The Westfield Voice

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The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

Portraits and Patterns: the Work of Richard Yarde


By Janey Beardsley 

In honor of Black History Month, the Arno Maris Gallery is displaying the work of Richard Yarde. His creative art depicts famous black figures, as well as paintings of dancing couples and groups.

Yarde was born in 1939 to immigrant parents. While his father worked as a mechanic, his mother was employed as a seamstress. This became a source of inspiration for Yarde, as he used some of their patterns in his work. Looking through his paintings, it’s almost as if depictions were painted on top of a quilt. When a brush was in Yarde’s hand, he never forgot about rectangular patterns.

In 1999 Yarde became an art professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst until his passing in 2011. Before becoming a professor, Yarde taught art classes at other New England colleges such as Boston University, Amherst College and Massachusetts College of Art.

He often painted on a larger scale canvas, utilizing watercolor to create colorful pieces. Watercolor is commonly referred to as an “unforgiving” medium; mistakes are difficult to recover from. For Yarde to create such intricate and vibrant paintings is unbelievable.

Yarde’s work is energized by jazz, blues and swing. People in his paintings almost jump off the canvas while music of the 1920s and 30s rings through your ears. The colorful expressions of his characters convey undeniable happiness.

Yarde is famous for his jiving portraits too. He commonly painted distinguished African Americans throughout history. Some of his popular portraits depict people like Louis Armstrong or the first African American pro heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson.

Other acclaimed Yarde paintings on display include favorites like “Leon & Willa Mae”, “Savoy Ballroom” and “Lead Belly.” Many of these pieces come from the R. Michelson Gallery in Northampton, Massachusetts. Others come from the University Museum of Contemporary Art at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, as well as pieces from our own gallery at Westfield State.

Yarde’s art will be displayed in the Arno Maris Gallery from February into March. The gallery is located on the second floor of Ely Campus Center. Open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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