Jory Albright is a man of imagination and interpretation.
And the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Altoona wants you to see it.
The museum's latest exhibition, "Jory Albright: Mindful Travels," on view through Jan. 9, features more than 40 of the artist's pictorial narratives, depicting both fictional and nonfictional people and places.
Mirror photo by Jimmy Mincin
Altoona folk artist Jory Albright poses in front of his oil on canvas painting “Gathering Home,” 1986.
"Jory has been a beloved and accomplished artist for many years," Barbara Hollander, the museum's site coordinator, said. "His art is both serious and whimsical, with detailed characterizations of real and imagined leaders of history, friends and artists - all incorporated into a landscape that escapes the boundaries of the canvas."
Albright, an oil painter, is an Altoona native and a graduate of Altoona Area High School, Hollander said. A self-taught artist, he worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad before he began painting in 1973. Since that time, he's dedicated his entire career as a professional artist to pictorial narratives. After conceiving an initial characterization, he further defines the character through background research, often consulting books, magazines and newspapers.
"He's very much an American painter," Sarah Teigler, the museum's administrative assistant, said. "History has seen Americans take pride in their independence, going against traditional grain, and making their own way. Jory is a self-trained and self-taught artist. He's taken his experience and views, mixed in with what he's learned visually, and created a genre that's part folk, part illustration."
If you go
What: "Jory Albright: Mindful Travels"
When: Through Jan. 9
Where: Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Altoona, 1210 11th Ave.
More information: Call 946-4464. Museum hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Parking is available in the garage across the street or in metered spots in the lot at the rear of the building.
In addition to research, Albright has incorporated many life experiences into his work, Hollander said. Trains appear in many of his paintings - a literal translation of his two-year tenure with the railroad. His extensive travels to Maine, Miami, Salt Like City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Mexico and London often contribute to his cityscapes.
"I like the idea of landscapes and cityscapes with people," Albright, 59, of Altoona said. "I try to trigger some type of activity among the people in my foreground, then I blend that in with the landscape. That really pleases me artistically. I can't satisfy myself to do a landscape without having people in it.
"I love painting New York City. It's always been a great challenge," he said. "You're getting windows, windows and more windows - and buildings. It can get really complicated. But in the end, if you're good at it, you've got yourself a classic scene."
Albright also has been influenced by classical music and the work of the late Russian-French figurative artist Marc Chagall, whom he considers a pioneer of modernist art.
"When I saw his work, really for the first time, I was 18 years old saying to myself, 'This is the door. This represents my own ability to approach modern art in a professional sense,'" he said. "I thought, 'Man, this is exactly what I want to accomplish.'"
Over the years, he's built a considerable artistic resume, Hollander said. His work has been featured at SAMA-Loretto, the Blair County Arts Festival, Mountain Top Art Gallery, Altoona Area Public Library, Pittsburgh Art Center and the Locus Gallery in New York City. His art is in the permanent collections of SAMA, the Railroaders Memorial Museum, Mount Aloysius College and the Altoona Hotel.
"I feel pretty good about this show," he said. "When I see my work being displayed with the (Altoona) art group Art in Common, it's like a double whammy. It's really a big affair. Our opening night was a great success. A lot of people showed up, and I was really pleased. I feel really special that all my work can be seen here along with my fellow artists."
Teigler said the exhibit has been well-attended since beginning in September, adding that "foot traffic has gone up a bit since this show opened.
"Public reaction has been really good," she said. "Many people have commented on the nostalgic feel of the works, as well as the play of images against each other in the paintings. There's a warmth and humor to each piece. Walking through the gallery is almost like taking a peek through a pictographic journal."
Albright, who works from a home studio on large, surreal canvasses with oils and makes his own frames, is just fine with that notion.
"I hope (patrons) see a certain sense of tradition in the works," he said. "I like to think that I apply myself to try and re-create a certain image that is what I would call 'legitimately envisionable' - something that you understand and recognize when you see it."
Mirror Staff Writer Jimmy Mincin is at 946-7460