The video
Celebrate Jimmy
Can be watched
in the next room
to the right.

Jimmy about Jimmy

From a conversation with Robert Amos, circa 2006

"I'm a 68 year old mess at the top of my game. I got grey hair, half a complement of teeth, a weak stream, a trashed lumbar, and a shitty attitude. I smile at most kids and leer at most rednecks, and for a guy with a Masters degree in economics from Berkeley I probably say fuck too much. I'm low on pretension, I don't admire ambition, most people who are real earnest scare me, and I'm ready to move on to a new paradigm..."

Jimmy Wright was blunt. "This is my art factory," he said by way of introduction to his studio. "I'm an artist, but I'm more than that. My job is to paint stuff that people are gonna buy." But isn't an artist supposed to be some sort of divinely inspired genius, in touch with the cosmos? We may talk about artistic integrity and the sufferings of the creative individual, but we live in a market-driven economy.

Earlier in his life, Wright was an economist and learned to relate to the world in a pragmatic way. Later, he became a fishing guide in northern British Columbia, and developed his vision working as a photographer. When I first met him in about 1986, he had just arrived in Victoria, penniless, with no artistic training and ready to make his living by creative expression. At that time I was dubious, but he did very well with his art.

He never had inventory. Very few artists can make that boast. On easels in front of him were half dozen large canvases awaiting shipment. These canvases were basically abstract, but each carried an "icon" - a polar bear motif, for instance.

Inscribed onto the "cave walls", like anonymous graffiti, are Wright's discrete little messages. Near a buffalo icon are tally marks. You just know that the painter/economist considered the value of these "kills" and is telling us these marks will never add up to what was lost when the buffalo were decimated. Abstruse mathematical formulae written nearby are actually the code by which our exploitation of natural resources is driving us into well-upholstered poverty.

At the outset of his career as a painter, he was in love with vibrant primary colours. Market research later indicated that people actually prefer to buy paintings with warm earth tones, yellow ochre and red oxide. So that’s what he gave them. Is that a bad thing?

Happy in his studio, Wright found painting a delightful way to spend time. "The more time you scratch at 'em, the more you build up the surface, you're just enhancing it," he insisted. "You're creating that wonderful textured wall that you’re gonna drop your icon on."

"Art is just a product," Wright reflected. In this case, it's a product that is well-made, and made with consideration for those who will love it and buy it and live with it. If that allows the works of Jimmy Wright to be enjoyed even after he has gone, that's a good thing too.