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Saturday, Sep 20, 2014
South Tampa News

Hammer: Florida folk artist ‘Mr. B’ featured in Kotler Art Gallery


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Folk artist Jack Beverland, known in the folk art world as “Mr. B.,” is one of many participants in the “Homegrown in Hillsborough Festival,” a celebration for the whole family from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at The John F. Germany Public Library in downtown Tampa.

But he is the featured artist for the month in a solo exhibit at the Kotler Art Gallery in the John F. Germany Library downtown. And it’s quite an exhibit. It doesn’t span the breadth of his work. Rather, it provides a glimpse of his beginning style in 1993 and a fuller look at his current style in paintings from 2011 and 2012.

“I went from drawing with markers to flat paint and from flat paint to dimensional paint,” said Mr. B in a telephone interview. “And in 1994, I went to dimensional paint and glow-in-the-dark paints, and have been painting like that since.”

His choice of the thicker paint gives a luminosity and texture to his work that is not often seen in paintings. And like many other folk artists, his paintings have a tale to tell.

“With this thick paint and glow-in-the-dark paints and a storyteller focus, no one paints like I do,” he said. “A sane person wouldn’t have started using these paints. But I wanted to be unusual. And originally, I wanted folks to be able to touch it.”

Mr. B’s paintings are reflective and philosophical, expressing stories with a wide range of subjects, all of them depicted through his inimitable, colorful style.

“I always start with a title,” he said. “And from the title is what I draw and paint to. All my art tells a story. I’m a storyteller and I paint imagination. None of my art actually exists except in my head.”

The old and simple art of quilting became the inspiration for many of Mr. B.’s dimensional paintings.

“I bought a quilt book when I was started working with this dimensional paint,” he explained. “So I started doing quilts with paint on a board. If you look there’s a mistake in every quilt, because life is not perfect.”

He made a lot of these representational paintings, but only one is left — “Schoolhouse Quilt,” which can be seen in the exhibit.

A folk artist by definition is untrained and unschooled in the art. Mr. B. fits that description. He only began painting in 1992, after he lost his job due to a corporate downsizing.

“I was 53 years old,” he recalled. “I wasn’t ready to not work. And nobody wants you when you’re 53 years old, because you’re overqualified and they want younger people. I went crazy. My brother suggested to me that I start drawing my thoughts.”

A few of the paintings in the exhibit focus on this point in his life. Some, like “The Enforcer,” express anger, while others are more contemplative, like “Decisions, Decisions, Decisions.”

“Life is full of decisions and you have to live in answer to those decisions,” he said, explaining the idea behind the painting. “And there are consequences.”

He says that through painting, “I was trying to work myself out.” And it worked. Realizing that painting had been of benefit in helping him, Mr. B. became a an advocate and spokesman for art as therapy

“In 1997, I was invited to Washington D.C. to give a talk on mental health and art and they wanted to know what art did for someone who went over the deep end,” he said. “Art — you gotta express yourself and not lay it into your heart or your mind.”

The exhibit is up through October. Meet Mr. B. and see his work at a reception from noon to 1 p.m. today in the Kotler Gallery of the John F. Germany Library, 900 N. Ashley Drive, in downtown Tampa.

Mr. B. will do crafts with children at 10:30 a.m. and at 2 p.m. today in 1 West of the library. To learn more about today’s festival at the library, visit www.hcplc.org/hcplc/events/hihprogram.pdf.

To learn more about Mr. B. and his work, go to www.mr-b-folkartist.com.

Correspondent Esther Hammer can be reached at ehammer@tampatrib.com

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