John Whitehead’s Instant Karma



I met Civil Libertarian of Paula Jones fame, John Whitehead a couple of weeks ago and had the pleasure of chatting with him about his art.  He is a super smart guy – even if we fail to see eye-to-eye on everything- and it was fascinating peering into his brain via his water color and oil paintings he creates at his kitchen table.

C-VILLE WEEKLY commissioned me to blog about the show but there was not room in the dictated word count to describe any of the paintings that seemed particularly important in Whitehead’s first public art showing, Instant Karma, at the Firefish Gallery in Charlottesville (up through October 25th).

Click here to see all of the paintings in the show.

Here are some notes I generated regarding descriptions of paintings while visiting with the beautiful and talented Sigrid Eilertson, owner of Firefish earlier this week:

INSTANT KARMA, the title painting of the show depicts a yin/yang symbol floating in the center of the page radiating a yellow aura in a textured azure sky energy.  Beneath the suspended symbol is a green “earth”, mouth-like with glittered red accents which has either just given birth to or is ready to swallow the orb, “depending on your karma,” as Whitehead puts it.


THE OTHER SIDE: Five grey-washed ghostly figures floating mid  paper suggesting disembodied souls waiting to greet another soul (the viewer) in the next life.  The use of a white glitter wash produces a mystical other-worldly mood. Thick yellow slashes on the upper left side might be shooting stars or other souls ascending.


ALPHA AND OMEGA:  Figure seated in a meditative position. Flames shoot from extended fingertips an eye in at the heart chakra, a sunburst at the bottom center hiding the feet and groin of the figure. A yellow shroud is draped from the head down to the waist  a bright yellow sunburst sits halo like behind the head.  The face is replaced by four oval shaped circles with a blue center, orange spikes surrounding.


PEACE BROTHER:  primary colors yellow peace sign


Oil paintings: faces and figures expressionistic much more mature and advanced in terms of execution, use of color and composition.


SELF PORTRAIT WITH BALLOON: A gaunt angular face with blue and yellow tones and orange accents with a orange orb upper left corner with an orange “tail” or string – a balloon indicating disembodied spirituality.

Water Color subject matter: The Beatles, bleeding candles and flowers, all manner of crazed looking faces- angst ridden and intense in their expressions and bold colors.  bi-polar manic energy.



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