An Interview with Jonathan Pearlman of The Artists’ Lounge

Jonathan in garden -min

Sculptor, author and filmmaker Jonathan Pearlman is an iconic presence in East Hampton, and an even greater proponent of the arts on Long Island. This fall, Pearlman teamed up with East End Arts to kick off their new monthly discussion series, The Artists’ Lounge, where guests are invited to share their individual experiences with each other and engage in casual conversation about different creative roadblocks they face as working artists.

To attend the next Artists’ Lounge session, advance registration is required. Participation is free for all EEA members at any level. Non-members are asked to pay a suggested donation of $10 at the event in addition to registering in advance. The theme topic for this month’s casual discussion will be revealed when you register.

How did the Artists’ Lounge series get started?

The Lounge came about as a way of extending the art community that has been established and nourished by East End Arts. We choose topics that are interesting to us and that we feel an open and freewheeling discussion will be a benefit to those attending. Too often creating art is an isolating experience and the chance to meet with other people dealing with similar situations can be quite supportive.

Why did you decide to get involved with the project?

Two years ago I created a series of talks called “One Painting, One Artist and the Creative Mind” which allowed a discussion of the work of one artist at a time. The monthly events were held at the Good Ground Yoga studio in Hampton Bays and were quite well attended. So I have some experience in leading group discussions about art and creativity, but in no way does that make me the perfect host. I think of myself as more of a facilitator, a function many people can fill.

You did not have a traditional education in the arts. How would you describe your career up to this point?

I’ve been making what I call “amusements,” while others may call them sculptures, out of found and collected objects for the last 10 years. It is the work that I find endlessly fascinating and quite satisfying. I have not done it all my life. Prior to that, I was first an agent at a large theatrical agency in New York City, then a partner in a small production company that created documentary and animation. Simon and Schuster published my first novel, Two to Tango, on my 50th birthday and now being 76 I feel I am right on schedule for my second, which I plan to publish on my 100th birthday. One every 50 years seems good enough to me.

What inspired you to become an artist?

I was inspired oddly enough by two friends. The first was the wire-walker Philippe Petit, simply by his tenacity, and the second was the illustrator and sculptor Paul Degen, by his talent and artistic sincerity. Along the way I’ve had the great fortune of meeting and knowing many, many talented and dedicated individuals. Many in their own way have inspired me.

What is your relationship to The Hamptons and Long Island? What drew you there and continues to keep you there?

When we were younger and living and working in the city, my wife and I used to rent homes in the Hamptons, where we would spend a few weeks enjoying the beaches with our two children. Eventually, we bought a home of our own and spent weekends there throughout the year. It was an old house built in the 1890s that we’ve been fixing up for the last 25 years. We were hopeful that once our kids left to pursue their own lives they would be drawn to visit and spend their vacations at the beach as they did when they were children. That came true. My wife and I now live in the Hamptons year round and so does our daughter, while our son spends time here with his family every summer.

What are some of your favorite Hamptons spots and pastimes?

Some of my enjoyable pastimes are playing backgammon at the New Moon Café with owner Ron Campsey; drop-off day at the EEA Gallery when a new show is coming together; the fourth tee-box at Indian Island Golf course; dinner at the bar at The Canal Café; and watching my wife Ellen pick weeds while I sit on the deck with a cold beer in my hand.

What’s next for you? What do you think the future of art and art education in The Hamptons looks like?

I had two well-attended exhibitions this summer and right now I am working on a series of faces that I hope to show next year. I don’t know what the art scene holds for the future. I just know that from the beginning of time people have made art and have found a way to put their work in public view. From cave paintings to recent work created by artificial intelligence, we have a natural impulse to comment on the world around us. Art will live forever. Who will create it and how it will be viewed no one can say.