biography Archive


“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?

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The Brain and the Mind a Delicate Connection (StarTribune)


In “Shadows Bright as Glass: The Remarkable Story of One Man’s Journey from Brain Trauma to Artistic Triumph,” Pulitzer Prize winner Amy Ellis Nutt tells the amazing story of how Jon Sarkin’s life was changed through a “single cruel trick of nature.” “Shadows” isn’t a biography in the traditional sense, as Nutt gives ample consideration of the questions that Sarkin’s transformation raises about consciousness, the relationship of the brain to the mind, and the nature of art and inspiration.

Check out the rest of the article here


Simon and Schuster feature video

Check out a feature video about Jon discussing his biography here



TerminARTors features Sarkin as an artist on their website. Check out his biography and showcase, and art available for purchase.

Check it out here


Sarkin’s Bio (1953-1999)

This is a Bio i wrote in 1999

4/27/53: born jonathan mark sarkin, in newark, nj. my brother, richard, was born on 7/3/50. he’s a pediatrician in buffalo. my father was born in nyc in ’23. my mother was born in bkln (?) in ’29. my dad married my mom in ’49. they were fixed up when they 1st met. my father was a dentist in nj. his parents emigrated to nyc probably in the 1910’s from estonia (my grandfather) and somewhere in th former soviet union for my grandmother. they had strong russian accents and called me “JON-I-TUN”. “jonathan”, by th way, means “god has given” in hebrew. is this cool? my dad grew up in th bronx. my mom’s parents were from elizabeth, nj i think. my maternal grandfather was in th juke box business, and i used to make a list of 45’s i’d want and he’d give them to me. i had (and still have) an impressive collection of 45’s. i think one reason i love music is because of all those 45’s. i used to listen to em over and over. i remember getting a copy of “i want to hold you’re hand.” man, i wore that sucker out: “oh yeah i tell ya somethin i think you’ll understan wen i say that somethin i wanna hold yer han i wanna hold yer han i wanna hold yer han lemme be yer man an please say to me lemme hold yer han i wanna hold yer han i wanna hold yer han an wen i touch you i feel happy inside it’s such a feelin that my love i can’t hide i can’t hide i can’t hiiiide yeah you got that somethin i think you’ll understand whn i say that somethin i think you’ll understand an when i touch you i feel happy inside it’s such a feelin i wanna hold yer han”

11/53: we move to my home in hillside, nj, where i live until i go to college in ’71. my mom still lives in this house w her 2nd husband. thanksgiving has always been a big deal in our family, and i think that we moved to our house around this holiday is a reason. plus family’s real important to us, more so than th avg family. anyway, this house is a big deal for me, highly sentimental & “iconic”

4/26/57: my earliest memory, which is my earliest memory because when i was very young i intuited that this was my earliest memory, so it was worth saving (why i thought this was valuable to do i never really thought about), was th day before my fourth birthday. i am in our den in my home in hillside, nj. it is a sunny day as i remember th light shining into th room.

4/58: my brother and i begin collecting baseball cards. these were very important to me, and remain as an icon. icons like this are crucial in my art, e.g., elvis, superheros, rock n roll, cacti, chrysler bldg, art deco, king kong, tailfins, cadillacs, movie stars, et al

1/59: i remember going outside during a snowstorm. th snow hits my face and feels like needles. it’s sensory perceptions like this (all 5 senses) that i realize i was hypersensitive to. i was/am also hypersensitive to emotional stuff. th “art connexion” here is obvious

4/20/59: my sister, jane, is born. you ever read th book “catcher in th rye”? jame is phoebe to my holden caulfield

11/60: jfk is elected. this is a very big deal in my house. even as a 7yr old, th energy of newness and vitality are palpable. his “utopian dream” begins for me. (see ’68)

7/62: i go to sleep-away camp for th 1st time. i start to listen to th radio cos th counselors @ camp are into it. pop music becomes a very big deal for me. i remember “rag doll” by th 4 seasons, and “surf city” by jan and dean. <> even before ’62, i was into music: “th twist”; harry belafonte; th kingston trio. my parents were really into show tunes, so i litsened to a lot of south pacific, sound of music, west side story, my fair lady, oliver, et al. anyway, music is a crucial CRUCIAL aspect to my art. you see, my “art” is more than just painting/drawing/sculpture. it’s my writing. it’s my spoken word audio stuff. it’s MY THOUGHTS.

9/62: i start 4th grade in a private school, th pingry school in elizabeth, nj, and the influence of this place on me, which i attended fr ’62 to ’71, is profound. everyday in chapel, i saw our school motto: “THE FEAR OF THE LORD IS THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM.” this is fr th bible. now, this is a heavy trip to lay on any1, let alone an impressionable kid like me. no, VERY impressinoable. i never really understood what that meant. until my stroke, that is. it’s funny/ironic how it takes adversity to give one insight. i guess there’s no free lunch, huh?

11/63: jfk is assasinated: VERY VERY big deal in my house. i see my father cry for the 1st time as he sees that black riderless horse at his funeral on tv. things are never quite the same.

’64: i am aware of th beatles: VERY BIG DEAL. their influence on me, culture, thought, you name it, is inestimable. they were at th right place at the right time. ALWAYS always a good strategy. hell, it’s working for me!

’65: music continues to be influential, e.g., beatles, byrds, stones

’66: music: beatles, byrds, stones, lovin spoonful, et al

’67: music: hendrix, jefferson airplane, sgt peppers. the psychedelic era looms large for me. HUGE.

4/68-6/68: king’s assasination, rfk’s assassination, democratic convention in chicago, vietnam, et al: i’m only 15. i REALLY think america is falling apart. i REALLY think there’ll be a revolution, an overthrow of th govt. i think, before all this stuff that’s about to go down, that there’s a chance for jfk’s “utopian dream.” i was not alone in my thinking here, either. whatever uotpian dream jfk had set up in my head (or my parents had set up in my head, and fostered by th “accentuate th positive” gestalt that was such a part of th ’50s for me) died in ’68.

8/69: woodstock: again, i cannot emphasize its influence. you see, for most baby boomers, th 60’s was just another decade: they grew their hair long and smoked pot and protested th war and listned to psychedelic music et al. mostly cos they were young and everybody else was doing it. but now they’re doctors or lawyers or stockbrokers or whatever, and that ENERGY of th 60’s is no longer with them. but it IS with me. and i no longer have to sublimate it as i did when i was a chiropractor. in retrospect, i see that i was incredibly informed by th ’60s. for example, in th fall of ’69 i went to visit my brother, who was then a sophomore at college. i was 16 at th time. he had all these ZAP comix, which i had never seen before. i was into art when i was a kid, and these comix blew my mind. i remember spending hours tudying them: rick griffin, r crumb, s clay wilson, moscosco, spain, rick williams. i never stopped my obsession with them. i owe a lot of my graphic style/sensibility to underground comix, especially crumb and griffin. i saw the movie CRUMB. unbelievable. i still study th way these guys draw. eyeballs, e.g.

9/70: i see th grateful dead for th 1st time. talk about being informed/influence by th ’60s. i was at a time in my life where almost anything seemed possible; now i’m in a time in my life where EVERYTHING seems possible. anyway, on looking back on seeing th dead, one thing stands out: th limitless potential/power of “morphing” music with visual images, and now i can “distill” it down to sound and light. i saw th dead @ the old FILLMORE EAST in nyc. they used to have light shows there. and they’d make th light show correspond to th music. so, during th opening act, TH NEW RIDERS OF TH PURPLE SAGE, this connection is being made obvious. before th dead come out, they show this silent movie of an old locomotive steaming through snow-covered traacks. then th dead start playing one of my favorite songs, CASEY JONES. i am indelibly impressed. i think my artistic interest in combining sound and light comes from understanding just how synergistic it can be. e.g., grateful dead.

9/71: i matriculate @ univ of penn

11/72: my father dies of a heart attack @ age 49. for th past 27 yrs, i’ve divided my life into 2 periods: pre-this and post-this. this was/is/will be th most transcendent, transforming, catclysmic, you-name-it event in my life. i guess th stroke vs. my father’s death is in a photo-finish for this distinction, but whatever comes out ahead is wholly moot. i was 19 when he died so i’ve spent TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS w/o him TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS!!!!

9/73: my mother remarries BILL ZHEUTLIN

9/75: i start a master’s program in environmental science @ rutgers univ in new brunswick, nj. i need a place to live and i see a sign in th cafeteria advertising an opening for a roommate. the house is about forty minutes away in th country. th guy sez they’re all vegetarians and into meditation. i am totally psyched! i have hippie pretensions (but i’m not a true hippie; i’m a college grad, upper-middle class and attending grad school), so i immediately check this place out & live there for two yrs. HIGHLY FORMATIVE. i learn lots about nutrition and meditation, and these guys are all into chiropractic. i start going to a chiropractor, and next thing you know, it’s ’77 & i’m going to chiropractic school.

9/77: i start PALMER COLLEGE OF CHIROPRACTIC in davenport, ia.

6/80: i meet dr. bruce hedendal, a chiropractor in gloucester, ma, at a seminar in nyc. i am impressed by this guy. i decide when i get out of school, i’m going to work for him. this is why i move to cape ann. my relationship w hedendal sours in ’82, but i’m mentioning this because w/o meeting hedendal, i would’ve never moved to cape ann, met kim, had our kids, etc

10/80: i graduate fr chiro school

10/80: i get married for th 1st time. i feel uncomfortable talking about this. but so what? th period i am involved with JANET, from ’76 to ’82, makes a big, lasting impression on me. much of th “angsty”, chaotic, dark energy that is expressed in my art comes from how i relate to this. not to say this energy was non-existent before i met her. but she sure FACILITATED it. i was too screwed up when i was with her to express it in any productive/creative way, even though i still was a chiro.

10/80: i move to cape ann

10/82: i open the HAMILTON CHIROPRACTIC CENTER in south hamilton, ma. i was TOTALLY into being a chiro. i’m incredulous when i look back at my level of commitment & dedication. that sure ain’t me now! i remember loving being a chiro. man, i was so into it! i was a good chiro, too. i got really good @ treating jaw (“TMJ” — temporomandibular joint) disorders. i went all over th country taking and giving seminars. i usd to TEACH seminars to other doctors! cool! i taught at minneapolis, atlanta, chicago, orlando, nyc, ma, omaha, and nj. i used to wear a suit, drive a saab, and man, thinking about how i was in my office, i can’t believe it. i was respected in my community. i was DR. SARKIN. i took X-Rays; i made sick peole well; people came to me in pain & i took their pain away. i wished i kept all th letters overjoyed patients wrote to me over th yrs. i really made a difference in a lot of people’s lives. how can you put a price on taking someone that couldn’t work and healing them so they could return to work? it was very rewarding to make miserable people happy. i try not to look back, but i’m not always successful. do i miss it? like i said, i try not to look back. i was into it lock, stock & barrel. hassles w patients. hassles w staff. hassles w insurance companies. bring em on!! i loved th GAME: can you make th benefits of chiro outweigh th costs?

4/83: i meet kim. this is th best thing that happened/is happening/will happen to me. i have quite an active imagination, but it fails miserably when i try to imagine something better happening to me than being married to kim. th movie about my life wins an oscar for best picture? big deal! someone sends me a check for $1,000,000,000? big deal! no, these are very, VERY small potatoes compared to meeting kim, marrying her and having kids with her. i can safely say that th next event in my life that will compete with kim and our kids is our kids gettng married and becoming a grandfather. meeting her has made material things take their proper place in my back seat.

6/26/86: i am married @ stillington hall in glo

1/87: my last full year before th 10/80 “cerebral excitement” (CE) resulting in my stroke

1/16/88: curtis david is born @ beverly hosp birthing ctr

10/88: golf course incident resulting in stroke

8/89: stroke

11/89: i am released as an inpatient

5/90: i return to work

8/18/91: robin page is born @ bev hosp

8/2/94: caroline ruth is born @ bev hosp

6/94: i sell chiro practice

8/94: i retire fr chiro practice

11/95: i rent my gloucester art studio

1/97: th article in GQ appears

2/97: cruise-wagner (parmount) agrees to purchase my life story w th intent of tom cruise depicting me

12/97: th screenwriter and cruise-wagner exec spend about a wk in cape ann

6/99: i am on wbur’s “connection” radio show w christopher lydon