At an age when some artists put down their brushes and retire, Jim Adams is earning new appreciation for his acrylic paintings.
Vancouver Art Gallery will showcase his work this spring, and a gallery in Los Angeles has represented him for close to three years now.
“It’s taken awhile for my work to gain traction,” affirmed the longtime White Rock resident, who turns 78 in October. “But it’s there now and, you know, to get noticed before I kick the bucket, that’s all we can ask for,” he added with a laugh.
For more than four decades Adams has been an advocate for the visual arts in Surrey and beyond, and in 2008 was given Surrey’s Civic Treasure award for his contributions.
Opening May 22 for an eight-month run at Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG), “Vancouver Special: Disorientations and Echo” is a group exhibit that includes Adams among the 30-plus featured artists.
It’s second in a series of shows planned to provide an expansive look at contemporary art in the Greater Vancouver region, a post on vanartgallery.bc.ca explains. “For the 2021 version of ‘Vancouver Special,’ primary emphasis is on recent works that hold a particular resonance for this time and place that have not been previously exhibited in Vancouver.”
Adams said he’ll have 10 of his works featured in the show – five of them “quite recent,” the other five finished over the past decade or so.
“Way back in the distant past I had a little show there (at VAG) for a short period of time, in the early 70s, before the gallery moved to the old courthouse,” Adams recalled, “but this will be the first time I’ve been part of a major show there, with major exposure.”
Born in Philadelphia, Adams has lived in the Vancouver area since the early 1970s. At a school in Surrey, he found a job in the fine-arts department of the newly created Douglas College.
Now retired from teaching, Adams spends his days painting and being with his partner, Audrey.
His health is good, he says, despite recent back surgeries. “That’s slowed me down,” he admitted, “but (Audrey) helps a great deal. She’s real boon to my existence and does a lot for me.”
“It’s been about three years I’ve worked with them,” Adams explained, “and it came about in a serendipitous way. My daughter Anya, who’s in the film business and lives in L.A., was at an opening at the gallery and walked up to Luis and spoke the phrase every gallery owner has heard: ‘My dad’s an artist!’ I imagine he’s going, ‘Oh God, not another one,’ you know. So he politely said, ‘Why don’t you stop by and show me some of his work?’
“And so the next day she showed up with a portfolio I’d sent her, because she was interested in seeing what I was doing. And he was interested enough that he was up here within a week or so, looking in a locker of my work, and added it to a traveling show they were putting together. It was one of those ‘right place, right time’ sort of things, and it’s gone well since then.”
Four years ago, in the spring of 2017, Surrey Art Gallery featured Adams’ work in “The Irretrievable Moment,” the biggest exhibition of his career. The title reflected the tone and nature of his art, which curators said “combines historical events with speculative futures, real people in imagined situations, and mythological people in contemporary scenarios.”
Meantime, the ongoing pandemic hasn’t really changed the way Adams paints at his home studio.
“Well, when you’re an artist you’re in isolation anyway,” he noted with a chuckle. “In a way, the pandemic is something that has been going on outside my door for a long time, and I wouldn’t know the difference one way or the other because I’m always in here working, regardless. That’s just the nature of the occupation.”