Who was J C Hall? (1932-2017)
Excerpts courtesy of Gene Monteith
October, 2010 hiVelocitymedia.com
For J C Hall (Jim), innovation roared in on the back of a stroke and a bout with shingles. The result was a new vision of the world and a brand new art form, which is gaining attention for the shimmering colors and almost-moving shapes the former Procter & Gamble executive paints with thousands of straight vertical lines.
Hall recently opened the first all-Lineillism show at the Fine Arts Gallery in Sharonville, Ohio. Thirty-six pieces, painted over the last decade, demonstrate a technique that the Cincinnati Enquirer called possibly the first new art form since Impressionism.
But Lineillism is only the latest chapter for Hall, whose 78-year story is a rich tapestry of places and events almost as varied as the hues on his canvases. The story goes something like this:
In the 1940s a young boy on a hardscrabble tobacco farm in Kentucky is encouraged by his teacher to illustrate stories for extra credit. He loves it and starts painting on canvas boards, later saying that his farm must have had more art work than any other place in Kentucky – but on the outside of buildings, since his father used some of the paintings to patch holes.
He graduates from high school and works briefly as a Church of Christ minister, earning a scholarship to a Bible college in Louisville. But the farm boy, who has never been out of Kentucky, longs to see California. He joins the Navy in a group of recruits destined for San Diego.
After the service, he remains in southern California, where he studies art at UCLA. He lives on Santa Monica Beach, selling his artwork from a lean-to shack that doubles as his home.
But his creditors suggest he get a real job. He ends up at Procter & Gamble's regional office in LA. The farm boy meets a girl and marries, rises through the ranks and is promoted to the home office in Cincinnati in 1963. He retires in 1991 as advertising manager and opens a studio and gallery near his Sharonville home, calling it Artist-In-Residence.
The birth of an art form
Hall says he playfully told those gathered at his retirement party that Procter & Gamble represented a 35-year interruption in his art career. Nothing could be further from the truth. While at P&G, Hall continued to paint and sell his works.
But that all came to a screeching halt in 1996 when Hall suffered a stroke.
"After having that stroke, I had absolutely no ambition, no creative energy at all to do anything artistic," Hall remembers. "And my wife kind of convinced me to do one Christmas card a year. I'd paint one winter scene or something like that."
Then, in 2000, Hall contracted shingles, which he describes as "the most painful thing I ever went through." At the end of the fifth week, something dramatic changed in Hall's brain, he says.
"I started sketching, and writing and painting. It was almost like an epiphany, like I was the smartest person in the world. I was telling my son, 'I can build a carburetor,' and I know nothing about carburetors."
He says a doctor offered this possibility: "The stroke may have changed things around a bit in the blood flow in your brain and the pain of the shingles could have acted like an electric shock and switched things around again, in a different way."
"It was at that point that I started seeing things in lines."
Hall says outdoor scenes, television programs – everything -- seemed full of lines. He began to wonder what it would look like to paint that way. He dabbled with straight, vertical lines for a time, finally deciding to create an entire painting in what he would come to call Lineillism. He started "Outer Banks" in Oct., 2001 from a photo taken that summer by daughter-in-law Dena Hall.
"It was a painting of rocking chairs sitting on a porch looking out over the Outer Banks. I worked maybe a year on it, kept giving up on it, and said to myself 'I really don't even know why I'm doing this any more, it's kind of crazy, and it's also very hard.' And that was my answer – I wanted to do it because it was very hard."
Hall contacted the Miller Gallery in Cincinnati – a fine art dealer with which Hall had an exclusive contract for many years – and asked owner Barbara Miller to convene a group of experts to view the new work.
"When I unveiled the painting, I said, 'my only question is: has this ever been done before?' And categorically it was 'no, it has not been done before.'"
Looking toward the future
The Sharonville show opened Sept. 24 and included thirty-six works – thirty-five of them event-only priced between $1,200 and $350 – much lower than the $3,000 to $4,000 his first few Lineillism works commanded, "mainly because I wanted people to have them." The thirty-sixth painting, "Outer Banks," had not been for sale to this point, but was in the show with the event-only price of $5,000. The show closed October 24, 2010.
The exhibition has resulted in publicity he never expected and surprising attention from those outside of Ohio, he says. Hall plans to continue painting and teaching.
When asked which artist he admires the most, Hall says Claude Monet. Considered the father of Impressionism, Monet was the first to paint with short, broken brush strokes using unmixed colors. While now considered one of the most innovative art forms ever conceived, Impressionism was called an abomination by many 19th Century critics.
Now comes Jim Hall. Fortunately, no one is calling Lineillism anything but groundbreaking.