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Itinerant Artist Project

Several years ago, a folksinger suggested that if I wanted to survive as a painter I might have to get used to staying in other people's houses. That was the seed for my idea of an Itinerant Artist Project.

Although the project eventually came to embrace a complex set of interests and motivations, its appeal to me owes a lot to its emulation of the folksinger model: bringing my art into people's lives while having a more or less supportive, interested audience to interact with, day after day. It struck me as - and has proven to be - a welcome contrast to the usual routine that most artists take for granted: working in isolation, then, maybe once a year, meeting a small crowd at an exhibition opening for a few hours. (more...)

There is gift-exchange in my life, to be sure, but even I have never had the nerve to try an experiment as full as the one you undertook. Bravo!

- Lewis Hyde, author of The Gift and Trickster Makes This World

. . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . ... . . . . . . .The original logo (photo by Theo Gray)

The Itinerant Artist Project is a painting-based project with strong public outreach and performance dimensions. It involves locating (by various means) a series of voluntary "hosts" around the USA, touring by car from host to host, and at each stop painting several small location paintings, offering one in exchange for the hospitality provided (room, board and occasional conversation for 2-5 days).

Since starting the IAP in 2000, Iíve spent an average of one month per year on the road, operating on national, regional, and local scales.

Among other things, the project explores the function of art as gift and the effect of a provisional gift economy on productivity. The interactions with people and places, the combination of private creative practice with civic engagement, the deliberate movement outside conventional cultural patterns and expectations have made this an inspiring and illuminating adventure.

In recent years, along with touring, I have focused on sharing IAP art and ideas with a wider audience, through ongoing talks, exhibits, interviews and articles. At the same time, while still doing the occasional cross-country art trip, I have been experimenting increasingly with community-based work: concentrating on seeing a single metropolitan area from several vantage points. Notable in this respect was a 10-stop tour of my hometown, Rochester, NY, called ROC-ART. And a spin-off project called the Landscape Lottery.

A selection of paintings from several national and regional tours, the ROC-ART project, and the Tucson iteration of the Landscape Lottery can be seen by following the links on the New Portfolios page.

The IAP has been pivotal for my development as an artist. Besides giving me new ways to think about my role as a painter, and as a mediator between art and place and public, the touring has stimulated unexpected productivity, and the resulting artwork and stories have drawn local, national and even international press. A sampling of reviews from other artists, critics, and the media can be seen: here.

Although the touring itself is based on the principle of gift exchange and is therefore largely self-supporting and largely removed from the market economy, sales of paintings, prints and cards are necessary to cover inevitable project expenses and to keep me going the rest of the time. Purchases, sponsorship, commissions, and patronage of any kind are all greatly appreciated.

It is my hope, however, that viewers of my art and visitors to this website will, first and foremost find interest, enjoyment, and something to think about in what they see.

For more information, follow the various links on this page, or contact me at: jhmott [at] juno [dot] com.


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