Keepsakes-‐ John Lumkin
By Tom Keer
When a boy sails across the ocean from conservative Surrey, England into 1958’s Beat Generation Los Angeles, there’s a strong likelihood that he’ll grow up to become an artist. And then when he relocates to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, there’s a pretty good chance that he’ll transform his art.
John Lumkin’s assemblage art style emerged from that very experience. As a boy, he experimented with watercolors, sketched, and was a lead guitarist in a Southern California warm-‐up rock band. After brief stints as an album cover artist and as a music video/feature film set designer in Hollywood, Lumkin began work on his own art, which is a Dada-‐inspired social commentary of America. He combed construction sites, yard sales, and garage sales for living signature pieces made from metal, old car parts, retail displays, basically, anything that had a life prior to being discarded, and assembled them as a story.
Old pictures, ads or graphics accompany the relics on to a new surface. Lumkin uses either a Gesso or solvent transfer process. He applies a film of Gesso or solvent onto a picture, ad or graphic, and the ink forms a waterproof bond to the Gesso on the panel. Lumkin then lifts and transfers the image to his work-‐in-‐progress. He rummages through his barn until he finds the appropriate pieces for his work. He uses fasteners such as nails, glue, you name it, just no welds; every piece must fit perfectly naturally with the intricacy of a mosaic.
“I have a barn full of relics,” he said. “I prowl around abandoned areas or go to yard sales and find, to my mind, treasures. At one point in time, each of these discarded scraps had a life and a purpose. Look at this Oldsmobile logo that I found in a junkyard. Someone once stared proudly at that word on the back of his trunk. Cars were major purchases that resulted from years of hard work. That car drove children to school, took them to baseball or ballet practice, to grocery stores, and on family vacations. Just because the car is in a junkyard doesn’t mean that the experiences it provided are forgotten. How many conversations have you started with ‘remember that old station wagon we used to have?’ I just remind people of those times through my art.”
“When people look at my art, they frequently say “oh, yeah, I remember seeing that same fixture in a hardware store in my home town when I was a kid. My art is Deconstructionist in that I try to connect people with their lives, help them relive fond memories, or reflect on choices they made along the way. Now that I’m on the Cape, I have transformed my art to use natural materials, such as sea glass, buoys, vacation postcards from a simpler time, or drawings, all of which reflect the natural antiquity of the Cape.”
It’s important how his art is displayed, so Lumkin frequently customizes living rooms, dens, or even sheds to accommodate a piece. It is a skill he learned building sets for Hollywood. “I’ve reworked many interiors so as to properly showcase a piece.”
Harvest Gallery Wine Bar in Dennis Village features many of John Lumkin’s pieces as well as those by other contemporary Northeastern artists. “John’s work is about roads taken or not taken,” Michael Pearson said, “either individually or as a society.