North Coast Journal


Dichotomy of style

by Marie Gravelle

If you see one of his paintings, and then see one of his ceramic sculptures, you might wonder if there aren't two Jeff Langdons.

Or maybe three.

His work seems a dichotomy of styles, with much of it either showcasing young humor or capturing ancient desolation.

"I feel like an old man already," the 28-year-old Arcatan said as he pulled prints and paintings off shelves in his cluttered garage. As an artist, that's probably a good trait. But he's also a musician in a North Coast rock band called Grout. There, his relative youth is his asset.

"I really like making music," Langdon said, "but it's not the kind of thing that's going to pay your rent."

While his art hasn't brought in big money yet, his peers say he has potential. The fine arts graduate from Humboldt State University works in many different mediums: clay, oil paints, pastels, pencil, metal. His creations range from rock/metal necklaces to abstract pastel lithographs to strange, haunting ceramic collages.

Still struggling to define his own "style," Langdon said gallery directors and others often urge him to be consistent. But he's resisting.

"To hell with having one thing you do," Langdon said. The Redwood City native lays floors for a contractor by day and plays music at night. A prolific artist, one wonders when he has time to create.

"I do this when I'm bored," Langdon said, pointing to a lithograph drawn late one night while battling a fever brought on by the Humboldt crud (a nickname for a nasty flu apparently endemic to Humboldt County.)

The drawing represents a huge head, standing alone and being pulled backward by a horse. It's strange, but anyone who's ever had the crud could relate.

A member of the Ink People Gallery in Eureka, Langdon has access to a press and other equipment. Without that, he probably wouldn't be able to afford to create many of his pieces.

While age lines aren't chiseled into his young face yet, an older soul is evident in many of Langdon's subjects. "I call this `Eureka Couple,' " he said, holding a red-and-black lithograph. It shows a man and woman with skeleton-like features staring out a darkened doorway. At first glance, it's disturbing (as all good art should be, right?). On second glance, the drawing becomes more intricate, and demands a closer look. Emotional and physical poverty hits you.

Like a "slap in the face," Langdon admits his work may not always be appropriate for living-room viewing.

A friend drove up from the Bay Area recently, anxious to see Langdon's work and carry some back to hang in offices. Once he saw Langdon's stacks of lithographs, paintings and strange ceramic creations, he opted to go home empty handed.

"You can't please everyone," Langdon shrugged. His work is all so different. One artist described it as "quirky" - a compliment in the art world.

An example of Langdon's humor is a piece hanging in his kitchen. "The Hand That Feeds" is a good-sized ceramic bowl holding lizard figures feasting off a section of bloody hand.

"I hung that piece in an attorney's office," Langdon said. "He was nice about it, but he had me take it down. He said he was a personal injury attorney and the severed hand probably didn't go."

In his bedroom, along with a small Van Gogh print and other work on the wall, he has two ceramic conglomerations that he calls "psychological self-portraits." They represent his memories.

In the junk-art style, Langdon has taken guitar strings, bottle caps, a toothbrush - and much, much more - and molded all the objects into pieces that truly defy description.

Some of Langdon's work will be on display at Eureka City Hall this month. He will show at the Ink People Gallery, 411 12th St., Eureka, in June as part of the "Body Parts Invitational."

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