February 4, 2013 | 7:00am
Some artists dramatically complain about the pain involved in the creative process, but for Diego Jacobson, the agony of creation is fact. The Argentinian/Puerto Rican/New Yorker, whose new show debuted at LMNT gallery in Midtown last week, suffers from a chronic neurological movement disorder called dystonia, which causes spasms, twisting, and repetitive movements, as well as abnormal bodily postures and pain.
By the age of 13, he was wheelchair bound, but a successful brain surgery had extensive corrective effects, allowing him to walk again and improving his muscle control. But even today, his movements are always difficult, often painful, and when his condition is particularly inflamed, every brushstroke can be near agony. His rough motor skills make the task of writing with a pen impossible, and yet he can paint. And he does so with a huge variety of strokes, swipes, scratches and swirls, all of them filled with palpable energy and motion.
Despite the lifelong impact his disorder has had on his mobility, Jacobson swears that it's neither hindered nor fueled his creativity. "I've never let it affect my life," he said in an interview at the opening. "I don't think my dystonia is related to my drive to become an artist. Even when I was in a wheelchair, I was never pissed off at God. I never judged. I've always just accepted it."
This philosophy of acceptance gives explanation to the theme of Jacobson's 70-painting show in Midtown: Everything Is Perfect. With these words, the artist explained, he means that the show is about striving to accept things the way they are, without judging, evaluating, or wishing they were different. Even his expectations - or lack thereof - for the show are shaped by this philosophy: "If someone is moved by the show, that's perfect. If they're not, that's okay. That's perfect too."
Now 49, the artist took a nonlinear path to becoming a renowned Latin artist (whose exhibits have spanned the eastern U.S., Denmark, Argentina, Austria, Italy, and Spain). Though he enjoyed drawing as a child, he put down the pencil at the age of eight because he couldn't stop disparaging his doodlings for their shortcomings. He grew up to be a successful business man, but after experiencing a psychic and spiritual shift, he shed his three-piece suit in the pursuit of something more meaningful.
One day, Jacobson found himself faced with a catalog of Paul McCartney's paintings
. "It shifted my perspective on art," Jacobson said. "Before that, when I thought of art, I had these ideas of old classic painters like Rembrandt and Goya, which did not move me. But seeing McCartney's abstract art shifted me." In the same catalog, Jacobson read an interview in which McCartney described his intuitive creative process. "I can do that," Jacobson said to himself, and he immediately bought a bunch of canvases and paints and began what has now become a 14-year, ever-changing, and extremely prolific exploration.
"Someone once said the words, 'Paint more,' and I took that very seriously," Jacobson said. He completes somewhere between 80 and 100 paintings a year --- or someone completes them, at least.
"I take responsibility for the colors, but after that it's not me. It's like I'm channeling something. I am just the medium between the spirit and the observer," he said. In keeping with this description of his near-possessed painting process, Jacobson describes finishing one particular work, titled 1940 Man, only to turn the painting on its side and discover a face he had not intended to create.
"How do you communicate to people the non-physical world of emotions, perceptions, and spirituality? It's not ego, it's not planned. Sometimes, I finish a painting and I step back and I see it with as much surprise as you do. Like 'Wow,'" the artist said.
Jacobson has frequently exhibited in South Florida and has long owned properties in Miami. Recently, though, he has begun working to set down roots in the city that's home to many members of his family. So in a way, this show is something of a bienvenida a casa
for the artist. Everything Is Perfect
will be on display at LMNT
until February 7th.