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Jacob Kass: Painted Saws
May 2 - June 25, 2004
The William D. Cannon Art Gallery has the privilege to be the only venue west of the Mississippi to host an exhibition on loan from the Museum of American Folk Art in New York City. "Jacob Kass: Painted Saws" features 65 paintings and 19 drawings. Jacob Kass (1910-2000) painted on tools of all sizes and shapes -- handsaws, circular saws, ice saws, coping saws, sickles, corn cutters, and carpenter's squares. The nostalgic, anecdotal scenes of American life cover the sometimes turbulent years from the early part of the 20th century through the 1980's, filtered through the lens of the artist's imagination. (right: Jacob Kass, Painted Saws)
Jacob Kass began his career as an artist following a five-decade career as a master letterer and painter of commercial vehicles in Brooklyn. After his retirement to Vershire, Vermont, he became interested in repairing, decorating, and reselling furniture and accessories he bought at yard sales and auctions. His early embellishments on milk cans and frying pans soon gave way to decorations on saws and other cutting tools. Beginning with a depiction of his Vermont house, he painted landscapes and scenes of his New England surroundings, memories of his Brooklyn neighborhood, and idealized scenes of Largo, Florida, where he spent winters with his wife.
Jacob Kass's panoramic paintings on saws and tools are optimistic and reassuring in their sense of order; they reflect something of the American spirit -- the values of work, leisure, community and the blessing of nature. These painted vignettes serve as poignant reminders of what appear as simpler, trouble-free times. It is ironic that Kass chose potentially dangerous tools -- saws and sickles with jagged edges -- as supports for his idealized paintings. But these old tools were available at reasonable prices, and their varied shapes offered flat work surfaces and asymmetry that provided compositional challenges. The blade has potential for menace. But it also has power to harness natural forces to create a better life -- in construction and agriculture, and through personal expression. Kass saw work as a basic American value; many of his pictures focus on man at work. His compelling painted tools have dignity and invite the viewer to share his respect, awe and pleasure in the mystery of life.
Additional text concerning Jacob Kass: Painted Saws:
Jacob Kass's panoramic paintings on saws and tools depict nostalgic, anecdotal scenes of American life. They are optimistic and reassuring in their sense of order, they reflect something of the American spirit (the values of work, leisure, community and the blessing of nature). These painted vignettes -- largely benign landscape and cityscapes -- serve as poignant reminders of what appear as simpler, trouble-free times. The images, however, filtered through the lens of the artist's imagination, cover the sometimes turbulent years from the early part of the 20th century through the 1980's. Through his art, Kass -- a professional truck painter, designer, and letterer long before he started painting on saws -- reflected a certain bucolic and idealized image of 20th century America.
Jacob Kass earned his living as a painter and the manager of a family business, but his satisfaction as a working artist truly began after his retirement. It is curious but natural that he chose to continue painting as a hobby following a five-decade career as a master letterer and painter of commercial vehicles in Brooklyn. "When I retired at age sixty-three," he wrote, "I didn't want to look at a paintbrush again in my life." But he changed his mind after moving to Vershire, Vermont, where he became interested in repairing, decorating, and reselling furniture and accessories he bought at yard sales and auctions.
Kass's potrayals of America are broad and panoramic. His bird's-eye scenes are reminiscent of 19th century landscapes and townscapes. His compelling painted tools have dignity and invite the viewer to share his respect, awe and pleasure in the mystery of life. Kass enjoyed his life as an artist and continued to find pleasure in painting and the recognition it brought. "In my retiring years," he wrote, "I am fulfilling my lifelong ambition -- painting what I want for the pleasure of it and not because I have to."
The William D. Cannon Art Gallery has the priviledge of
being one of three venues outside New York to host this exhibition, and
the only venue west of the Mississippi. (It showed in Arkansas and in Massachussetts)
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Copyright 2003, 2004 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.