John W Carlson, Rest In Peace

John W. Carlson, oil and pastel on canvas, 20 X 20 inches, by Douglas Max Utter, December, 2020


The social media outpouring of grief over the passing of John W. Carlson in recent days provided a small window on the scope of impact made by an artist who loved to engage with people, ideas, and art. John was taken to the hospital in an ambulance Friday night, having had an abdominal aneurism.  Officially he died at 2:02 pm Sunday, December 20.  He was kept on life support until 8 am Tuesday morning, because he generously had donated his organs, and the medical team needed time to find matches to receive his gift of continued life.

John leaves behind his life partner Shari Wilkins, her daughter Helen Severovich, Tim Severovich, and their infant son Silver Severovich, who was a light in his life, a special joy in the isolation of the pandemic. He joins his son Ryan, who passed in 2010.

John W. Carlson, with Silver Severovich, 2020. Photo by Shari Wilkins.

He also leaves behind a prodigious legacy of paintings, in styles that evolved through the years. Among his recent exhibit highlights were a solo show, Blues, at HEDGE Gallery in February, 2020. In 2017 he had a solo show at the Massillon Museum. Other recent exhibit highlights included The Carlson/Standley Experience at Field Projects Gallery, New York, in 2019; Don’t Be Still (With Robert Banks) at HEDGE Gallery in 2018; The New Now, presented by Artists Archives of the Western Reserves  at Tri-C in 2018; and CAN Triennial, 2018.  His work is in the permanent collections of the Erie Art Museum (Erie, PA), and the Massillon Museum (Massillon, Ohio), and innumerable private collections.

Writing of his work, critic Joseph Clark said, his “images are ‘gestural’ in at least two senses; his brushstrokes are unconcealed and dramatic, and his subjects splay and contort their bodies to communicate operatic emotion. Painted with limited but vivid colors, the men and women of Carlson’s paintings grapple with existence itself. They sulk, wince, bare teeth, hide their eyes, crumple into the ground, and cling to each other. Their postures and gestures are raw depictions of struggle.”

His most recent works, however, captured intimate moments between people, with joy.

An appreciation of his life and work will appear the Spring issue of CAN Journal.  Details about a memorial service are yet to be determined.



The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.

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