Music inspired artwork on display at Jazzbones
by Todd Barker Johnson
Published October 12th, 2006

CLUB DANCE. Artwork can be viewed from artists Schmitt and Hall through Oct. 29 at Jazzbones. (Image courtesy of Ric Hall)

The front row of the audience looks on as the pianist lies unmoving where he fell back from his piano, half his head breaking out of the spotlight meant for his performance onstage.

It’s not the opening to an Agatha Christie murder mystery, although it looks like it might be. It’s “Final Note,” one of the many paintings by Schmitt and Hall on display in the Balcony Art Gallery of Jazzbones Restaurant and Nightclub.

The other paintings by Ric Hall and Ron Schmitt being shown at Jazzbones also have a musical theme, although not necessarily quite as dramatic as in “Final Note.”

“We try to have artists show work that is music or dance related,” said Jennifer Johnson who handles the openings and receptions of Jazzbones’ art showings. “That’s kind of a loose guideline.”

Schmitt and Hall’s works have no trouble fitting in with that guideline, loose or not. All of the paintings currently at Jazzbones fall within the musical theme, although the subjects vary widely from musicians to dancers to people simply involved in the music business.

Their paintings are made with lush pastels that give the colors and human figures a slightly nebulous look. The result is an ethereal, strangely dreamlike feel to the images.

Schmitt and Hall have known each other since they were in high school in the early 1970s, according to Hall. He said they “gravitated toward each other” and eventually began working together.

Schmitt and Hall are distinct among artists in that they paint not only cooperatively, but also simultaneously. “We paint pretty quickly, because it’s two sets of hands,” Hall commented. He said they usually work in 12-hour periods, creating two or three paintings in a session.

When one reaches an impasse with a painting, the other can keep it going, according to Hall. As he described it, when they both hit a wall, they start another painting; when they reach a block on the second or third painting, they simply return to the first and find their inspiration for it renewed.

“We don’t know what we’re doing or where we’re going when we begin a new painting,” Hall added.

Although they always work with pastels, Schmitt and Hall have recently begun incorporating other media into some of their paintings such as tissue paper or newspaper.

When not working together, the two have their own artistic endeavors to see to. Hall also works in sculpture with materials like wood, stone and steel, while Schmitt paints landscapes.

The Balcony Art Gallery, located at Jazzbones, will continue to show Schmitt and Hall’s artwork through Oct. 29.

Jazzbones is not the only place in Tacoma where Schmitt and Hall’s paintings can be seen. Four “overflow” paintings that couldn’t fit at Jazzbones are currently on display at the Kickstand Café.

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