Presenting Wadsworth A. Jarrell

    Wadsworth is the “other artist” to whom the landlady referred when she met me in front of
    the studio on East 61st Street in Chicago in September of 1966. The noted textile designer,
    Robert Paige had already staked an interest in the space, but he was willing to share it with
    me if I wanted to. Sitting at the end of a narrow driveway behind a Victorian era wooden
    house, the large studio building was a relic from the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, when it
    was built for, and used by a sculptor who worked on projects for the Fair. The other artist
    wasn’t in but I was shown the part of the building that was advertised for rent. The massive
    door opened up into a narrow bay of wooden lockers that formed a partition behind which
    was the enormous studio,  illuminated by 40 feet high skylights that spanned the breadth of
    the space. The eerie, gossamery glow in the room resulted from decades of grime and
    ribbons of black roofing tar that had been dripped over innumerable cracks in the wire
    enforced glass above,  reducing the lighting considerably. Providence, it seemed,
    prevented the landlady’s son from covering all of the glass with roofing tar to rid the place
    of leaks, and thereby killing the inherent ambiance within  the historical building.

    On the other side of the small door that led to the bathroom was the other studio. The
    instant the door opened the bright red flash of paint on a car made a stark contrast to the
    otherwise gray atmosphere. A bright red Corvette! The first thing that came to mind was that
    the other artist  was some kind of rich player who used that good artist space to hide his car.
    In those days, in that neighborhood, the only people who drove Corvettes were rich players
    who hid them by day while they were at work, and used them to bar hop at night in the big
    city.  After all, artists in those days drove beat up Volkswagen vans or old station wagons,
    not fancy sports car.  I was instantly impressed.  

    While I quietly worked in the studio one day after moving in, a stereo cranking out John
    Coltrane crashed through the walls and shook the building the same way the Illinois Central
    trains did when they  rumbled by on the nearby tracks.  Aside from the mice which used to
    scamper along the ledge that rimmed the room, the sound of John Coltrane filling the air
    was the first indication that there was life in the building. It was the prelude to my  meeting
    Jarrell for the first time.   I went over and introduced myself to the other artist to let him
    know how much I admired his “vette” and to allay any fears that I might try to borrow it, much
    as I would love to have.  
    Anyone who sleeps in the New York studio of Wadsworth Jarrell will lie in the gathering
    darkness with after-images of nommos and sprites, which grace the large canvasses
    scattered around the room. These figures with oblate heads and searing eyes greet you in
    the ethereal zone that precedes slumber to carry you off into the land where steamy, spirited
    jazz sessions and "apple birds" dwell, reminding  you along the way of the evolution of his
    skill at blending and unifying compositional elements in such a fashion that one instantly
    thinks of music. This has been a characteristic of his work since the early 1960's.