Slowed but not defeated by various medical adventures, in March of 2013 we escaped Portland’s winter in a trip to Jerome, Arizona.
First, it’s plastered up against a very steep hillside, which makes housing difficult but views fantastic.
Jerome Map, 30 x 40″, oil on canvas, 2013
Jerome was a copper town that flourished from about 1890 through 1935.¬† During its heyday, it garnered some fantastic (in various meanings of the word) architecture, as well as a large number of shacks and shanties. The town lost most of its inhabitants when the mines shut down (10,000 population at its peak, fewer than 100 in 1960, about 400 now). Buildings succumbed to neglect, to landslides, and to the biggest mining company, which had its managerial-class houses torn down or taken away after the mines closed down. What is left, however, still resonates with history and a certain eccentricity.
Jerome, Arizona, 18 x 24″, oil on masonite, 2013
Jerome has been the haunt of artists for a long time. The Jerome State Historic Park,¬† former home of one of the copper kings, has a fine collection of art done by a long-time resident. The unused-hospital–turned-high-school, four large structures on the hogback below town, now consists of artist studios and small businesses; that’s where I hung out while I was in town. I also painted the old school complex (with which I became fairly enamored) from the balcony of our mid-town apartment up the hill.
¬†The Rim and the Arts Complex, Jerome AZ, 18 x 24,¬† oil on masonite, 2013
The best place to paint from, however, was the old cemetery (in the painting above, it would be located, had I located it, on a spit of land to the left of the hogback where the structures stand).
The Rim from the Cemetery, 12 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2013
Looking northeast from the cemetery is the Verde Valley and the red rocks of the Mogollon Rim, where Sedona is located. Looking southwest (behind the artist in the cemetery scenes) is Cleopatra Hill and the town of Jerome.¬† Copper mine tailings, as well as the Gulch, a reputedly rough neighborhood during the mining era, are observable from the cemetery.
Jerome Cemetery I, 12 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2013
Jerome Cemetery II, 12 x 12″ oil on masonite, 2013
I painted at the cemetery, with more or less success for more than half our stay. Finally I couldn’t put it off any longer. I had to tackle the town itself.
Jerome doesn’t have a flat spot to place your feet. Every building is built on a hillside and many are canted in various directions. Painting a steep, structure-laden hillside from a sloping bit of grass isn’t easy. Mostly I painted from our balcony. Here are three views of the neighborhood.
Back Patio, 16 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2013
Green House, 16 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2013
Terraces, 16 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2013
I became fascinated by the ubiquitous stairs that dominated every where you walked in Jerome.
These stairs,¬† the windows from which I spent hours mesmerized by the landscape, and the ever-changing Mogollon Rim, became fuel for later paintings.
Jerome Stairs, 12 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2013
My fascinations, however, led me down a wholly different path from the pictorial one I pursued in town, one that I continued after I got home. Here’s a taste of where I went:
Jerome Stairs, Abstracted, 12 x 16″, oil on masonite, 2013
In the next post, I’ll show you what happened to my painting once I returned from Jerome and settled into the studio.