I am a 47 year old white man. I have been married for nearly 20 years and I have two adult children. I grew up in Georgia and I have been making art seriously since I was 16. Growing up as a white man in the rural south, I grew up surrounded by overt racism, homophobia, and sexism. In addition to this, I spent my early adult life in blue collar employment. This position and awareness drove me to question power, privilege and societal norms. My identical twin brother and I are the first generation of college educated men in our family and my father died of ALS when I was a teenager. This gave me a sense of the value of: being able to move my body, a human life, and of working with my hands. After that, I earned a BFA from the University of Georgia in 1997. I walked the 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 1998, then I spent three years as a bike messenger in Atlanta. I completed 2 cross continent bicycle tours in the United States and I continued to work blue collar jobs until I went back to school to support my new family in 2006 at the University of Oregon where I earned a bachelors in biology, a master’s in education and then became a high school science teacher for the next 12 years (my induction into the middle class). I am currently a scientist, a feminist, and an anti-racist educator.
My background, interests, and the importance of justice and neuroscience in education have influenced my artwork, and drive much of my academic research practice. In my artwork however, I tend towards the personal before the political. My research is, like my art, a journey towards understanding not a pronouncement of it. In my research, my life, my teaching, and my art, I am interested in the journey not the destination. I ask questions and learn to ask better questions through the asking. The truth is, as a teacher I discovered that I learn from my students; as a parent I found that I learn from my children. Each person I interact with gives me another opportunity to learn. Every day I hope to understand more. I hope to become better at teaching, parenting, learning, and making art by continuing to live and staying open to experience. Most of my work as an artist is connected to continuing this process of personal growth. For this purpose, I recently started the MFA studio art program at American University.
My work is intimate, whether it explores the innermost workings of the human mind, makes fun of itself, is a celebration of life, or simply portrays an intimate view of a person that is so personal you might want to look away. I work in sketchbooks every day, and the notes I take, journal entries and poems I write, as well as the sketches and visual experiments I create (lines of inquiry) form the center of my artistic practice. I work in all mediums. Though drawing and painting are my faithful allies and most of my work starts with these mediums, I am a found object collector and a naturalist at heart, and the detritus of life often finds its way into my 2-D and sculptural work.
The way will become clear (4 lines of inquiry) by Jarrett Arnold
This body of work represents 4 lines of inquiry I am currently pursuing. The primary goal for each of these bodies of work is to explore myself and the world around me in order to better understand each and to convey to others in an authentic way my experiences and growing understandings. By working with my hands directly in the mediums of drawing, painting, collage, and sculpture, I imbue each work with something of myself and I learn more about myself and the world as I work. My hope is that those that view the work can find something in the show that moves or inspires them. These lines of inquiry are not distinct from each other, much of the work belies easy categorization even within my own groupings. This work is a journey- an exploration- it is not a destination and it leads to more questions than answers.
Inquiry 1: The non-representational work (including The Digging For Fire series)
During the past month I have had the opportunity to watch the sunrise on four separate occasions. While watching this daily miraculous event I was stricken by its beauty. I took some photos, and short videos. The thing is, a video or a photo can not convey the experience and the experience is unique for every viewer. Likewise, a drawing or a painting can not actually accomplish this. In addition, because my experience of the sunrise is different from someone else’s, we can also say that one person’s experience of a work of art is not the same as someone else’s.
This all brought back to me something that Wassily Kandinsky wrote about that I first read in the 90s when I was an undergraduate. He wanted to give the experience of the Moscow sunset to a viewer, so he started his artistic career as a landscape painter. Early in the twentieth century however, he went to see a symphony by Wagner and realized that Wagner’s symphony did what his landscapes could not. The symphony smote his heart in the same way as the sunset, yet the symphony was in no way an attempt to portray a sunset figuratively. This then drove Kandinsky towards abstract expression and a new form of art was invented. The pieces in this body of work are driven by a desire to express the emotional mood conveyed by a song or album without direct reference to imagery of any kind. Some of these pieces started as pictures with reference that I obliterated during the process, others never contained identifiable images. This work is made to music and driven by it, and in this work, I let process and chance dictate many of the elements in the finished pieces. Joe, a puppet I made this spring, started many of the most recent pieces in this body of work.
Inquiry 2: Self in the world
If anything has become clear in the world of art today, then it is an awareness of the artist’s position in the world. We (educated humans) understand that society (all societies) are inequitable and we understand that privilege and lack of privilege influence what we portray, how we see the world, how we make and see our work within the world, and whether or not we have opportunities to exhibit or sell our work. At the core of this is the understanding that experience is subjective. No one person can convey to everyone else a specific feeling or emotion and have it universally understood. There are no universals, because there is no person who has experiential knowledge of every person’s position within a given culture or society. As identities and cultures shift, so too do these positions. That being said, the work in this line of inquiry attempts to express difficult to describe emotions and feelings from my perspective and the feelings and emotions of people who are close to me within the context of the modern world. In these works, I combine figurative and abstract elements in order to establish a more poetic sense of meaning and feeling. These pieces, however, are open to the viewer’s subjective viewpoint, and though titles allude to the feelings and ideas that became relevant during their creation, I am more interested in what the viewer perceives or feels when looking at the work than I am in the ideas and feelings that the work brought up while I created it. In these works the process plays an important role. I let process direct the outcome of each piece in combination with choices I make that are not process based. I am not exactly sure what these works are about. These pieces are a journey of self-discovery. These pieces are hopefully left ambiguous and unresolved enough to let the viewer decide what they mean for themselves. I created these pieces by combining loose abstract strokes and more precise resource driven imagery.
Inquiry 3: Portraits and copies of Master Works (Realism*)
I still believe that my artwork is important and that the work that artists do has more than just decorative value. In graduate school, I realized the value of other people’s subjective understandings of art . I think that each person can define art differently from every other person and that no person can decide for any other which definition has more value. At the core of this belief for me, is a belief in the importance of every person, and the importance of people. Given that there is a subjective component to art, if we value a person, then we must accept that each person’s ideas around art have some intrinsic value. Drawing and painting my friends, family, and artists at work is a practice I have continued throughout my life that inspires me to keep creating and helps me celebrate and understand the people in my life and the artists I most admire. This practice runs concurrently with my practice of drawing and painting master works in museums. By drawing and painting the works of artists that most move and influence me, I am learning from others and growing as an artist while sharing the work that is most important to me.
*I am intentionally referring here to a set of proposed beliefs that loosely define the Realist artists of the mid to late 1800s as described by Linda Nochlin
Inquiry 4: The figure (what lies within)
An interest in the physical human body lies at the core of my art work. I initially focused on the human figure during my undergraduate years at the University of Georgia from 1992-1997. For several of these years I was a dance minor and I was a figure model for art classes while I made figure drawings myself. The human body- to me- is so completely awe inspiring and miraculous. Later in life, (2006-2008 BS in biology from the University of Oregon) I explored the human body as a biologist and a science teacher (MEd 2008-2009). I see connections at both the observational and internal level and am deeply interested in the intersection between the inner and outer anatomy, our lives at the cellular level- and neurological level, or our lives from an evolutionary and cultural perspective. To me these understandings are not separate from the physical manifestations of our external bodies. Is my brain not a physical entity rife with predispositions that have evolved in populations over time? Am I not, at core, an individual organism within the large group Animalia? Within these distinctions lie the mysteries of the societies we create along with their mythologies that allow humans to perpetrate the most horrible and most noble acts. For me a drawing of a naked or nude person carries the entire 4.5 billion year history of probiotic and biotic life, and though its complexity defies easy interpretation, the beauty of the human figure can not be denied. Before covid, I was attending life model drawing sessions at Montgomery College and the Yellow Barn, and during covid I started using models from social media to continue my figure practice.
The Alchemy of Art is a local contemporary gallery focusing on but not limited to local up and coming artist. The building itself is a unique space as it is a converted convent and the gallery is on the entry level and one of the two rooms is the old chapel room with beautiful arched ceilings. Along with the gallery there is a boutique which carries locally made art and goods. The gallery hours are by appointment only. The gallery most recently won Baltimore Style Magazines Viewer Choice award for Best Gallery of 2018. To keep posted on hours of operation and events follow us on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/