Painter Joel LeBow is the resident painter and owner of the Hazard House Gallery at 38 West Broadway in Jim Thorpe. Several pieces of his new work are on display at the Opera House Gallery at 14 W Broadway in a new exhibition. His reflections on the artistic life follow.
I knew I was destined for a career as an artist when I received a watercolor set from my Aunt Evelyn for my 10th birthday. I painted pictures of birds and she hung them up in her bookkeeping office. It was my first one-person exhibition. I wanted more. I kept painting.
In high school, I was one of those art kids, who, coming from a practical middle class family, was persuaded to take up a more secure occupation. I entered the University of Pennsylvania as a pre-medical student. I painted instead of hitting the books. Great grades began to decline until realized that I would fail at everything I would try in life…except being an artist. So I enrolled in art school, now called The University of the Arts, and later went to the Art Students League.
I had some good years as an abstract expressionist painter in New York, but, the bad years began to outnumber the good years and I searched for a way to continue to survive financially. I discovered that I had a latent artistic talent for medical art. I created work for pharmaceutical companies. I began to hire people to help me meet the demands of my growing business and to allow me to keep on painting. It was a juggling act. Speaking of artistic survival, I met Andy Warhol, when he was drawing pictures of shoes to pay his bills, before his fabled career bloomed. I also met many, many more other artists who simply vanished.
I knew many of the earliest “giants” of the abstract expressionist movement in NY, but, I was most influenced by my teacher and friend, Franz Kline. Also, one of the strongest influences in my painting was Melville Price, who, like Kline, died at a relatively young age. It was from Kline that I first heard the name: Lehighton, PA, long before I imagined having my studio and home in nearby, historic Jim Thorpe.
It seems I was magically drawn here. My medical art venture had made me financially secure enough to continue painting and exhibiting. My work has been shown and owned throughout the United States, and in Ireland, China, Japan, Germany, Costa Rica, and is in collections that include The Newark Museum; The Mattel Corporation; The AT&T Corporation; The Quaker State Corporation; The Anita Shapolsky Foundation; Pettit & Martin; Piper & Marbury; The Washington Chorale; Opera en Rhein; The Endick Collection; and the United States State Department.
I regard my current work as abstract surrealism. My entire life can be traced through memories. I know that each viewer has a vast bank of visual memories to draw upon when they see my images. Pictures can be made from memories and memories can be made from pictures. My work must make the viewer remember…and feel.