MONMOUTH UNIVERSITY GUEST SPEAKER & PANEL DISCUSSION ENGAGEMENT
In April 2018, James was selected as a featured speaker at Monmouth University’s Career Day for the Fine Art and Design Department. James enlightened students and alumni in the audience through presenting his unique, decades-long journey as an evolving artist, gallery owner, and interior designer. He also shared how his dedicated travel to the world’s top museums greatly inspired and influenced his interior design work. James reminded young artists to create a beautiful life while imagining and pursuing a career in the arts: “Art has permeated all parts of my life, grounding me and reassuring my doubts that beauty still exists in the world. My hope is that you can all allow art to guide your careers and that you always let who you are and what brought you here lead you.”
Anthony Colella Director of Visual Identity at Rutgers University Foundation
David CorniolaGraphic Artist at Toll Brothers
Joseph CociaChief Photographer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET)
Lawrence SchauVice President of Brand & Creative Strategy at Symbiotix, LLC
Tom WhiteArt Director, Illustrator, Photo-Based Visual Artist, Gallery Director, and Founder of Exhibit No.9 Gallery
James YaroshPainter, Art Dealer, Interior Designer for Art Collectors, and Owner of James Yarosh Associates Fine Art Gallery
Artist and art gallery owner James Yarosh has carved out a unique name for himself as an interior designer for art collectors, sharing his enthusiasm as he educates clients on how to love and live with fine art.
James established the James Yarosh Associates Fine Art Gallery in Holmdel in 1996 with a vision to represent fine art for art’s sake and to curate gallery collections and thoughtfully present art with an artist’s eye and understanding. James, who complemented his academic studies by traveling to study art in the world’s greatest museums, created his gallery to be a destination where clients can associate with other like-minded individuals to celebrate art and the talents that create it. His artist's eye have allowed James to spot trends. He has received national critical acclaim for recognizing significant art movements in their early stages, most notably his representation of Russian fine art.
James trains his eye for well-appointed design by studying how renowned museums display their art and through a career visiting artists’ homes to see how they live with their art. Due to this unique approach to design, James has been a featured designer in the “Mansion in May” show home creating the space, "An Art Collector's Sanctuary" at the Blairsden estate IN 2014, and his work has been published in regional and national magazines.
Most recently, James co-curated “Sheba Sharrow: Balancing Act” here at Monmouth University that opened the Fall 2017 SEASON in the DiMattion Gallery — a show that he says allowed him a unique opportunity to collaborate with a team that looked at art from all perspectives.
Choosing a career in the arts is not a conventional career path, it is out side the norm and therefore, it is an opportunity for us as artists to create our own definitions of success. - James Yarosh
Last fall, I co-curated “Sheba Sharrow: Balancing Act” at the university and was honored to be asked to come here to tell you about what I do as an artist, gallery owner and interior designer for art collectors. The exhibition truly represented my work in promoting art for art’s sake and sharing art with the general public to promote better understanding of artists and the work they do.
The exhibit represented the last two decades of work by Sheba Sharrow, who was born in the 1920s and came of age during the Great Depression. To me, the focus of her work dealt with the questions of life and death — topics that connect all of us — and the paintings each represented answers to the same question with a changed viewpoint that the artist explored. When we are young, we see death as far off or something we battle against. Later in life, we might experience loss and death as something that sort of sits next to us. Towards the end of our life, we see our own mortality and imagine an after life.
These are big and important topics, and for me, that is exactly what makes art great. Art allows people a safe place to explore thoughts and as an artist, I know this. In fact, we all know this. To a certain extent all of us in the room have artists’ hearts and feel it in our life’s path.
As a gallery owner for over twenty years, I have been on the front lines of explaining art to general audiences who don’t understand art and often do not know what they are missing. I have developed a skill in helping people understand that the best art is created for art’s sake.
But we are always learning. I thoroughly enjoyed the collaboration I had with Monmouth University and with Scott Knauer, Mark Ludak, Michael Richardsong at the Di Mattio Gallery. It is so inspiring to create something with like minds. This is what made it special: We shared thoughts and we all learned from each other. In addition, I learned from the critical essays by writers from the school and in writing my own catalog entry. It was heaven to be in an environment that allowed me to explore art deeply.
I personally learn best from experience and talking to people. It is the type of training that brought me to where I am today. I have always taken a less formal route to learning than traditional education. I looked at my life in decades and set goals for myself. Since I was young, I loved reading artists’ biographies and learning from these masters. When I was 17, I began working in a gallery part-time and eventually managed the gallery while attending night school. At 18, I moved out of my parents’ house and worked 60 hours a week at the gallery, while going to school and painting. One job led to another and I managed galleries in NYC and New Jersey. I absorbed myself in the art world, becoming active with the local art alliances, joining painting groups, taking private art classes and showing, selling and placing my own art in local exhibitions.
My experience working in the galleries taught me that they were more about business than art. There was a gap between what people thought they should hang in their homes as art and what art really was. They was no education for the clients, which I did not like. I had no interest in commercial art endeavors.
After I had been working in galleries for a decade, I started doing architectural drawings for interior designers, which built many relationships. As I established myself in that world as a professional who had an eye for art, designers would ask me to recommend artwork for their clients. By the time I was 29, one of those designers asked me if I would be willing to open my own gallery in a building she was looking to acquire for her design firm.
Although I was nervous, I saw an opportunity and felt secure enough to take the risk and open James Yarosh Associates Fine Art Gallery.
For the next decade, I worked to be the kind of gallery I wanted. I had learned that people won’t magically come just because you opened a gallery — you had to go out and cultivate business and opportunity.
I set my hours as open Saturdays 12 to 4 pm and by appointment the rest of the week. I showed only artists whose works I liked and believed in. People saw my sincerity and enthusiasm for the work I was doing and responded to it.
Around this time, I started traveling Europe extensively and studied artworks at museums using audio tours. I read books and filled my head with everything that interested me, including how museums presented artwork. These museums were not simply white slates to hang artwork, but had great floors, damask walls and architecture that served as great halls to exhibit art.
This knowledge became very helpful when the interior designer who shared my building enlisted my help for her projects designing 20,000-square-foot homes. Having traveled and having an artist’s eye, I had a natural aptitude for design and understood the goals and logic of estate design and new construction goals as a designer to have foresight.
In my thirties, I learned how to speak up at a job site — a skill in itself –- and how to became an asset. At this point, my gallery was growing with national recognition for the quality of art I represented — an accomplishment for a suburban art gallery!
By 40, I was in the gallery business for two decades and my interior design work was being published. Although I was immersed in my careers of directing an art gallery and doing interior design, I had not painted seriously since I opened my gallery. So, I decided for my fourth decade, I would focus on becoming a painter again. I began drawing classes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and took painting workshops at the Bridgeview Russian Painting School, where I was asked to do studies abroad as part of the school.
I was not seeking to abandon the gallery, but was trying to find balance as an artist.
I continued to travel with new purpose: to really look at paintings up close. I fell in love with Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka’s work all over again. I became awestruck by Lucian Freud and started to chase his shows.
Around this time, I mounted an exhibition called “A Family Portrait,” which was a series of up-close portraits I painted of family members who sat for me. Since I’ve always loved looking at artists’ self-portraits done over a career, began with a self-portrait of myself with my cat, which I called “Choosing Happiness.” I also asked my partner, Barney, and my parents to sit for me. This experience made me realize that as I spent my thirties in full career mode, those I loved around me were aging too. I realized that I needed to reset my focus to prioritize my loved ones.
In 2014, I had an exciting opportunity: I was invited to be a part of an interior design show house. Blairsden Mansion is a 64,000-square-foot French estate by the architects Carrère & Hastings who also designed the Frick Museum, The New York Public Library and the Neue Gallery. My room was the largest upstairs space and a second-floor atrium with a huge glass skylight that ran up the two upper stories to the roof. The columned sitting space with a fireplace was a private area upstairs for the family and the halls around it had no windows — which made it perfect for a gallery in the round. With this opportunity, my ideas of showing people how to live with fine art and my experience as an interior designer reached a pinnacle moment: I was able to show my skills as an interior designer for art collectors. More than 30,000 guests toured this room, and since then, I’ve been marrying art and design for projects both close to home in New Jersey as well as in NYC, Florida, New Hampshire and Chicago.
The reason I wanted to share my artist journey with you on career day is to show how important it is to use our artistry and talent — and to be open to opportunities. I love design work as it is a way to compose a room with beautiful objects, surfaces to create a logical composition and highlights and low lights. It takes an eye, trained over time and experience to understand how to approach a room and build it starting from the most important item — the art. It starts with the art, no matter how beautiful the rugs, fabrics and wall coverings. If we begin with the furnishings, it’s to build a stage where the artwork to come later can shine.
Today, I still hope to return my focus to painting, but I will do that more for myself and support it with a career that uses my talents and intuition as an artist. For example, it was freeing when I opened my “Family Portrait” show to mount an exhibition where nothing was for sale. It was just for the appreciation of the art. This creates the balance in my world.
My goals as I enter my fifth decade are more personal than career-focused. I am looking forward to celebrating 25 years with my partner this August and hope that in my sixth decade, I will become a full-time painter. I think it’s important when we are looking at our career goals we include the importance of creating a beautiful life.
I remember two important things my Mother told me at different points in my career: One: “The only thing that is stopping you from getting a job is your ego.” Two, when I was contemplating taking on the Blairsden project to be high profile locally: “You know you can do this; you only doubt yourself when you are tired — and for then, I am here to cheer you on.” I say this as to not to discount the wisdom of those who love you most to consider as you walk your path.
As an art dealer, I see the world getting smaller with the internet and opportunities more rare to spot things like the discoveries of Russian Art movements that were hidden behind an Iron Curtain, non conformist movements and three decades of Impressionist painters who based their art after the French Impressionism movement and created their own ideas of light and color relationship.
If we are all plugged in, we are all receiving similar experiences through our “artist antenna” and being unique becomes increasingly difficult.
Also, I think our work as artists is bigger than just ourselves, that we are connected and honoring something greater than us. As an art dealer, it’s my job and my honor to tell the stories of each of the artists I show.
I also choose artists who connect to my vision of what art should be. It is a partnership. I am inspired and humbled by working with these artists who I find credible. We share the ride together. We live vicariously through each other and inspire one another. I love being able to tell an artist I sold something. It fuels them to do more — and to be more courageous as an artist is a brave role.
Encouraging artists to do their greatest work is my life’s work. The beauty here is that as artists we are outside convention and we get to define our own ideas of success. Making money is obviously important, but doing good work is so much more to me. Money comes and goes, but looking back at a career of a job well done and championing things you believe in to help move the needle of change very special. I believe it’s why my gallery has lasted: I do good work and it comes back to me.
When my gallery has had down times with recessions and shaky consumer confidence, I used that time to create important shows and work toward publications with the hopes that by the time they landed, we might be in a better climate.
I really have lived my life as an artist and managed to navigate a career that has rung true to who I wanted to be as a person and what I want for the arts. Art is my center — it’s what grounds me — and it has gotten me through everything life has tossed at me so far. It reminds me that there is beauty is always possible, which allows me to find the strength to carry on a self-made career.
Fall 2017- Monmouth University presents Sheba Sharrow - Balancing Act in partnership with James Yarosh Associates. (Left to right, Mark Ludak, Michael Richison, Vincent DiMattio, James Yarosh, Michael Waters, Corey Dzenko, Scott Knauer and Alejandro Anreus )