Rail Walk exhibit features Haymaker, Michael

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 14, 2011

By Katie Scarvey
A quick glimpse at the diverse group of paintings hanging in the current Rail Walk exhibit would lead one to believe that the gallery is hosting a group show.
But the paintings are the work of one person: Jim Haymaker, and as different as they are, there’s a harmony to the exhibit, which is called “Outside Inside.”
Jerry Michael’s hand-crafted furniture is also part of the exhibition, which opens tomorrow and continues through Oct. 22.
Haymaker’s paintings represent some 50 years of the artist’s life and range from abstract expressionism to realism.
Vincent Van Gogh was a particularly strong influence on Haymaker’s work for a time. Van Gogh, Haymaker says, “saw the world through his own eyes and reacted with a very personal emotional energy.”
The influence of Andrew Wyeth is evident in a work called “Sun-Ripened,” a realistic painting of a life-sized window with a tomato sitting on the windowsill. The dimensions are those of a real window. Haymaker points out that there are many windows in Wyeth paintings, and the perspective is sometimes from the inside, sometimes from the outside. Windows are symbolic, Haymaker says: “There’s a world out there, but also a world in here.
Commenting on his different styles, Haymaker says, “Every time I’ve painted, it’s like solving a problem, and the solution is different every time.”
Haymaker doesn’t believe in formulaic painting, which doesn’t allow the artist to get in touch with the subject.
As an artist, Haymaker immerses himself in his subject. He describes a painting made in January in Bucks County, Penn. It was 20 degrees, he recalls, and he took his canvas outside in the snow to be able to capture the mood he wanted to convey.
He’s done it quite successfully: the viewer can sense the bitter cold the image evokes.
Another painting of a house with a grape arbor strikes a much sunnier mood.
The painting is “a little wobbly and crazy,” Haymaker says, “but so was the house.”
The purpose of a creative artist, he says, is “to provide the viewer with a new way of seeing.”
Paintings for him are records of “where you’ve been, what you’ve done, and … how you’ve felt about what you’ve seen.” For that reason, they’re difficult for Haymaker to part with, although he does accept commissions.
He occasionally gives paintings away, if he can find a suitable home for them. “It’s like adopting children,” he says, smiling.
Haymaker was on the faculty of Pfeiffer University for more than 40 years, where he was head of the art department and director of the art gallery there. He recalls teaching a young college student named Clyde Overcash — who produced some fine work, he recalls.
He attended Duke University and earned degrees in studio art and art education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before joining the Pfeiffer faculty he served as art supervisor for the Chapel Hill schools and was a founder of the Chapel Hill Art Gallery, where he also exhibited his work.
Woodworker Jerry Michael hails from Oswego, NY and has lived in North Carolina for 12 years.
Haymaker met Michael when Michael designed a balcony and a deck for his house. Haymaker realized that Michael had an artist’s creative sensibility, and the two became friends.
Michael was a carpenter for some 40 years and has only recently gotten into furniture making, often working with old wood reclaimed from barns and other buildings.
The opening reception for “Outside Inside” is Friday, Sept. 16, from 4-6 p.m at Rail Walk Studios and Gallery, 409 N. Lee St.