Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sacramento Bee Article 7/29/07

In case you are not a Sacramento Bee subscriber, below is the article from Sunday's Scene Section about yours truly. Special thanks to Bob Sylva who wrote it, Kevin German who took the picture and listened to me ramble for a few hours and Elliot Fouts for sending out the press release. Enjoy the Article!

By Bob Sylva - Bee Columnist

On a cool, overcast morning, Jeff Musser is mowing the carpet in his midtown apartment with a dandy Eureka upright.

The apartment reeks of paint, and one has to tiptoe through a party of celebrated faces. The apartment doubles as Musser's studio. There is a canvas tarp on a portion of the floor. Another paint-dabbed tarp covers the front wall. On the easel, there is a half-finished portrait of sculptor Camille VandenBerge, looking much like an emerging blond goddess. Wayne Thiebaud, whose portrait is finished, sits on the floor, looking on approvingly.

Jeff Musser has an appealing, perhaps even insightful, show opening Saturday (8/11/07) at the Elliott Fouts Gallery. It is called "Local Legends: Portraits of Artists." There are 20 canvases in all, most of which are of well-known artists in the area. "I wanted to show that there's more to the city than just the Sacramento Kings," he says.
Jeff Musser is 30 years old. He is, to date, an unknown artist. Wearing paint-splattered boots, pants, a T-shirt, he is slim, pale, with thin arms, a nubby scalp, a coarse, reddish beard. He is soft-spoken, articulate. He has watchful, blue-gray eyes and his gaze is almost drowsy, at times, lulling.
He is not by nature aggressive. Or obnoxious. Thus, the prospect of cold-calling artists he admires and asking them if he could paint their portrait, well, it filled him with terrifying dread. "Sometimes I would call and hang up the phone before they answered," he says.

Only two artists refused him -- Fred Dalkey and Wayne Thiebaud. But he painted them anyway.

The surprise here is just how accommodating most of the artists were, how encouraging, how generous of their time. Musser, who worked from photographs, spent an entire year on the project. In effect, he had 20 artists as non-paying roommates (no surprise there) in his tiny apartment. And he did all the cleaning.
Now, in advance of the show, most of the completed portraits are stacked in his bedroom. The faces are revealing. There's Roy Tellefson, who died in 1996, sitting in a lawn chair at Dillon Beach. There's Boyd Gavin, posed in Musser's kitchen, looking pleased if not smug. "He didn't even want to see my work first," says Musser. "He just came over."

More incredible was the reception he got from Helen and Alan Post. They invited him to their house. "He called my slides exquisite," Musser says of Alan Post. "I was floating on the ground when I left there!" He drank beer with Mark Bowles; talked for hours with Peter VandenBerge; was given an eye-popping tour of Mel Ramos' studio in Oakland. Greg Kondos actually gave him an original pencil sketch.

There was only one mishap. Troy Dalton is a bear of a fellow with a ravishing gaze. One night, Musser had a girlfriend visiting. The now ex- girlfriend took one look at Dalton's frank portrait and cried -- "Can you turn that around? He's creeping me out!"

Jeff Musser grew up in River Park. His father was a vacuum cleaner and sewing machine repairman; his mother worked for Social Security. "I was relatively quiet, a loner," says Musser. "I could entertain myself with art. I did normal things, too. I had friends. I played baseball. But I was always drawing."
He went to Sacramento High School. And American River College. Then his supportive parents took out a loan on their house and sent him to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Upon graduation, he worked for a big ad agency in Chicago whose single client was McDonald's. For two years, in a deadening of his spirit, Musser designed Happy Meals.

He came back home in 2003. Has held a string of lousy jobs. But his painting career is looking up. One piece was in the 2005 Crocker-Kingsley; a portrait of his grandmother was accepted in this year's State Fair. The show at Elliott Fouts is a turning point.
"I've learned what I'm capable of and what I'm not capable of," says Musser. "I shouldn't be too hard on myself. I've only been painting for a few years. Everyone told me, 'Find your voice. Be true to it. Be tenacious. It doesn't happen overnight.'

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Magazine Spread About Me!

Sweet Spread Bro!

Special thanks to Vicious Magazine (based in Miami) for the awesome spread. This will be my first (hopefully many more will follow) semi national exposure. Read the spread and feel free to leave comments.

In case you can't read the type (I know it is a bite small) here is the article:

"In the world of modern paintings one can find countless trends, styles, and gimmicks. From works that look like they were shipped straight from kindergarten, to found objects glued to a canvas, to panels painted hot pink accented with chicken feathers, it’s all there. Jeff Musser however, has not forgotten some of the lessons learned that many of his contemporaries have lost; skill and craftsmanship count. Form, composition, color, and technique are all paramount in his work. His diverse subject matter includes: floral still life, personal loss, issues of body image, tattoo-covered women’s backs, and his current projects – portraits of art icons like Wayne Theibaud and Mel Ramos to name a few. But throughout all his work, the 29-year-old exhibits a level of realism normally found only with 40-something heavyweight artists like John Currin for instance.

Born and raised in California, Jeff Musser transferred to the The Art Institute of Chicago and earned his B.F.A in early 2000. Upon graduation he thought that his daytime job, designing Happy Meals for McDonald’s, would leave him plenty of time to paint in the evenings. But once the economy tanked after 9/11, he was another face in the sea of jobless Americans with tons of free time. On the upside, he now had all day and all night to paint. On the downside he now had to deal with issues of rent, bills, supplies, food and how to overcome the much-romanticized notion of a starving artist. Despite literally being a starving artist living on food stamps while in Chicago, his tenacity paid off when the almighty Oprah commissioned a painting from him. 

In 2004, Jeff donated two paintings to the charity We Are the Future at a friends’ suggestion. One of the charity’s founding members, music legend Quincy Jones, was so impressed with the work; he invited Jeff to attend the foundations’ kick off concert in Rome Italy as an honorary guest. Jeff is now preparing for his third solo show set for August 2007 in his hometown of Sacramento California.

"I am heavily influenced by the techniques of old masters like Caravaggio, Velasquez, and Vermeer. I chose realism because it is the foundation of painting and the words “old masters” are used for a reason. I feel one must conquer the basics before going onto the next level of painting. I enjoy the challenge of taking a complicated form and breaking it down into simple brush strokes. 

The dark contrast between light and dark creates tension and helps me tell the story that my subject has to tell. Using paint to create a persons’ likeness and making it look like them is the easy part. The challenge, the task that all artists struggle with, is the intangible aspect. Paint just happens to be my chosen vehicle on how I convey my message. Placing oil paint in the right color combinations and getting the proportion just so, is just practice and tangible know how.

The real question is: how can I present my life experience or that of someone else on a flat surface, do it with depth, using only a brush and paint, and maintain the integrity of my subject matter AND not make a painting that falls apart at any moment?

Sometimes you succeed, but most times you don’t. I’m terrified yet exhilarated every time I begin a new project. The fear of failure keeps me motivated.”

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Those Little Bastards…

…stole gas out of my tank! 

I was on my way to visit my parents and saw that my gas gauge was lower than it should be compared to the odometer. My first thought was, it is an older model car perhaps the fuel indicator is just slow in rising. Then after more than ¾ of the way to my parents’ house, it still had not moved. So I pulled over, walked to the side where the fuel tank is, opened the cover, and yelled out a typical four-letter word one might expect. 

Some little, thieving son of a bitch stole gas from my tank right in the parking lot of my complex! Granted I’m not going to starve and the locking gas cap didn’t set me back too much. But still it pisses me off when people steal. Stealing food for you or your family is one thing. But stealing gas is just petty. I’m not exactly the forgive and forget kind of guy. 

I hope a bus hits whoever stole my gas and their children get cancer.