For the past several years, School of Visual Arts (SVA) alumnus Jason Bard Yarmosky has been winning art world praise for his ongoing series of affectionate, offbeat portraits of his grandparents, Len and Elaine Bard. Working variously with oils and graphite to create his painstakingly detailed depictions, Yarmosky has used his project to examine the complexities of aging and capture the wisdom and experience accrued over a long, well-lived life.
“In our society, we don’t celebrate getting older,” he says. “We celebrate youth, but it’s inevitable that we all age. So why can’t we celebrate the full life cycle?”
Yarmosky’s professional career began shortly after his 2010 graduation from SVA, the college of art and design in New York City, where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration. Later that year, he secured his first gallery representation after his work was shown in SVA’s booth at Miami Art Week — one of contemporary art’s most highly anticipated annual events. Since then, he has received an Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant, a prestigious award given to emerging figurative artists; participated in dozens of group and solo exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad; and been written up in such publications as Artforum, Complex and Juxtapoz.
Thanks to their status as collaborators and subject of Yarmosky’s paintings, his grandparents — who are now in their 90s — have won their share of attention, too.
“When they come to my openings they’re treated like stars,” he says. “It’s amazing to me that I’m using my art to explore things that I think about in life — the things that interest me the most — and that I can do it with the people I’m the closest with. That’s special.”
Of course, aging comes with its problems, health and otherwise. After Mrs. Bard was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Yarmosky and his grandparents decided to continue with their collaboration, given the importance it’s grown to assume in all of their lives. “Somewhere,” Yarmosky’s 2017 exhibition at the University of Maine Museum of Art, was an in-depth exploration of her condition.
“My large-scale portraits study expressions of dementia, confronting the viewer with psychological vulnerability,” he says. “They respond to the loss of control and the subconscious mind, speaking to a dreamlike state, a place intangible to those not experiencing it.”
Yarmosky is currently represented by Aeroplastics Contemporary in Brussels. For more information, visit jasonyarmosky.com.