Artist Randall Sellers, 41, moved to Jim Thorpe from Philadelphia in 2007. “I was attracted to the dizzying multi-leveled aspect of the town, the narrow sloping streets and ruined terraces, like a European hill town but rich with American history.”
It’s no surprise that Sellers chose Jim Thorpe to make his escape. His tiny, richly detailed graphite drawings and gouache paintings often depict jumbles of imaginary ruins and sci-fi architecture in a palimpsest of past and future.
“I have always loved history. I spent my junior year abroad in Rome. We’d sneak into the Roman Forum at night with flashlights and bottles of wine and explore the Augustan palaces.”
After studying painting at Tyler School of Art, Sellers moved near the Italian Market in Philadelphia, worked the requisite “bohemian” jobs at TLA Video, the Book Trader, and Mambo Movers, and began showing his drawings at the Bean Cafe on South Street, where he sat by the front window and drew almost every day.
In 2002 Sellers was discovered by a gallery in Los Angeles and his art career took flight. The Armory Show in NYC, swank fairs in Miami, group shows throughout the US and abroad in Paris, Tokyo, Lisbon, Seoul, and London, followed. His miniature drawings which previously sold for $60 now fetched $3,000 and more.
Today Sellers’s drawings are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, NY; the New Museum of Contemporary Art, NY; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; and numerous other public and private collections including Peter Norton (Norton Utilities Software) and Takashi Murakami (“100 Most Influential People”, Time Magazine 2008).
By 2007 Sellers was ready for a break from the art world, and a change of scenery. The son of a veterinarian, he had grown up in rural Chester County, PA, and has a grandmother in the Poconos, so the move from Philadelphia to Jim Thorpe was a natural.
After living on West Broadway for a year, Sellers opened a used book shop and studio/gallery at 101 Broadway in Jim Thorpe, which he now calls Sleeping Bear Books & Art.
The shop is filled with an eclectic collection of hand-picked used books, most priced between $3 and $10. He also exhibits recent artwork in the shop, some of it for sale, and visitors may find him drawing during his usual Fri/Sat/Sun/Mon hours. He also keeps the “Jim Thorpe Film Library”, some 700+ DVDs including many obscure documentaries and international films, in a closet for neighbors to rent.
In the summer of 2009, while still maintaining his bookstore/gallery, Sellers became artist-in- residence at Graystones Preserve, a 3,800-acre nature preserve near Hickory Run State Park, 15 miles northeast of Jim Thorpe. He lives in the gatehouse there and helps maintain the preserve, which has been a private fly fishing club since 1934.
“This month I’ve seen a mother bear with three yearling cubs, a 650-pound male bear, a bald eagle dropping a trout in midair to a younger eagle, and countless buck, doe, and fawn, not to mention wild turkeys. Graystones is an adventure almost every day, a spectacularly beautiful and relaxing place.”
When he isn’t shelving books or tracking wildlife, Sellers continues to make and exhibit art in Jim Thorpe and around the globe. “Draw!”, a traveling show of 350 artists including Sellers opened June 19 in Mexico City at the Museo de la Cuidad de Mexico and continues through August 15, 2010.
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