EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY
by Greg Morell
Portsmouth, New Hampshire – Feasting and drinking are two of my favorite pastimes, but they are not usually the subjects of contemporary artists. Jay Schadler, however, is not your usual artistic practitioner. A photo-illustrator in a unique niche, Schadler, a Michigan native, first earned a law degree at Syracuse University, but quickly left the law behind and began his adventure as a world-traveling special correspondent for ABC News with a gift for storytelling. He hitchhiked across America, telling the story of the Everyman for his “Looking for America” series.
Schadler’s 32-year career as a globetrotting television journalist sent him off to remote locations in Africa, India and Uzbekistan, but his most harrowing assignment was chasing the Ebola Virus in the jungle canopy of Gabon.
In his eclectic studio/gallery in Ports- mouth, New Hampshire, a few steps from the center of downtown, Schadler includes, in his rather inimitable assem- blage of ephemera, two golden Emmy Awards garnered from his controversial report on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 1999, and his 2000 report on Tourette Syndrome. Many of his pieces appeared on one of the best daily news programs in the genre’s history, Ted Koppel’s “Nightline,” along with reports for “20/20,” “ABC World News” and “Good Morning America.”
Currently, Schadler is very much at home in his digital world of photo-illustration that straddles commercial and art photography. A visit to his Portsmouth storefront gallery at 82 Fleet Street opens the door to many projects currently being distilled in his photo laboratory, along with glimpses of his past accolades.
He now nds inspiration in a blank wall and thoroughly relishes interaction with his clients as he composes multifaceted images for their corporate headquarters or personal residences. His massive mural for the new Honda dealership in Dover, New Hampshire, is a matrix of sixteen 24” x 24” images that comprise a visual montage of unique icons of the New England region.
OUTSIDE THE BOX
Schadler is adroitly clever in image manipulation and is unfet- tered by standard and convention. His is a freewheeling style that can embrace simplicity or abstract the monumental. In one instance, he trans- formed the workings of a client’s coveted gold watch into a mechanical Incan sun. For another client, a nostalgic New Yorker, he abstracted the iconic Chrysler Build- ing’s tower into radiating fractals of archi- tectural pulse.
What I personally found most intriguing about Schadler’s recent projects was the recon guration of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s 1567 celebration of drinking and feasting entitled “The Peasant Wedding.” This Flemish masterpiece of painterly storytelling, currently housed in Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum, became locked in Schadler’s visual imagination as he sat munching his lunch in front of the great stone hearth, reeking with the aroma of Italian dough, at Portsmouth’s Flatbread Company, located a few short blocks from Schadler’s studio. Directly across from the great hearth was an open blank wall above a series of rustic booths. Schadler seized the opportunity.
Somehow, Schadler talked owner Jay Gould into the idea of recreating the composition and many of the characters in Breugel’s famous painting into a photomural adorning