November 17 – December 12, 2005
At the Shotwell Street Studio
Nearly 17 years ago, on a warm summer evening I accepted a gracious invitation to “Appel Mählen” a previously abandoned 17-acre heirloom apple orchard in the foothills of the Napa Valley where Ira Yeager calls home to one of his inspiring Northern California studios. Upon my arrival I wasn’t positive that I entered the correct gate per the directions offered earlier that day. With fear of possibly offending an unsuspecting landowner who wasn’t expecting guests, I left my car by the edge of the road and started on foot about the property in search of the Adirondack inspired barn that was described as my destination. The approach led me to what appeared to be two gate cottages or guest quarters. On down the drive, and as I approached the second dwelling, I began to hear what I later found to be a guest resident of the cottage rehearsing a Puccini opera.
In search of a painter’s studio, and not an impromptu concert, I decided to proceed up the winding road that thankfully started feeling more like those deposit-slip sketched directions I had jotted down earlier. Now continuing with a bit more confidence, my ears once again became my guide. The Puccini seamlessly became classic Maria Callas at concert levels. There seemed to be a theme here. Just as I could re-orientate myself, a glimpse of the glowing three-story building appeared through the flowering mimosa trees ahead.
A figure briefly appeared in the open balcony waving me up with a welcoming confidence. As I finally approached the studio I was greeted not by my host but instead by an exhibition of what seemed like a tribe or delegation of large Indian portraits leaning 4-wide against the rustic barn siding, as well as a collection propped up by a perimeter of old knarled heirloom apple trees that resembled totem dotting the landscape. Pausing a moment to absorb this unexpected reception, I was surprised yet again by another very large painting that appeared to be on the move- and with a voice. “What do you think of this beauty?” boomed the greeting, resounding over the aria that still poured from the open windows, stories above.
With great honor, I finally have an opportunity to truly answer that telling question. Wisdom and beauty is something I believe still abounds if one knows where to look. Some may be able to give you a learned definition, but most could not give you a promising source. The day I was welcomed to Apple Mahlen, I truly believe I was introduced and set on a path, on how to be a student of true beauty as well as how to recognize trusted sources of wisdom. The opera that greeted me that day simply resembled a possible muse, but later, I now know its true place in the life of this artist. Surrounding oneself with joy and beauty is what I have found to be at the core of the philosophy and life of Ira Yeager. This series of Indian paintings that Ira Yeager has been returning too since the mid 1960’s exemplifies my conviction. The collection of regal paintings that welcomed me to the “World of Ira Yeager” clarified that to know his work, is to truly know the artist.
Within the following pages, it is my true hope you will also discover this wisdom and beauty I have found through his distinctive process of bending abstraction into figuration.
Brian Fuller, director
Ira Yeager Studios
A NOTE FROM THE ARTIST
I romanticize the Indian. I think of them the same as I think of the court of Louis XVI. Beautiful feathers, fur and jewels… Some ask if there is a magical philosophy why I paint Indians. It is a tool to use – of use for color exercises like a pianist does scales, like an architect builds a house. I paint music like a symphony or an opera. A successful Indian painting is like a Verdi – triumphant march. Repetition of images is like learning to play a perfect song. If I could play a perfect song, it would be Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” Yes, I have done some virtuoso Indians in 40 years. Only the viewer would know.