Posts tagged Jeffrey Catherine Jones

Darlie Brewster

Darlie Brewster

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Meet Darlie Brewster.

A gifted animator who’s supervised and produced a hefty amount of memorable Hollywood cartoons over the last 30 years. She’s considered one of the more talented and accomplished artists working the field today.

I’ve ran across Darlie back when Jeffrey Catherine Jones’ Facebook page was in its heyday, before her passing.  I don’t remember any exchanges between us but she seemed to leave a pleasant impression, though I hadn’t yet known the extent of her life and career.

Darlie recently added an insightful comment to Catherine’s tribute at this site. In responding to it, I looked around to perhaps better know to who I was responding. The search led from one thing to another and revealed a rather unique humanity and personality who’s overcome some of the more obtuse social obstacles in search for herself, and has managed to come out of it with full cheer and a level of forgiveness and tolerance that are rarely seen in such cases.

Darlie’s insight into the soul of Jeffrey Catherine Jones began to make sense upon discovering that she had a similar gender issue.

I could write volumes about that peaceful spot inside that she’s reached through her life journey. But I don’t think anything written by anyone else could have the impact she herself makes when hearing her speak. So here below, are a couple clips from her video blog, Darlie Goddess. Click the images that’ll open a new window and then run the clips, sit back and enjoy.

 

The somewhat mesmerizing quality and demeanor can perhaps be credited to Darlie’s sense of peace with herself and the changes she’s been through.

It seems not a small thing for a woman with her history to maintain such a cheer, free of anger and rebellion. Instead, we come to know a delightful, intelligent and soothing personality, brandishing what’s considered as somewhat radical views in more conservative circles that don’t seem to have a fraction of the tolerance and compassion she shows in these clips. Indeed, it’s this sense of self-security, that’s perhaps acquired by overcoming whatever guilt that would’ve been imposed on her as a religious child, that makes her life and career unique and uplifting.

Darlie’s extensive professional record as an animator can be glimpsed through her LinkedIn profile. Her animation reel and portfolio are at her main web site, TinyBun.com. Her main blog displaying new work is at TotalD.

Below is a small sampling of her work (click thrumbnails for larger images), followed by a clip discussing some of what she does, where you can also access her YouTube Channel.

        

 

New Hefetz Baby

Around the Neighborhood

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It’s been a busy few days with a lot to report about recent web activity relating to this site.  But before we get into that, a little good news for the family with the birth of my daughter’s first baby boy on Tuesday morning. Congratulations to Moshe and Oshrat Hefetz for making us twice the grandparents. Things will be a little busy on all fronts for the next couple of weeks as the young couple will be staying by us and adding to an already rigorous home environment.  We wouldn’t have it any other way, actually.

 

Onto the web-neighborhood news:


 

  • Jim Shelley is one of the participants in Flashback Universe, a delightful blog bridging the Golden and Digital Ages. In a recent post, Today Mars, Tomorrow the Universe! he collects the Martian Manhunter series I drew in 1976 and bridges it to the Campaign to Save J’onn J’onzz from January 2008: “The art in this run was primarily by Mike Netzer (as Mike Nasser) (remember that guy? He often got tagged as a Neal Adams clone, but he was really too good for such a lazy tag as that.) Netzer must have really gotten attached to the Martian Manhunter, because years later, when there were rumors that MM would be killed as the kickoff event of Final Crisis, Netzer posted a very sincere plea to DC to spare the Green Gumshoe.” Much gratitude for the kind sentiment, Mr. Shelley.

 

 

  • Armageddon Diplomacy has received a little coverage, starting with web pioneer and good friend Rik Offenberger at First Comics News. Next up was Rick Veitch and Steve Conley‘s ground breaking Comicon.com: The Pulse, which has been covering a good part of the activity here recently. Many thanks good sirs.

 

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Woman in the Man

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The many gifts of Jeffrey Catherine Jones


blindnarcissus.arc-2It was late in the Summer of  ’77 on 45th and 9th and we were all heading down to The Studio for a First Friday party held by its four proprietor artists, Berni Wrightson, Barry Windsor-Smith, Michael W. Kaluta and Jeff Jones. It was family time for the comics community.  The Studio was home to some of our more notable own, who produced an abundance of the adhesive that kept the family together in the 1970′s.

Gatherings at The Studio were an event unto themselves. The creative energies throbbing in this Chelsea loft were unmatched at any other gatherings or conventions. The work  on display was arguably of the more prolific and inspiring to have emerged from the comics medium of its time. It was a little to the side of comics books, actually. Portfolios, prints, illustrations and paintings, along with the little actual comics work produced there, adorned the four distinct spaces derived from the divergent souls of the artists who occupied them.

Entering The Studio on this occasion, a giant painting rested on an elevated stand and dominated the near schizoid decor. By comparison to most of the other art around it, Blind Narcissus, a captivating portrayal of woman with a far-away glance in a solemn setting of whithered trees, seemed to have been transplanted from another time and place into the comic book, fantasy and sci-fi theme of The Studio. Standing around the painting and discussing its significance were a few party comers trying to get a morsel or word about it from the artist.  Jeff Jones listened intently to the talk but remained silent while absorbing it.  At one point when talk about “what it means” was exhausted, someone turned to Jeff and said “Maybe the artist can shed some light on that.” After a deft pause that seemed like an eternity, Jeff swayed his head slightly, opened his eyes wider in semi-bewilderment and said, “I… I don’t know.”

Most striking about Jeff’s response at the time was that so many artists, and perhaps even his fellow studio mates, seemed to know exactly what their work was about. This was especially true for us, the group who worked at Continuity. Knowing the intent and meaning of your work was a fundamental principal without which it was impossible to get to work on a drawing…along with “nailing it down” to remove any ambiguity as to its form. There is something very “knowing” about the comic book art of that time, that remains with us today. Something succinctly knowledgeable about the artists and writers who work this medium, at least going by a prevalent attitude of creators whom the industry promotes.  Jeff Jones’ revelation that he seemed to have little idea what his own work meant was like a breath of fresh air in the Chelsea loft of industry and renaissance. It brought the subconscious into direct contact with the sprawling void of an empty canvas, craving to be populated by colors that have nothing in particular to say, other than perhaps: “It just came out that way.”

 

 

The rare humility and acceptance of our human state demonstrated by Jeff Jones on that evening took an interesting turn for me some several months later, when I began realizing that I didn’t really know who I was and the meaning of my life anymore. The realization led to a search that took me away from the family of comics creators, to return some time later amidst bombastic speculation and rumor about having lost my mind and believing I was the second coming of Christ. Yes, the family of comics makers of the 70′s loved to tell good stories, but this one was of the more awkward ones because it seemed to herald an inevitable fall of a promising young talent who had left a minimal mark on the medium in the short time I’d worked in it. Add to this the charged religious insinuations relative to a mostly Judao-Christian culture, then the estrangement in my colleagues eyes in that era was somewhat understandable. Sometimes.

There were rare occasions where some seemed to enjoy the idea that someone would dare tread in this direction within the world of comics, but for the most part the overwhelming majority of responses were those of estrangement, sometimes mixed with a little contempt. So it was with a some trepidation that I joined friends on another excursion to a First Friday party at The Studio in the midst of this personal chaos. As I walked through the entrance, dressed a little more distinctly than before with a rugged corduroy vest and jacket, beneath an unattended bushy hair and beard, countless eyes delivered that look that I’d become used to. Knowing that rumors spread fast in the family, I was certainly prepared for it, but more pleasant surprises also made themselves present.

Inside, directly before me stood Jeff Jones and unlike most others, he looked at me and never took his eyes away, his hand placed on his chin and mouth in contemplation, trying to hide a radiant smile that seemed to want to burst into the lofty air, perhaps only held back by the disagreement of most other party comers, whose reactions were more akin to something being terribly wrong about this picture. Jeff Jones, with his subtle but supportive gesture, did not seem to share in this estrangement. He rather seemed to think it was at least amusing, which was a response I was much more comfortable with. Jeff Jones had thus placed himself aside of some of the petty discourse of that particular life juncture.

 

 

These were perhaps the most vivid memories of Jeff that I carried for the next couple of decades as I left America and settled in Israel. The return to the comics community via the The New Comic Book of Life website in 2003, began connecting me again to the industry, I soon learned that Jeffrey Catherine Jones had underwent a gender transformation that took her out of commission for a while, and was then in the early stages of recuperating and returning to some normalcy or acceptance as a producing artist. A sprawling website of her art allowed me to catch up a little on her more recent work and learn of what had befallen her… and also get to know the artist a little better through her personal writings. A couple of years ago, Catherine created a profile page on Facebook and began curating an unprecedented art exhibit and enlightening commentary that remains at peak activity, even in her passing, revealing what is one of the more gentle souls and talented artists whom our world has known.

Perhaps a more compelling aspect of Catherine’s art is embodied in the humility of “not knowing”. A sharp contrast to the bold-in-your-face-drama of an Adams-on-the-heels-of-Kirby era for comics and fantasy art. And though it was Frank Frazetta who enriched the medium with greater grace, it was Jeffery Catherine Jones who defined the difference between these dichotomous approaches. While one would choose to strike the viewer on the head with a sledge-hammer of melodrama, Catherine’s stated intent was that she wanted to draw the viewer into the image, instead of imposing it upon them.  It was this quality that most reverberated in her “non-gestural” art, resolute with the most subtle gestures. Main figures are often turned away from the camera, and even when we could see their faces, there was little to see in the shadows, evoking a mesmerizing curiosity that couldn’t let the art go.

If her art was a test for our subconscious, then judging by the legion of Jeffrey Catherine Jones art lovers, it might be safe to say that Catherine succeeded in elevating the enjoyment of her work to a level of participation, much like when a written novel elevates the readers’ imagination of the verbal descriptions of imagery to a point of eliciting participation with the author in the storytelling process.

So, while getting smacked on the head with a sledge-hammer is apparently considered an exhilarating affair in today’s pop culture marketplace, there seems to be no denying the unique personal charge inherent in the altogether opposite approach of viewing the art as a whisper that draws us into the myriad stories it conceals. A look back at art and history might reveal that a majority of the work that has been preserved and survived, which would most naturally be the most esteemed, belongs more to the passive and suggestive approach, as Catherine’s art does.  Art that places its trust in the viewer’s curiosity of itself. A curiosity that fills the gaps of the story, that eventually comes to hold a more memorable place in the heart and more elevated cultural place in our collective consciousness. If this quality is at all an indication of long term trends, then we may well be on the cusp of the rise of Jeffrey Catherine Jones’ work to one of the more cherished and well regarded heights in art history.

This somewhat coy approach to art, where the artist taunts the viewer with a vagueness that elicits a mysterious affinity, would alone mostly place Catherine on the effeminate side of the gender map, in sharp contrast to the more macho sledge-hammerers-of-melodrama out to spoon-feed the viewer with everything we need to know about their art. Or even the many degrees in between. This was simply not Catherine’s desire as an artist, in the same way that she wasn’t comfortable asserting she understood the meaning of Blind Narcissus. If we are to stereotypically attribute an assertion of “knowing” to a sometimes snug male-of-the-species whom we can be, then this very opposite state of “not knowing” would perhaps be best said to have a home in the female subconscious.  Maybe more than others, this issue of the essential function of the art and interaction with the viewers, seemed to provide an opportunity for expression to Catherine’s strong feelings, since childhood, that she was more of a woman than a man.

 

 

The transformation of Jeff Jones to Jeffrey Catherine Jones was not, however, like any other gender transformation we’ve known. In most such cases, men who make this change do so at an earlier age, usually driven by a sexual attraction to other men, which seems reasonable when a man connects strongly to the woman within them, allowing the feminine side to take over. But in the case of Jeff Jones, there seemed to have been no such signs of sexual attraction being behind the change. Just the opposite, Catherine continued to be attracted to women and shared the latter years of her life with a woman partner. The personality, insight and conviction that comes through her art and writings were delivered through mature female eyes. While the woman’s form remained a central subject of her work, there was rarely any sexuality to it. Sensuous to incomparable melt, definitely.  But certainly far from expressing overt sexuality. It’s as if viewers are transported to another innocent time, when we were naked but not ashamed, maybe because our sexuality was still in its infancy..or perhaps even yet non-existent.

Comments on her work have lauded the dignity with which she’s portrayed the female form, and some have suggested that Catherine’s art aspires to purge womanhood of the charge of sexual manipulation that some elements of society brashly place on them.  In some of her writings, she delivered insights into the female soul as the carrier of life whose utmost concern is to nurture the newborn and prepare them for independence. These reveal a genuine affinity to the woman who resides in every man, and not merely an issue of sexual attraction or preference. Looking at the full range of work left by Catherine, perhaps her biggest contribution, as an artist and man-woman, is opening a door for all of us to recognize the presence of both genders within ourselves.

More revealing is that Catherine had never truly entirely shed her male trappings in favor of womanhood. Just the opposite comes through the many comments and discussions on her Facebook page over the last year or so. She was happy carrying her former male name and often expressed herself with an assertiveness that’s more identified as being “manly” by comparison.  As if to say that she had also arrived at a peace with the man residing within her.

 

 

In becoming re-acquainted with Jeffrey Catherine Jones over the last few years, I found myself identifying with her insights into the drawing process, which mostly seem to come from that place within us of “not knowing”. As a result, and in sharp contrast to the methodology I trained in as a comics artist, I found myself drawing with more initial uncertainty and allowing the art to try to “create itself”, so to speak. It’s wasn’t an altogether new experience for me as I’d come to such states sometimes, while being disengaged from the comics world. But there is something about the expectancies of the comics medium that makes such an approach difficult, which perhaps best defines the difference between commercial and fine art in our time. The latter being a more independent and unprescribed approach, free of the shackles of market demands. In hindsight of the struggle I’ve had between these over the years. and in looking back at Catherine’s career, it’s truly a wonder that an artist has remained so much a part of the comics industry while maintaining a truly independent course as an artist. There simply aren’t any examples where Catherine compromised her artistic integrity in the face of commercialization and pop culture trends. Jeffrey Catherine Jones rather chose to set her own trend and allow the chips to fall where they may.

Another aspect of her activity on Facebook are the conversations that come in the comments to art and photos that Catherine posted on her page. She had a genuine child-like curiosity for the simplest things and often brought examples of outside issues that amused her. There were some political, religious and even science oriented offerings that started interesting banter on her posts, where I found myself commenting there on a wide range of things from spirituality to new science discoveries. Throughout the discourse, in which I’m known to become a little wordy at times, I found in Catherine a pure and unattached woman who wasn’t necessarily crazy about taking sides in any fervent debate. Her way was to find a common ground and a bridge. On one occasion, when we discussed Big Bang theory relative to Steady State, she responded to the differences I pointed out between the two with: “well, can’t the two theories be compatible after all?”. And this wasn’t coming from someone who doesn’t understand the sciences, which she was clearly fluent in and understood theoretical ramifications. More than anything, she seemed to understand the fluidity of our sum knowledge and how precarious it is to assert a conclusion on issues we can yet barely understand.

Jeffrey Catherine Jones was not a fighter in the classical sense of the word. She did not like conflict. She rather chose to find expression to the harmony and grace that she felt within herself.  She was not driven by a haughtiness about herself or an ego inflated by her artistic wizardry, but rather understood her existence as part of greater and more comprehensive whole. Her art is a record and testimony of her coming to grips with the more complete being that she was. Her allure is in that same inner peace that allowed her to transform herself in mid-life and widen her personal horizons.

 

 

It is way too early to attempt to define the legacy of Jeffrey Catherine Jones on the day after her passing. It will take some time to digest her illustrious career and life and the profound impact she’s had on the comics community and the world. It is possible, however, to have a sense of the enormous scope of her presence and the sudden tragic emptiness at her departure.

Catherine’s death is not merely the passing on of an accomplished artist.  It is also a window through which we can look at ourselves more candidly and try to earn a small fraction of the serenity she bestowed upon us.

Godspeed, good lady.

 

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Have Peace, Jeffrey Catherine Jones

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1944-2011

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New JC Jones Portrait

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Jeffrey Catherine Jones

As a Wikipedia editor, I sometimes help out with the comics project in providing portraits for creator biographies that are missing images. I’m still unsettled from awe of the artist that overcomes me with this piece. The immense volume of work that Catherine’s produced is dwarfed only by its elegance and beauty, which might well be of the greatest contributions to a medium often driven by violent melodrama. The comics artists’ community owes a great debt to Jeffrey Catherine Jones for touching us with the harmony and grace we so need more of.  (Based on a photograph by George Pratt)

Jeffrey Catherine Jones: Portraits of the Creators Sketchbook

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Better Things

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Life and Choices of Jeffrey Jones

A film by Maria Cabardo

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Have Peace, Eric

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Eric Aryeh Mahr 1955-2010

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At first it seemed like a mistake. An email from Joe Rubinstein asking if it was true that Eric Mahr had passed away, and if so, how. I couldn’t understand how such a thing is possible but looked around and found an obituary in the Buffalo News, yet still couldn’t see the connection. It’s not so uncommon a name, after all. I looked at Eric’s website, Mahrwood Press, and saw no indication. Emailed back to Joe that it must be someone else. Keep on checking, he said. I then visited Targum Press, where Eric was CEO. The front page obituary slammed into me like a ten ton truck with a payload of shock and sorrow.

No other news to be found on the web.  Maybe Clifford Meth knows, I thought, but Clifford’s shock was equal to mine. Maybe Sofia.  No.  Hearing the news wasn’t the easiest way for her to start her day either.  Eric’s gone and no one knows.

Stupid. How could I forget his Facebook page. Don’t do Facebook that much anymore, but there was the entire story on Eric’s profile. Countless condolences for Jody and the kids. An audio file of eulogies from the funeral that just took place on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.  Eric’s older brother, Sanford, who couldn’t make the trip from the U.S. due to health restrictions, tells the story in a moving written eulogy recited by a friend at the funeral.

Eric and Jody flew to Buffalo NY last week to attend the funeral of Jody’s father… and another one of Eric’s uncle. Eric was very close to both. Way too much sorrow and grief for one family, one man, to suffer at once.  One funeral after the other.  But Eric was almost done.  Only one more eulogy for his uncle left to give.  His heart, ripped into shreds, pressed on with love, grief, memories and praise.  At the grave.  Pressed on so hard that it couldn’t press on anymore.  That’s when Eric collapsed.  Giving the eulogy at his uncle’s grave.  His heart.  His soul.  Collapsed at the grave.

Almost done. Way too much sorrow.

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It was a cheerful spring of 1994 when we first met. Eric called from Jerusalem asking if I was who he thought. Said he was a long time fan of my comics work, ardent comics aficionado and acquaintance of Neal Adams and his family in New York. We’d spend the next few years riding the bridge between the two distant worlds we both shared. The two worlds of comic books and Jewish heritage. Not an easy bridge to play on at all. Two worlds that don’t seem to share much in common, though we both knew how much in common they really shared.  So much so that we could hardly imagine a Jewish heritage without comic books or comics books without Jews.  Like me, Eric was raising a young family with heart stretched across the long divide between past and present loves and lives. Refusing to let go of either. Searching for ways to keep both worlds connected. Here in Israel.  Living only 20 minutes apart on the West Bank of our Jewish heritage… and our comics books.

Eric acclimated to Israeli life and culture quickly. Studied technical writing and secured a position with technology giant Comverse, and soon rose to position of marketing director of overseas projects. Though often on the road, he never forgot the neighborhood. Always thought of his friends. Several freelance design and animation commissions from Comverse that he directed my way were of the most lucrative and creative jobs I did in Israel during the 1990′s.  But that wasn’t enough for Eric. He wanted to work in comics and was intent on bridging the two worlds. By the turn of the millennium he found a way and established Mahrwood Press, beginning an outstanding line of comics books for the Jewish world. Comic books rich with thousands of years of the history and heritage of his ancestors .

During a visit to Israel, Joe Rubinstein talked about Eric approaching him to help illustrate stories for Mahrwood. Joe Kubert was already on board with a project. Eric was publishing one book after the other. It’s enough to simply peruse Mahrwood’s front page to see the rich array of books he produced, almost as a one man operation. He was publisher, editor, writer, coordinator, letterer and anything else that needed to be done to produce the books. It was the only way to raise such an operation from the ground up.

Though I contributed sporadically to Eric’s venture, my former partner Sofia Fedorov-Polonsky became a regular artist and colorist for Mahrwood press. Her Moscow art training and exquisite sensibilities went on to help define the brand name of books he produced.  In 2006, he conceived a project to help Israeli children displaced by the Second Lebanon War. Balm in Gilead featured some of the comic book industry giants, pitching in to help offset criticism against Israel and the financial setbacks the war caused its northern citizens.  Edited by Clifford Meth, it featured contributions by Neal Adams, Jon Bogdanove, Dave Cockrum, Jack Dann, Jeffrey Jones, Joe Kubert, Stan Lee, Robert Silverberg, William Tenn, Marv Wolfman, Michael W. Kaluta, myself and many more.  It was the landmark project that showed how Eric’s love and devotion for the two worlds he was ardently dedicated to, had fulfilled the ambitions he dreamed of  a decade before. Eric’s persistence and perseverance became a shining light in a world often governed by feelings of helplessness and futility.

In recent years, Eric supplemented his commitment to Mahrwood Press by also taking on the position of CEO of Targum Press book publishers, elevating the production quality and output of both enterprises simultaneously.

Eric Mahr’s unique contribution to the global comic book industry was only one side of a man driven by his convictions and commitments to his family, his people and his chosen profession. The other side, evident in the eulogies at his funeral, and well known to Sofia and I who were privileged to work with him, was the more indication of the special soul residing in him. A man with a heart of gold as big as his ambition. A giver at every turn. A father and husband cherished by family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues. There was not a time that Sofia and I met with Eric, that we didn’t talk on and on about the uplifting experience he left us with. About that soft-hearted man with a zest for life and a vision for tomorrow, to match the expanse of the worlds he toiled to bridge together and enhance.

The comics have lost a unique lover and contributer to its legacy.  The Jewish people have lost a visionary who’s left an indelible mark on its culture.

Our deepest condolences to Jody, the children Benjamin and his wife Shifra Hanna, Chava Sara and her fiance Moshe Yehuda Saposh, Raphael Moshe and Yosef Shmuel Alezer, grandchildren Moshe Yehosua and Sora Brucha, brother Sanford and sister Marilyn. May you be comforted from above with the peace of Jerusalem and Zion.

Michael Netzer and Sofia Fedorov-Polonsky
Ofra, Jerusalem, 2010.

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Family, friends and comics professionals remember Eric

  • Eulogies at the funeral – audio file.
  • Sanford Mahr‘s eulogy of his brother Eric in text format, telling of Eric’s childhood, their growing together and Eric’s last moments in his arms.
  • Clifford Meth‘s moving tribute to Eric at his blog.
  • Tom Spurgeon reports on Eric’s departure at The Comics Reporter.
  • Moshe Chaim Gress, artist and colleague, remembers Eric (from Facebook).
  • Hazon Yeshaya Humanitarian Network dedicates its hot meals nationwide to Eric’s memory (Word document).

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