Sarkin in the New York Times

On a fall afternoon in 1988, Jon Sarkin, a 35-year-old Massachusetts chiropractor, was happily playing the eighth hole on a local golf course when he felt something “twist” in his brain. Three days later he began to hear a high-pitched screech, a siren that only grew louder with the passing weeks. Doctors shrugged; a brain scan suggested a vague abnormality near a nerve at the base of the brain that controls hearing and balance.

Liam King

After he felt a “twist” in his brain, Jon Sarkin had surgery, and then a major stroke. He began making art like “Across the Sun.”

Liam King

Jon Sarkin’s “Kerouac.”

Eight months later, driven to distraction by the unceasing noise, Dr. Sarkin underwent a controversial operation to “decompress” the small vessels surrounding the nerve. The day after surgery — having woken up long enough to report that the noise had indeed stopped — he was rushed back to the operating room with a major stroke.

He didn’t survive, not really, but he did live and slowly came to thrive, and on that tangled paradox Amy Ellis Nutt builds a tale.

Ms. Nutt, a staff writer for The Star-Ledger in Newark, won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for her detailed account of a shipwreck off the Jersey Shore. Now she has turned to a medical shipwreck in the person of Dr. Sarkin, whose story is both Hollywood-simple (Tom Cruise has, in fact, expressed interest) and dauntingly complex.

The Jon Sarkin who emerged from the hospital months after his stroke bore little resemblance to his prior self. He was physically delicate and walked with a cane, but that was the least of it. His personality had morphed into a difficult teenager’s: self-centered, unreliable, obsessive. Bored, he began to doodle one day shortly after he returned home.

Two decades later he is still doodling, but now as a full-fledged artist of some renown, having sold small drawings to publications like The New York Times Magazine and large pieces to private collectors for thousands of dollars.

In this tripartite story of brain, art and family life (Dr. Sarkin is married and the father of three children, two born after his stroke), Ms. Nutt manages to ace the first part and come up surprisingly short in the other two.

We never do get the complete technical information on the extent of Dr. Sarkin’s brain damage, but apparently it involved most of the left side of his cerebellum (home of balance and sensory integration) and parts of the left cerebral hemisphere, where, in a right-handed person, most of the brain’s executive and analytic functions live. Dr. Sarkin’s right brain, chock-full of instinct and loose association, was left intact and more or less took over. Dr. Sarkin now draws constantly and obsessively, working on multiple pieces at once. He writes with the same rhythm, enthusiastically drafting long, garbled poems and firing off dozens of disjointed e-mails to a single recipient in the course of a day. His thoughts are scattered and tangential, his behavior unpredictable.

Dr. Sarkin’s difficulties give Ms. Nutt a platform for a freewheeling, admirably accessible discussion of how the brain works and how it survives damage. Her subjects range from Phineas Gage, the 19th-century railroad worker whose skull was shattered by an iron spike, to autistic savants, to many others whose injuries have replaced a former self with a different version.

Ms. Nutt has an advanced degree in philosophy, which serves her well in these far regions of neuroscience, where medical detail yields to the big questions of personality and personhood, mind and soul.

But for the more concrete parts of Dr. Sarkin’s story, perplexing narrative and publishing missteps manage to obscure the landscape effectively enough that the reader is sorely tempted to head elsewhere. (And there are quite a few other places to go: Dr. Sarkin has a substantial media presence, with radio interviews, magazine profiles and a segment in “Medical Mysteries” on ABC, among others.)

Those would be the sources to tap for such basics as what Dr. Sarkin looks like, what he sounds like, and how it feels to be around him. Ms. Nutt’s readers will have absolutely no idea, for her book is narrated from his and his wife’s perspective alone, in the fatuous, uncritical tones of a celebrity pseudomemoir.

That Dr. Sarkin deserves a sharper focus can be surmised from the contrast between Ms. Nutt’s effusions (“He was finding the edges of himself, filling in, at long last, the barren landscape of his bruised soul”) and Dr. Sarkin’s own response to a fan who asked him what his art meant. “It doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “You want meaning? Go get The Wall Street Journal.”

And what about Dr. Sarkin’s artwork? Is it any good? Would the reader like it? There is no way to tell from this book, despite some valiant descriptions of line drawings and giant, thickly layered collages, because it contains, incredibly, not a single reproduction, and even the colorful jacket is not Dr. Sarkin’s design.

A book reviewer is charged with producing a review of the book alone, even if it shows irritating signs of turning into a giant TV listing. And so this reviewer, ever dutiful, finished her assignment up to this very paragraph, and then could not stand it one more minute.

Off she went to Dr. Sarkin’s Web site, where a selection of his work is on display. Perusing it was like ripping off a blindfold: Suddenly she saw what all that verbiage was about. And that, sadly, should not be the bottom line on any book.



The Remarkable Story of One Man’s Journey From Brain Trauma to Artistic Triumph. By Amy Ellis Nutt. Free Press. 272 pages. $26.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: June 3, 2011


A book review on Tuesday of “Shadows Bright as Glass,” by Amy Ellis Nutt, about Jon Sarkin, a chiropractor who became an artist after a brain operation that led to a major stroke, misstated the timing of the births of Dr. Sarkin’s three children. Two of them were born after his stroke, not all of them. And the article incorrectly described the narrative viewpoint of the book. It is told from the perspective of Dr. Sarkin and his wife, not from his perspective alone.

Read the article here



Amy Nutt & Jon Sarkin in Conversation: Labyrinth Books Princeton, NJ (May 25th @ 6pm)

Amy Nutt & Jon Sarkin in Conversation
Shadows Bright as Glass: Art and the Brain
Wednesday, May 25th @ 6PM
Labyrinth Books Princeton
We invite you to come out for a conversation about the relationship between the brain and creativity, between art and the formation of a sense of who we are as human beings. This is Jon Sarkin’s riveting personal story; it is also more generally a story about science and art as researched and told by the acclaimed journalist Amy Nutt. It is too strange and remarkable to summarize in very short form. Please read on:

Jon Sarkin was playing golf when, without warning, his life changed forever. As he bent down, something massive happened inside his head; part of his brain seemed to unhinge, to split apart and float away. Inexplicably, a tiny blood vessel deep inside the folds of his gray matter suddenly shifted ever so slightly, rubbing up against his acoustic nerve. Any noise now caused him excruciating pain.

After months of seeking treatment to no avail, Sarkin resorted to radical brain surgery, and suffered a major stroke during recovery. He awoke a different man. Before the stroke, he was a calm chiropractor, a happily married husband and father of a newborn son. Now he was transformed into a volatile and wildly exuberant obsessive, seized by a manic desire to create art and devoting virtually all his waking hours to drawing, painting, and writing poems. He had become detached from his wife and child and unable to return to his normal working life. His sense of self had been shattered, his intellect drastically altered. His art became a quest for the right expressions to unlock the secrets of how to live this strange new life. All the while, he remembered his former self.

In a beautifully crafted narrative, Pulitzer Prize winner Amy Ellis Nutt interweaves Sarkin’s story with a tour of the history and latest findings of neuroscience and evolution, which illuminate how the brain produces the richness of human experience and thereby makes us who we are. Nutt brings to life pivotal moments of discovery in neuroscience, from the rebirth of a young girl hanged in 1650 to the first autopsy of an autistic savant’s brain, and the extraordinary stories of people whose personalities and cognitive abilities were dramatically altered by brain trauma.

Probing recent revelations about the workings of creativity in the brain and the role of art in human intelligence, Nutt reveals how Sarkin’s need to create mirrors the earliest function of art in the brain.

For Jon Sarkin, making art became a means of reassembling from the shard of his former self a new man who could rejoin his family and fashion a viable life. He is now an acclaimed artist who exhibits at some of the country’s most prestigious venues. Amy Ellis Nutt has been a writer at the Newark Star-Ledger for thirteen years. She has won numerous national awards for her writing and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing for her series about Jon Sarkin. She is a Pulitzer Prize winner this year r for her piece, “The Wreck of Lady Mary.”

The event at Labyrinth is co-sponsored by and organized in conjunction with ArtJam, a fundraiser to benefit HomeFront. ArtJam is an art exhibit and sale featuring national and local artists — including Jon Sarkin’s work! — alongside HomeFront’s ArtSpace participants. It will open May 26 from 6-9PM and run through June 12 in Princeton’s Palmer Square at 19 Hulfish Street. ArtSpace, a therapeutic art program, is one of HomeFront’s many programs bringing education, employment, and permanent housing to homeless families. For more information contact Ruthann Traylor

Labyrinth Books
122 Nassau
Princeton, NJ 08542