A Study of Passing Events examines the multiplicity of Cromer’s inspirations and interpretations and techniques he developed for his most recent works. This show is presented by the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association in association with Grey Carter—Objects of Art.
Artists’ Reception / Friday, September 17, 2010, 6:30 to 8:30 pm
Statement / When I was a child I drew all the time, but that impulse more or less disappeared for years, until early 1998, when Mary and I married. I’ve drawn nearly every day since then. I don’t know exactly why I began drawing again, something to do in front of the television, I guess. Making art very quickly became something important to me, something integral. We turned the television off; Mary read and I drew. In retrospect art became a kind of counterweight to my work as a librarian. As a librarian I’m concerned with certainties and predictable order. As an artist, though, I’m excited by ambiguity and exploration, skepticism and play. Drawing for me is creating a world, mapping it, and finding myself lost in it, all at the same time.
Biography / "J. J. Cromer is a fine self-taught artist and a well educated young man." Not a credential one often hears about a self-taught artist, nevertheless, it is a fact. Having a bachelor’s degree in history and two master’s degrees, one in English and the other in library science, means he is well schooled, just not in art. His penchant for education comes naturally enough; both parents were science teachers. He was not encouraged toward art when he showed an aptitude for drawing in childhood but his mother was supportive of his creative instincts. His father clearly wanted him to become a doctor or lawyer. This is a bit poignant, since his father had some aspiration to be an artist in his youth. Being an artist was not a practical thing to do and practical is how life is expected to be when you live in small towns in southwest Virginia.
Cromer was born in 1967 in Princeton, West Virginia. He grew up in Tazewell, Virginia and except for his years in college, has lived in this corner of Virginia most of his life working in a public library. Soon after, he and wife Mary were married and he began to “draw” incessantly. It was a pastime while watching television in the evening. The pastime gave way to obsession and drawing developed into painting.
Experimenting with new techniques and learning rapidly what worked for him, he developed technical competency and his own unique set of artistic styles. His works are expressive and vivid. They are often obsessively detailed. Objects may not be recognizable but always describe his special viewpoint. They are sometimes witty, sometimes satirical, or even sad, but rarely obvious or “normal”. He is often partial to faces and once expressed a “desire to paint all the faces in the world”. A formidable task indeed, but given the range of emotions he captures and the obsessive nature of his labor, one wonders is it inconceivable? Cromer’s works have grown in scale while retaining intensity. They not only entertain but challenge the viewer.
Since his first exhibitions in 1999, Cromer’s works have rapidly gained widespread recognition by art galleries and astute collectors throughout the United States. In addition to many private collections his works are included in the permanent collections of Intuit: the Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art and the American Visionary Art Museum among others.