James Fortune – Retrospective at Plymouth State University

Art Girl

The Fortune retrospective is a “not to miss” show about a brilliant mind and a professor of art who inspired generations of young artist/art educators.

I was one of those young artist/educators and a malleable one at that. Professor Fortune had a profound effect on me and was inspirational to all my fellow students.

Back in the late 70s, I walked into an introductory course and met the artist. What I found was an individual who was off the mass culture grid. It was a refreshing change and an opportunity to extend my limited artistic oeuvre.

After spending a considerable amount of freshman cash on basic oil paints and the obligatory brushes on the supplies list, Professor Fortune took hold of my new brushes and admired their beauty. Perhaps the beauty they could create. I was artistically smitten.

Artwork of Jim Fortune
Artwork of Jim Fortune

Professor Fortune was a great artist. The curators will tell you that. What I can tell you is that my courses with him molded my teaching style and my willingness to try new media – paper pulp in particular.

To this day, when I look at a work of student art that isn’t artistically strong, I remember to find an aspect of the art to celebrate. The student feels supported and works to develop other aspects of their artistic journey. I do this every day and it still serves me well.

Paper pulp and handmade paper are ripe for so many possibilities. After Fortune was well established as an oil painter, he took a detour (or perhaps a direct route) into explorations into a medium that we all use daily without any artistic vision at all. To look at Professor Fortune’s works is to see how far he was able to extend our understanding.

Professor Fortune was a great painter. His self-portrait explorations were outstanding. What you will find are great color, texture and a sophisticated ability to capture something well beyond a simple likeness. His work in this area was the real deal – unattainable for many who aspire for it.

Fortune’s reflections on his own art include the concept that he was looking to reveal what could not be revealed, the “aspirations of the human spirit.” For the viewer or perhaps the non-artist, Fortune sought to “take the viewer beyond themselves.” This retrospective is an opportunity for us to see both.

In a creative decision to share the legacy of Professor James Fortune, this retrospective is located in four gallery locations. Please treat yourself to all four in order to understand the full story of an artistic life well lived.

For more about Kimberly J.B. Smith is an artist and art educator. Visit her website at kimberlyjbsmith.com. You can contact her at artgirl@weirs.com