By ELYN HIRNI
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) – The community lost a unique artist this summer.
Jim Myers died from kidney failure June 15 due to complications from pneumonia. Jim had several opportunities to travel on art circuits, and his art was shown in many exhibitions.
“He did sell a lot of works as a young man, commissions work,” said Teena Simon, Jim’s wife. “But he hated selling his work, because then it would be gone. He could never get it back, and he hated that.”
Some of his sculptures, including the giant man, can still be seen by his home next to Economy Lumber near the junction of U.S. 50 and Route 13 in Warrensburg.
One of his commissions was the “Fountain of Ewes” in front of the Ponce de Leon apartments on Main Street near the Plaza in Kansas City.
“A play on words, again,” Myers said in a 2000 edition of the Kansas City Star. “You know, Ponce de Leon looked for the ‘Fountain of Ewes;’ it’s always been the Ponce de Leon building, and it’s two sheep standing in a fountain.”
Matt Bird-Meyer, a friend of Jim’s and UCM Muleskinner adviser, approached Jim for help with an event Bird-Meyer organized called the Dragonfly Extravaganza, a poetry reading interspersed with music and art from local artists as the backdrop. The two became friends.
“I did not know Jim at the time but I always admired his sculptures from around town,” Bird-Meyer said. “I told him what I wanted to do with the Dragonfly Extravaganza and he didn’t hesitate to say, ‘Yes.’ In fact, he simply wanted me to tell him the time, date and place and that he would take care of the rest.”
After the first Dragonfly Extravaganza at Cave Hollow Park, the first of many parks in Warrensburg at which the happening was held, Jim was Bird-Meyer’s featured artist at every subsequent Dragonfly Extravaganza. The most interesting of these, according to Bird-Meyer, was the 8- or 9-foot-tall rocket Jim made for a program with a theme of Aliens vs. Spacemen.
“The rocket was propped up on its side and Jim fashioned one of those brush-burning torches for the engine,” Bird-Meyer said. “He and his wife, Teena, roasted hot dogs on it during the program as my fellow performers and I zapped the invading aliens while pie-tin spaceships hovered from an overhead wire. He called them ‘rocket dogs.’”
Jim not only created art for the public, but surrounded himself with it in his own home, too.
“His house is really hard to describe,” Bird-Meyer said. “It was simply fascinating. There were motion sensors, a bank of TV screens showing various points of the property, an access window to the roof where his dogs would wander, any type of tool and power tool you could imagine and art. There was art everywhere and light ropes and doll heads. His dining room table featured chairs that he customized – his own fashioned with knives and swords, if I remember correctly.”
Teena said Jim worked in all mediums.
“I mean, he started out pretty much flat work – pastels, watercolors, painting, drawing, sculptures,” she said. “He had drawers full of baby dolls, heads, arms, legs, glitter glue, bugs, rubber animals, stones, everything…”
Jim was raised in Warrensburg and was a 1976 graduate of Warrensburg High School. He attended the Hollywood Art Center School as well as the Paris American Academy of Art.
“I once made the mistake of saying he was a folk artist,” Bird-Meyer said. “He said, yes, that would be true if he hadn’t been professionally trained.”
Anita Love, a close friend of Jim’s sister, Bryn, said Jim made some imaginative work.
“Back in the 1990s, he was doing a lot of metal work – big pieces of art work – and my favorite one, I would have given anything to buy it, was this fisherman in a boat, but the fish at the end of his line was like six times as big as the boat. To display that artwork, he had to hang the fish out of a tree, with the fisherman and the boat at the base of the tree. That piece of work captured my imagination.”
Love said toward the end of his life, Jim was repurposing a lot of trash and unwanted items for his art.
“He marched to his own drum,” Love said. “He was very… I don’t wanna say ‘eccentric,’ he was just a very unique guy.”
Jim also attracted many brilliant people into his life.
“Jim had a really good core group of friends,” Teena said. “They were all very intelligent and very talented, whether it be music, acting, woodworking, surfing… and he’s kept them for lifelong.”
Jim traveled all over the world, both for pleasure and on art circuits.
“He was a local kid, basically,” Teena said. “He moves here from California, he went to school in Hollywood. Then, he horsed around – I mean, went to school in Paris – and then, of course, he traveled all over on his own.”
Teena said he was great with languages.
“I mean it came easy to him,” she said. “Italian, French, Spanish, not so much the German… but he was really good about learning basic greetings and polite things in every language. He would not put up with rudeness in any language. He was really a nice man. Polite…open.”
Love said she was impressed by Jim’s ability to tune in to others, and how he was never hung up on money.
“He was just a good person,” she said. “He was very gentle… I love the story that his mother told me once, that for Mother’s Day, Jim came and got her, at first light, Mother’s Day morning, drove her out to the farm where he had built a tree house… took his mother up in the tree house where he served her breakfast as the sun came up.”
“Best mother’s day present ever!” she giggled.
Another form of expression Jim was known for was his fireworks displays.
“Oh, he loved fireworks,” Teena said. “He was known for his fireworks displays, I mean, he would set things on fire (with permission, of course).”
His sister, Bryn, remembers the fireworks.
“When we were little and we were growing up,” Bryn said. “We had a tree house in the back pasture. Jim had a big coffee can of fireworks up in the tree house and he dropped the punk in the can and he bailed out of the roof of the tree house onto the ground… didn’t hurt himself at all.”
“He did everything,” Teena said. “He was just one of those kinds of people. No fear.”
“Definitely one of a kind,” Bryn said. “Thank God.”