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Jim Sears

I came to painting during the middle of my career as botanist and marine biologist. After retiring from UMass Dartmouth as Chancellor Professor of Biology in 2002, I returned there as a painting major in Fine Arts. While continuing as campus landscape designer and teaching an occasional botany course, I completed my painting studies and earned the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting in 2006.  Since then I have fully retired and have turned all of my attention to art; painting, printmaking and gardening.  My wife and former colleague, Donna Huse, and I both paint at our home studio in South Dartmouth and plein air in the region’s diverse natural landscapes.

Early in painting I was drawn to the urban landscape in contrast to the natural world I new as a botanist and marine biologist.  While studying the interesting urban cottage gardens of New Bedford’s Portuguese community with my wife in the 1980’s, and later when I revisited these neighborhoods as a student of art, I enjoyed the patterns of strong light and dark planes of the functional, unpresumptuous multifamily architecture of the south end of New Bedford.  The transitory moment of bright light against dark shadow evoked strong feelings. Many of the New Bedford houses, gardens and neighborhoods I paint were built at the end of the 19th century for mill workers. Residents’ life styles were traditional but some had hope for the future. Perhaps I'm trying to paint the hope and optimism of the folks who lived and still live in these double and triple-decker residences. I like that residents hang their laundry to dry in the sun and sea air, retain their passion for gardening, and that the New Bedford Portuguese neighborhoods reflect their traditional values and cultural icons.

My interpretations of these motifs express values and commitments so deep I can hardly put them to words. Something in my personal history, partly buried in time, is tapped. Paintings of these urban landscapes express my respect for self-sufficient people who grow much of their own food, who improve their surroundings through home upkeep and gardens, and who are ahead of the environmental curve by sun-drying their laundry. These things I hold dear and I have tried to express them in my paintings. Or sometimes I just enjoy the abstract forms of light and dark shapes juxtaposed on the planes of architecture. I feel I've succeeded when I look at one of my paintings and can say, "this is what I love, and this is how I feel." Of course I hope my paintings and lithographs say something to you as well and that they open you to the urban world of southeastern Massachusetts.

I’ve also focused on cityscapes in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and I am close to our natural world of salt marshes, agricultural land and woodlands where I paint plein air natural landscapes adjacent to the Slocum River.  In addition to these urban and natural landscapes I have also begun painting and and drawing (lithographs) underwater landscapes based on my years of working with marine algae and my underwater observations by diving and doing research in deep water seaweed communities along the Massachusetts coast, the Gulf of Maine, Arctic Greenland and the South Pacific Ocean.

My paintings and lithographs are in many private collections in New England, and recent works are on display from time to time at regional galleries. Many of my works can be seen on our website: