The Art of Chess and Other Things
“My father taught me both how to play chess and how to paint. At the time I didn’t know that these two activities would combine to make up a significant part of my life as an artist.”
Jim Todd began oil painting at the age of 10, under the tutelage of his father. He would often compose still lives using toys and household objects discovered in his family’s home. In 1989, while sorting through a box of childhood memorabilia, he uncovered an old plastic Renaissance-style chess set: One that he and his father used to play chess on! This enlivened Todd’s imagination as he envisioned a series of surrealistic paintings using the game of chess as a way of expressing his unique vision of the world.
Trompe l’oeil is a type of painting that creates realistic illusions of three-dimensional objects and space on flat surfaces, such as walls, ceilings, or on an artist’s canvas. The French term literally translates as “fool the eye.” Todd’s paintings are characterized by visual jokes that create tensions in the viewer’s mind between what is real and what is illusory. The Trompe l’oeil tradition became highly refined during the Renaissance period. Ironically, it was the Renaissance-style chess set from Todd’s childhood which prompted his very successful series of chess paintings. His chess series comprises some of his most successful and popular paintings, two of which were featured on the cover of “Chess Life” magazine (May, 1996). Todd feels his customers are drawn to the imaginative elements in his paintings. For example, a work may be intricately and realistically rendered, yet the situation or setting of the piece comes as a surprise to the viewer as the elements or settings seem incongruous to what the logical mind might expect. This intrigues viewers and causes them to spend more time examining the details of his work in order to resolve in their own minds what the work represents. This ability of Todd’s to “fool the eye” firmly establishes him in the Trompe l’oeil tradition.
Jim Todd’s original oil paintings have been exhibited in dozens of shows throughout the United States, and have received more than fifty awards. Todd was chosen as one of the top 100 artists for Arts in the Park’s National Art Contest, and, in 1992, he received the Artist of the Year Award bestowed by the greater St. Louis Art Association.
In addition to his popular chess series, Todd’s still life paintings have also won several Best-of-Show awards at regional art shows throughout the mid-west. Because of Todd’s skill in rendering a variety of subjects using the Trompe l’oeil tradition, delighted viewers always feel they can reach into his paintings and grasp the objects!
Todd believes that his paintings have the ability to challenge the skills and imaginations of children and adults alike. Todd reflects, “I hope that viewing my work will encourage others to explore their own imaginations. Perhaps my work will help them expand their abilities and perceptions while playing games such as chess or other games of skills. Perhaps my work will expand their own artistic endeavors, or perhaps it will simply expand how they view the world, perhaps more playfully or more creatively.” Imaginations are sure to be stirred when viewing the paintings of Jim Todd in his one-man show, “The Art of Chess and Other Things.” Please join us!
Reception for the artist: Jerome Art Walk, Sat. Oct.3, from 5-8 pm. Refreshments will be served.
“The Art of Chess and Other Things” runs Oct.2- Dec.2.
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