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 Ira Yeager  (1938 - )

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: abstract landscape, portrait, history

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Ad Code: 3
Ira Yeager
from Auction House Records.
Native American with Headdress
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
In the 1980s, two of artist Ira Yeager's exhibitions changed his life. The first, 'Ira Yeager in the Country,' focused on Northern California and Napa Valley landscapes. The second, 'Neo Veneto,' chronicled the lifestyle of wealthy Venetians of the 15th century.

Of special interest to him was the Venetians' passion for establishing country farms as rural getaways to escape the hectic life of the cities. "They (the Venetian gentry) would go up the canals in their gondolas to their villas alongside the river, where they would play farmer," Yeager said. "The 'Neo Veneto' series was really about me leaving the city." Both events pushed him to give up his city life and move permanently to Calistoga in 1990.

Yeager's childhood home in Bellingham, Washington had afforded a wonderful setting to enjoy nature. Inspired by the natural beauty of the region, he began painting in his teens, eventually falling under the influence of the work of American Abstract Expressionists Morris Graves and Mark Tobey. In 1957, he moved to San Francisco, to attend the California College of Arts and Crafts. An interest in abstract and figurative drawing led Yeager to the San Francisco School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) to study with Elmer Bischoff and Nathan Oliveira. There he also studied with Richard Diebenkorn, who steered the young artist in the direction of more experimentation in his work.

In 1960, Yeager moved to Italy, where he continued his study in Abstract Expressionism with Primo Conti in Florence at the Academy of Fine Arts. The hectic pace of his lifestyle and the demands of his career kept him from experiencing nature every day.

For three decades, Yeager traveled the world. He established and lived in studios in England, Mexico, Greece, France, Italy and New York.

In New York, Yeager found himself drawn to Central Park, where he would spend hours walking the pathways, enjoying the park's natural beauty. His growing uneasiness with city living, he now believes, was a wake-up call long overdue.

Returning to San Francisco in 1982, Yeager began a series of paintings focused on Northern California landscapes, exposing him to the beauty of the region and the inspiration he gained from his visits. Yeager moved north to Calistoga, where he purchased 17 acres at the base of Mount St. Helena.

Yeager renovated the original German farmhouse that came with the land, adding an upper floor that houses his studio proper. Nowhere are Yeager's talent and passion for art more evident than in the confines of these four walls.

On one side of the room, surreal portraits of American Indian chiefs with chiseled features in full headdress stare at the viewer while, around the room.

Greek peasant women adorn other canvases in various states of completion. Landscapes of places Yeager visited around the world share wall space with paintings featuring animals, farmers in wooden carts and scenes of provincial rural life.

Other work combines them all into abstract studies of the relationship between man and animal. Each one employs rustic, natural coloring for a feel of the outdoors, joined by a sense of the whimsical.

On first inspection, one might think chaos is winning out over order. The colorful cans of paint in one corner are in a state of disarray, as are the rows of paintings leaning against the walls. Yeager, however, finds comfort in his artistic haven.

"The chaos produces a kind of excitement of the dance," Yeager said. "I think that's what makes a successful painting, when you have it all working together - the darkness and the light in balance - the thinking, feeling, sensate and intuition. (The dance is) like playing out a dangerous game of chaos versus order. It's the process toward the final product - a finished painting. The dance is the real payoff - the fun.

In his early 60s, Yeager divides his time between his houses, studios and galleries in San Francisco, Calistoga and his newest home on the Northern California coast. Yeager the naturalist and Yeager the artist have become one."


Excerpts from SF Chronicle 12/28/02 by Gary Brady-Herndon

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