Jim Meaders brings 46 years of art, 37 years of teaching to career-spanning gallery show

Professor Jim Meaders presents his vibrant life in a career-spanning gallery.

In a room filled with pop-art infused paintings, each canvas appears as a window to a different dimension — one where life is particularly colorful and serene.

Meaders is in his 46th year as a practicing artist and his 37th as a teacher.

Twenty-four of those years he spent at Belmont as a professor of painting, guiding students toward their true artistic potential. In return, Belmont is where, he said, his students gave him an in-depth schooling of how he wishes to convey his own art.

The varied media and styles on display shows Meaders’ eagerness to learn and expose himself to every piece of art the world has to offer.

“I never liked my pieces to be too predictable,” said Meaders. “I consider myself to be somewhat of eclectic artist in that way.”

Having spent much time with Meaders attempting to unravel each web of knowledge he has given them, his students seem familiar with his fascination with tweaking his life in any way he can.

“He approaches his art with a skull full of old master knowledge. Dude’s a permanent student. He’s always learning and trying new things,” said Ty Higgins, a current student in Meaders’ painting class.

His style presents itself in this gallery through years of experimenting with various methods of creation. In one of his pieces, he uses painted plastic wrap to create depth in his mostly monochrome subject. In another, he plays with thick texture by creating deep valleys with paint.

His art does not have a single, constant style. This demonstrates the amount of modes of production he has tried and the vast array of approaches to art he has explored.

“He is vehemently against having a defined style. Rather, he approaches each piece as a separate entity with a separate solution,” said another painting student of his, Jessi Baumgartner. “He finds connections between so many things, and he’ll never hesitate to conjure up a thousand reference materials to answer any question you ask him. As an artist and as a teacher, he loves experimentation.”

Meaders created the pieces on display on and off throughout the years of 1968 to 2013. In his description of his work, also on display in the gallery, Meaders notes that every piece represents a time of “happiness, learning and creativity” in his life.

As the author of four books of fiction based on his own experiences, Meaders takes much of his inspiration from daily happenings. A common theme in his paintings is reflection as he often paints himself as one of the subjects.

Meaders’ creates many of his true-to-life paintings by taking photographs then capturing their essence with paints or oil pastels. In this way, Meaders acts as an active participant in his gallery to give viewers a true sense of his character. Many paintings with Meaders as the subject evoke feelings of warmth and familiarity.

His paintings and drawings serve as slices of life with each one being reflective of the time period in which he created it. However, one feature remains constant throughout each decade of his work: dynamic color.

With pieces such as “A Cool Day in July,” Meaders uses a monochrome of highly saturated blue colors to immerse onlookers into the dreamlike part of his mind: an immensely visual and vibrant place.

Much of his work bursts with color, life and detail. It can sometimes even be a sensory experience. In this room, one can truly get a sense of his spirit.

Meaders’ gallery serves as a visual representation of his development as an artist as well as a person. In his last semester teaching at Belmont, Meaders fondly recalls the wisdom his students bestowed upon him.

“I always used to get asked, ‘Well, who did you study with?’ and I’d always say, ‘You know, people along the way,’” said Meaders. “Because my best teachers over the years have been my students.”

“Jim Meaders: A Retrospective” will be on display from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Leu Art Gallery in the Lila D. Bunch Library until March 4.

Article and multi-media by Ellen Pelerossi.

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