Stories and pics by Roby Giannopolo
I recently had a special opportunity to visit the kitchen space in which Salem’s great Quinton Oliver Jones (1903-1999) created his fantastical paintings. Jones passed away at 96 leaving more than 350 works to his niece and her husband – Connie & Dale Gephart. Walking through Jones’ former home on Broad Street – just a block or so away from downtown – helped me understand his knack for the whimsical.
Jones was a shy individual, and became reclusive in his later age – waking up with the sun to paint and going to sleep at sundown. He painted in the tiny kitchen of his home because it was the most warm during the cold winter months. In the kitchen, a window overlooks his backyard – where the sun rose each morning during his time there – warming him and his imagination. His paints and brushes and seashells, used for mixing colors, were set up as part of the display.
Hanging on the refrigerator in the small kitchen were newspaper clippings used by Jones as inspiration for the characters portrayed in his swirling landscapes. Jones looked at the faces in these black & white newspaper clippings and brought them to life in expressive, fantastical ways. The dichotomy of standing next to the clippings stuck on to this cold refrigerator alongside Jones’ abstract paintings created in the warmth of the sun in his kitchen struck me. More than imitating the life he saw around him, Jones created a new world – warm and curious. He had an amazing ability to take something so bleak, so ordinary – and turn it into a “mindscape” of dreams and surreal inventions.
Though his home is not open to the public, the Salem Athenaeum presents an exhibition drawn from Quinton’s body of work, most of which has never been seen by the public before. Discover his colorful, fantastical mindscapes, which will be displayed throughout the first floor of the library.
The exhibition is free and open to the public during regular Salem Athenaeum hours. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday: 1 PM – 5 PM, Thursday: 5 PM – 9 PM and Saturday: 10 AM – 2 PM. Visit SalemAthenaeum.net for more information.
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