The Life and Work of Jim Dine | Canton Museum of Art

Jim Dine • American B: 1935

Untitled (Hearts) C: 1976 • Watercolor on Paper 16” x 20”

The boy creates the man, who returns the favor. It is the story of Jim Dine’s life.

As characterized in his interviews, his father was a worthless bum. His mother died young, leaving 12 year old Jim to raise himself. A job he did magnificently well. He put himself through night school at the University of Cincinnati’s Art School and Ohio University before heading for New York City. There he fell in with a group of rebellious artists who changed the direction of modern art. One of the earliest Pop Art exhibits included works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Jim Dine.

Dine burst on the scene with his early 1960’s “Happenings” combined art and theater to bring joyous irreverence to an art world that took itself way too seriously. He worked with other emerging artists to reject the solemnity of Abstract Expressionism and explore the artistic value of everyday objects. Along the way he injected humor, emotion and excitement into an art scene that had gone stale.

His restless energy kept him constantly on the move. He hustled his way from a deprived childhood to the stratosphere of popular culture. “Even when I lived with my wife and family in Vermont, I was always taking off to Europe and other faraway places. I just couldn’t stay still.”

At any particular time, Dine was a graphic artist, fine artist, sculptor, poet and musician. He took the Abstract out of Abstract Expressionism and replaced it with pure artistic expression of human nature. It is little wonder that hearts were a recurring meme in his art.

“(the hearts) are mine and I use it as a template for all my emotions. It’s like Indian classical music – based on something very simple but building to a complicated structure. And that’s how I feel about my hearts.”

In old age, Dine still stays on the move between homes in Walla Walla, Washington, New York City, and constant travels to Paris, Germany and India among other global adventures. Over the decades he has created a wide-ranging collection of art built around iconic images, including hearts, Venus De Milos,, bathrobes, tools and Pinocchio. Yes, Pinocchio.

(Pinnochio) is a great story because it’s a metaphor for art. This old man brings the puppet to consciousness through his craft, and in the end, I am Gepetto.” The boy creates the man, who returns the favor.

Canton Museum of Art Permanent Collection • Purchased in Memory of Ted Luntz Family, 2011.7

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