Alan M. Jacobson MD

My artistic interest has been drawn to representations of imagined people, landscapes, and abstractions rendered in highly expressive ways. The images emerge spontaneously, often without plan, as a synthesis of my emotional life, social concerns, and work as a therapist caring for patients with chronic conditions and as a neuroscientist studying the impact of diabetes on the structure and function of the brain.

My figurative paintings frequently depict isolated individuals, sometimes trying to make contact and/or comfort one another. The subjects are shaped and placed in awkward positions. I use unusual color combinations to enhance the intensity of each situation. Often I paint only part of the human figure, focusing on eyes and hands as the body parts that most capture emotions. Fingers and hands are like the branches of trees reaching out into the environment to nurture the self and others. I may decrease the size of the figures or remove them completely to access the universe beyond and convey a dialogue between its strange beauty and our human travails.

I paint with oil on plywood, wood planks and MDF board. Sometimes the ideas for paintings develop at a lumberyard where I choose wood based on the images that I see in the grain. I apply paint thickly and quickly, pushing myself to get the paint out in a torrent to escape conscious oversight. I may also drip, pour, and put on pieces of encrusted paint and other substances to create depth and texture. I love the touch and feel of these gestures; touching allows me to engage the painting in a different way, much as entering a three-dimensional space. Each step is an exploration into unknown territory- a partly-planned venture; depictions can change direction over time, when I return to build on each “draft” until the work feels complete. I frame the paintings with construction grade lumber, metal strapping and other common building materials to provide a contrasting structural environment and conversation between the packaging and the image itself. The frames and many of the paintings are influenced by my trips to Japan and my experiences visiting their Buddhist and Shinto Temples.

I did my undergraduate studies at Yale University in Philosophy and Religion, and my medical and scientific training at the University of Chicago and Harvard Medical School. Currently, I am Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. I am largely self-trained as an artist through careful observation of my surroundings. My work is in collections across the United States.