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Oxford Artist J-MAN Pays Tribute to Andy Warhol in Upcoming Exhibition

J-MAN visits with Mr. Faulkner on the Square.
J-MAN visits with Mr. Faulkner on the Square.

Oxford-based artist J-MAN is a busybody. In addition to constantly producing new paintings, prints and other art pieces and being a family man, he manages the Oxford Maker’s Market. J-MAN is currently gearing up for a solo exhibition at The Frame-Up/Basement Gallery, from Jan. 22-Feb. 26. An opening reception will be held from 6:30-9 p.m., on Tuesday, Feb. 6.
The show, titled “Dinner and a Movie,” will be a tribute to Andy Warhol’s influence on J-MAN, with works ranging from pop art portraits of popular actors and actresses to depictions of materialism and consumer culture in the food industry and interactive pieces combining art and technology.
Somehow, J-MAN also squeezed in the time to design and paint this year’s Oxford Film Festival poster.
HottyToddy.com caught up with J-MAN in one of his few spare moments for a Q&A.
Hotty Toddy: First of all, tell me about your background. Who is J-MAN?
J-MAN: I was born and raised in Jackson, Tennessee—the youngest of four brothers. My dad was a truck driver/farmer, and my mom held a variety of jobs through the years. We were a relatively poor family, and art wasn’t really a thing in our house, although my mom made crafts and sold at craft fairs for a bit. In my earliest memories of being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, [I said] an artist or a rock star. The nickname J-MAN was given to me by my in-laws. They have called me J-MAN for the past 20 or so years. Long story short, my handwriting is horrible, so when I used to sign my paintings with my actual signature, nobody could read it. I decided I needed to re-brand, and J-MAN became my name. I have been painting full time since 2009 under the name J-MAN. Very few people actually know me by my real name!
HT: What was your introduction to the world of art?
J-MAN: Art is everywhere! My first real introduction to the art world was through PBS and a set of encyclopedias. I read the entire set of books from start to finish when I was around 11 years old, out of boredom. I remember the sections about artists always intrigued me. I am still a huge fan of PBS and a travel show junkie. I have always drawn or made things. I have never taken an art class or had any type of instruction, so I do everything totally wrong.
HT: Who are your art influences?
Andy Warhol with puppy
Andy Warhol. Photo by Jack Mitchell

J-MAN: Wow! I have way too many influences to list, but here it goes. Howard Finster is a huge influence. Thornton Dial, Sr., Purvis Young, Grandma Moses and Jimmy Lee Sudduth are huge in a more primitive way. I love Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein for their more graphic illustration-type influence. Shepard Fairey, Alex Grey, Banksy and Ai Weiwei are huge modern influences. Tattoo art has always been a huge influence even though I don’t actually have any tattoos. I’m a big graphic design junkie. I love the art of advertising and logos. Pretty much any artist in any medium that is doing something original influences and excites me.
HT: Your upcoming show at the Frame-Up functions in part as a tribute to Andy Warhol. What about Warhol’s work influences your own?
J-MAN: I actually used to adamantly dislike Andy Warhol’s art. It was about nine years ago, when I read a book about him and his art, that I gained respect for his art and his genius. It was then that I decided to create a pop art-style painting of William Faulkner. At that time, no one was painting Faulkner for fear of being sued or whatever reason. That was the first painting I did with the school bus yellow background and with the lines radiating from the subject. Although we have different styles using different mediums—[Warhol] screen printing and me painting with house paint on plywood—I fell in love with his pop art sensibilities and his sense of humor as it pertains to the art world. Who else could pull off building a large box and screen-printing it to look like a box of Brillo pads? The largest area of influence is his use of minimal colors to create a piece of work. Since he used screen printing as his primary medium, he was often limited to only four colors, yet the images were actually quite detailed and easily recognizable. I try to work in a similar fashion, maintaining a very limited color palette.
Warhol on Welfare
Warhol’s pop art has been a major influence on J-MAN’s work, such as this takeoff on Warhol’s famous soup cans.

HT: Besides his art, what other aspects of Andy Warhol did you like?
J-MAN: He “discovered” the Velvet Underground! He produced their first album and did the cover art and helped them get a record deal. They became his house band at his studio, The Factory. His use of the media was pretty stellar. I am a fan of his photography as well.
HT: What creative endeavors do you do besides art?
J-MAN: I am a musician. I play multiple instruments. Most know me as a percussionist, but I am actually a guitarist of 30 years. Not nearly as good as I should be, though. I love organic gardening, and we try to grow as much of our food as possible. I spend a lot of time in the woods. I’m an avid camper and hiker. And I’m a closet-case fiction writer. I will finish my novel one day. Maybe.
HT: You’ve become known for a certain Faulkner-related pun. How did that come about, and why do you think it really took off?
J-MAN: I grew up in a non-religious house with four older brothers and a military father. I had the mouth of a sailor! Being a rock musician, I liked to party hard. After having our daughter in 2003, I began making a few changes in my life. In 2009, I realized I never cursed in front of my daughter, so why did I curse at all? I decided to give up all negative things in my life. So I quit drinking, smoking, watching R-rated movies and cursing, among many other things. When I was painting the Faulkner painting, I knew I was going to put something at the top like his name and birth/death year. My wife is a full-time artist as well, and we share studio space. She was sewing something and pricked her finger with the needle and shouted, “What the Faulk!” I thought it was hilarious and decided to use [the phrase] as a joke. It was meant to be a one-off painting. It wasn’t. I have learned that, just because you quit doing something doesn’t mean you really change. The words are still in me just as the rock-and-roll lifestyle is still alive and well in me. I just choose to keep it stifled. So it has become my parentally censored form of cursing. (Laughs) I have no clue why it has become so popular, other than it’s just Faulkin’ funny! I have artwork in all 50 states, and the majority are Faulkner-related.
HT: What is it about the Oxford community that keeps you here?
J-MAN: I absolutely love the small-town charm. I love the culture. In what other small town could you go to a book signing and hear national award-winning authors read from their books, attend a concert by the Punch Brothers, Chris Robinson Brotherhood or Govt. Mule in such an intimate setting at a small venue, eat an awesome meal prepared by James Beard Award-winning chefs at an event hosted by the Southern Foodways Alliance, or attend a touring Broadway performance? Oxford is awesome!
HT: If you had a destination or dream within art that you were working toward, what would it be?
Oxford Film Festival poster by J-MAN
J-MAN created the poster for the 2018 Oxford Film Festival.

J-MAN: My only dream is to be able to continue doing what I do until I am too old and feeble to do it anymore and to know, when the time comes that I can no longer hold a paint brush, that I spent my life doing exactly what I was meant to, and what I wanted to do, and that I was able to use my art and my hands to provide an awesome life for my wife and daughter. It’s been one hell of a ride so far, and, God willing, it will continue for many years to come!
HT: What’s next for J-MAN?
I am working on a project that combines my love of art with that of electronics and technology. It’s all top secret at the moment, though. I would tell you but I’d have to kill you.
HT: What can people expect if they attend your solo exhibition at The Frame-Up?
J-MAN: I attend a lot of shows and a lot of receptions. I promise you will never have as much fun at an art reception as you will at one of my shows! I’m not about stuffy, stuck-up art receptions with the same old wine and cheese tray and folks whispering about the art. There will be good food, good drinks, awesome music and great art! Even if you aren’t a fan of Andy Warhol, it’s going to be stupid fun, y’all.
Dinner and a Movie
Frame Up/Basement Gallery, 125 Courthouse Square
Hours: Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
A raffle of the original art for this year’s Oxford Film Festival poster will be held with the Frame Up/Basement Gallery show. Proceeds from the raffle will go to support the Oxford Film Festival. For more information, please visit www.jmanworld.com.
D.L. Perea

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