Speaking of the uniqueness of each person, the great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon said “after God makes a man he breaks the mold.” And the great Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde quipped, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” By all accounts, Jack Dorsey is a one-of-a-kind person, his particularity oozes out in everything he does, especially his art. A stroll through his 8rd Birthday Art Auction is a window into what the medieval theologian John Duns Scotus called “thisness” and the British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins terms “inscape,” the individuality and uniqueness of each person.
If you’d like to go directly to the auction and investigate Jack’s “thisness” and “inscape” on your own, be my guest and follow the link below. If you’d like a little help in identifying and naming some of Jack’s particularity from someone who has had a front row seat (me, his son Jason), continue reading below.
Threads of Jack Dorsey’s Particularity
Jack was raised in a proudly blue-collar, hard-working family. His dad, Bert, worked in the Navy yard in Kirkland during WWII. Jack, following in his father’s steps, worked with his hands, logging in his early 20s and launching as a painter at twenty-nine (see #24, “The Crummy”). From my vantage point as a kid raised in an artist family, we were very blue-collar, struggling to make ends meet. Artists work with their hands; and to make it as an artist one has to be very industrious. Dad worked hard. That sixty-one paintings in this auction show his prolificacy
Another thread God wove in Jack is Dad will-not-be-boxed-in. He is a Myers-Briggs “P” to the tenth degree, very open-ended, flexible and non-structured and non-systematic. For example, there is no rhyme or reason to his pricing scheme in this art auction that I can identify. My brother Jed prices his paintings based on their size, which seems reasonable. Dad prices his paintings on…well the closest I can get to a rationale is how much he likes the painting. A small painting might be priced higher than a larger painting merely because Dad likes it more. Why he likes one painting over another is quite subjective. And some paintings with the same “Starting Bid Price” may have a different “Buy Now” price. Take for example paintings #3, Shed Decoration, a framed 22″ tall by 26″ wide painting that has a starting bid of $600 and buy now price of $1,200. #4, Nason Creek Spring, a larger painting at 24″ by 29.5″ wide has a start bid of $600 and buy now price of $1,400. But don’t try to regiment or systematize Dad. It can’t be done. This is just part of his “Jackness” that should be appreciated, smiled and, at times, shrugged at.
God wove in Jack an attachment to people, places and things. Sentimentality and nostalgia are part of Jack’s warp and woof. Old things become treasures, like the McCoy vase Ann placed flowers in, the salmon plugs and lures, and “the Ole truck.” He delights in things from loved ones: like Grandpa’s rocker that sits in their kitchen and the hand-carved wooden goat that came from Ann’s grandmother. Familiar places like Milltown and Glenn Thompson’s house near Winton are plentiful in his paintings. In fact, the places of Jack Dorsey’s are displayed in this show.
Jack Dorsey’s Places
When he was sixteen, Jack’s family moved from Redmond to Plain, WA. He worked for the Burgess family who ran a logging operation there, often having lunch at the Burgess Homestead (#48). After Dad, Mom and I moved to Camano, we drove the beautiful Highway #2 to Plain every month to see Grandpa and Grandma Dorsey. Paintings of that route, like Nason Creek Spring (#4), Wenatchee Summer (#30), and Ray Rock (#40). Dad loves the Plain valley and misses the smell of pines and the sight of the barns and homes sprinkled through it (Plain Barns, #43). The Virginia Creeper (#26) that came from the family ranch in Plain and that climbs his studio on Camano ties these two places of his heart together.
The little white house on Camano that became our home in 1970 and the old fox shed converted to his art studio a few years later are Jack’s roots. The fox shed is adorned with “Shed Decorations” (#3) for Dad to paint. The woodshed where the wood that warms their home all winter (#8) and kitchen table with Ann’s display of pink candles (#25) are painting subjects. Jack finds joy in the snow on Ann’s wreath on the garden gate outside their front door (#46), the snow puffs on a milk can outside his studio (#18), and patches of snow on the path from their home to Sunnyshore Studio just south of their home (#5).
Venturing out further from the south end of Camano his attention is drawn to the Low Lands, wetlands north of 532 driving into Stanwood (#53). A flowing stream with moss covered rocks seen on an anniversary overnight on the Olympic Penninsula (#59) is captured. So are trips to visit our family in Indianapolis (#21 and #22), a family fishing trip vacation on Vancouver Island (#27) and a family vacation in Montana (#57), and the trip to Edmonton to celebrate the wedding of son Jed to Renae in Edmonton (#37). The places of Jack’s life are painted. Interestingly, I don’t remember seeing a painting by Dad of our family’s Camano home. Perhaps it is to sacred to be painted; or maybe not an interesting enough subject to catch his eye.
Jack’s Artistic Eye
An artist’s personality shines out in his or her paintings. Jack paints things “common to experience, uncommon to expression.” His artistic eye catches close up details, like the squirrel perched on the black walnut tree that towers next to their home on Camano (#34), autumn leaves (#17), and the blacksmith shop in Mount Angel (#38). He enjoys sweeping panoramas, like Mount Shuksan in the morning mist (#49) but usually has a dominating subject rather than a distant scene, like the tree in Palouse Heat (#40) and Scotch Broom (#47). Jack’s close ups of flowers in unusual poses like the Rodys (#29) and Hellebores (#23) and Queen of the Marsh (#11) are delighful.
In “Farm Swing” Jack’s eye for artistic detail, nostalgia, and connection to place tells a story. The swing hung on the cherry tree at Doc and Sayre Dodgson’s 33 acre farm on Camano, just through the woods from our home. When I was growing up, I’d run through the woods to play with my cousins there. Now the farm has been sold and the family scattered. Still in Dad’s eye it hangs from that tree, a reminder of happy times and a special place and loved ones, some who are lost, but never forgotten.
Paintings bring us into an artists world, their quarks and quirks, personality and particularity. This is most certainly true in Jack Dorsey’s 83rd Birthday Art Auction. Go and see for yourself!