Exhibition preview: "Jim Beoddy: Espreet Décor" is a once in a lifetime opportunity

Jesse Tigges, Columbus Alive

James Beoddy is a wonderfully complex and compassionate personality that too few know. Those who do may know him as one of his other (performance art) personas Goblinhood or Chimera (aka Chim). Some may know his underground comics; many have been published in the alternative paper Columbus Free Press since the 1970s. Less know his decades-long career as a prolific and unparalleled master artist working in a number of different mediums. Even less actually know who James, or Jim as those closest call him, is as a person because he's been somewhat of a recluse throughout his life. And tragically, too many of us will never get the chance to.

James Beoddy/Jim/Goblinhood/Chim has terminal cancer, which means the world is losing a powerful, complicated, strange and kind soul - as all the people, friends and fellow artists I spoke with describe him. If there's a silver lining, it's that we have one last chance to meet Beoddy - and see an encompassing retrospective of his life and art - at The Vanderelli Room's pop-up exhibition this weekend before his soul passes into that long bright dark.

"It's a sweet, wonderful thing that he's getting some recognition before he passes away. Jim and I go back to the '80s [meeting at the now defunct] ACME Art Co. in the Short North. I first saw him at the old ROY G BIV space where Jim was doing a Goblinhood safe sex demonstration with a blow up doll. This was during the AIDS crisis and Jim was doing his own weird take on that," said longtime friend and landscape artist Greg Maynard. "I'm certainly very close to Jim - I've jokingly referred to him for a number of years as my spiritual advisor - but there are a whole bunch of us that love him dearly."

Some have had the chance to view Beoddy's work - he participated in the occasional group show at ACME and had a couple solo shows over the years, including most recently a series of 3-D drawings at the Free Press offices, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Beoddy is a prolific producer - from his comics and 3-D (both Anaglyph and Chromadepth) works to pastels, his inimitable performance art and large-scale, painstakingly constructed paintings.

"I went to his house and I was really impressed. I hadn't moved to Columbus yet, but a lot of things impressed me [about the city]. But his work? I'd just never seen the like. One thing was it seemed to be so large. One painting I remember … was 'Arenas,' which impressed me so much that I thought it was huge," said artist Charles Wince of how "Arenas" initially appeared twice its actual size because of the complexity and depth.

While Beoddy's creative outputs have been unparalleled, his process is even more extraordinary. Beoddy will often put himself in the mindset of Goblinhood or Chim to create his paintings and drawings. Chim, who embraces the feminine side, actually draws with her left hand. Beoddy is right handed.

"It's kind of everybody looking over everyone's shoulders," Beoddy said during a mid-April interview at The Vanderelli Room. "I wouldn't trade Chim for anything because I don't think anyone could've drawn that stuff. She's a philosopher and I try to be my own kind of philosopher - we bounce off of each other. I think that's what philosophers should do, is impact each other's world views. We're both philosophers, and it is a meditative state. She determinedly goes up and does something and we both sit down and start thinking, 'What about this?' I like what she does and I don't want to embellish from there. So it's a little bit of both, me and her - a perfect collaboration."

Beoddy's most recent series - pastel drawings by the left-handed Chim with Beoddy finalizing each piece - began just before his diagnosis. But the grueling nature of the disease and its treatment couldn't slow down the duo.

"Pastels were one of the earliest things I did in my career. To learn to draw the human face I [chose] pastels because they were easy to work with. That was 1969 or 1970. Now because the left-handed Chim character does a lot of the drawing, it's the most direct way for her to [learn]. She wanted to do an epic thing with pastels and then we found out about the diagnosis," said the self-taught artist. "For me, I didn't have any reason to do anything, but it kept my mind off what was going on with me. We kept, night after night, when we had the energy, starting another one because we never knew when it was going to be the last one. After about 10 of them, I couldn't even tell you when they got done. It's just a blur to me; they just kept coming out because Chim wanted that."

It's nearly impossible to encompass the prolific and captivating art Beoddy (and/or Chim and Goblinhood) has created. Besides the visual elements, Beoddy's performance art - which he may present on Friday evening, if he's up to it - involves elaborate 15-minutes poems he's written and memorized. This is not free-form, but prose with verse and rhythm. Simply put, Beoddy is an unmatched creator and personality.

"He's got these wonderful stories and personas and that's one of the things I find so intriguing. He's created his own mythology. The irony is he's a recluse, but he's also a hyper self-referential artist who's in every one of his paintings. One of the interesting things is that Jim is fearless and open - and vulnerable about who he is and his experience as a human. Humans are fragile. Jim is fragile and sensitive - he's an artist. But he's fearless in laying it out there," Maynard said.

Or, as Suzanne Patzer, managing editor of the Free Press and longtime friend and colleague of Beoddy, put it, "To me it's just amazing. How does someone manually just draw something in 3-D? It's just magic, everything he does is magic and he's tapping into some other realm of existence."

Photo by Maddie McGarvey

The Vanderelli Room

Opening reception: 7 p.m. Friday, May 1

Additional viewing hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, May 2

218 McDowell St., Franklinton