James C. Litz (1948-2009), Cat, 1992; acrylic on canvas, 20 x 30 inches; Gift of the Johnson-Sellers Families in memory of Richard D. Cornell and Johnson and Charles Sellers, 1995
Celebrating the Life & Art of James C. Litz
On View Saturday, June 26–Sunday, October 3, 2010
My introduction to James Litz came early in my tenure as Director of the Burchfield Penney Art Center. Within the first few months of my appointment I became aware of his works, seeing it on the walls of collectors’ homes and hearing third hand his story. I was motivated to meet him and made an appointment at his home. There he shared with me his passion for art and how it saved him.
Though many knew James Litz, far better than me, he has emblazed himself on my memory. His painful experiences in the Vietnam War and then his suffering the aftereffects found solace in a world of creations he could control. His paintings captured a world that he was familiar with; of sports teams and educational institutions, of parks and familiar restaurants, of animals and historical scenes, a far cry from the jungles of South East Asia. His subjects were the antithesis of his war experience. The images revealed an innocence; a return to a child-like view of the world. In subsequent visits, Jimmy would discuss his work, proud of his accomplishments and his status as an artist. Not boastful but with delight he would speak about those famous people that collected his works and those critics that encouraged his artistic endeavors.
I recall visiting with “Jimmy” at his home in Clarence several times and as he was ailing over the last decade. I would bring flowers to cheer him up. I found his home did not wanting for a colorful bouquet. It already was an environment that radiated with his works on the walls, on desks and tables throughout. Though dealing with illness as a daily challenge, it did not enter his work and in fact his work allowed him to concentrate on those things much more important and much more about what defined his life. It was truly a privilege knowing such a unique individual that celebrated life and found salvation in his work.