Owen Arthur Jones lived and toiled on the streets of Picton for decades. Though aloof, Jones could often be found sweeping, shoveling, and otherwise cleaning the streets of his hometown. Many were in awe of Jones’ herculean work ethic and enigmatic presence, such that when he passed on December 25, 2021, a collective mourning could be felt, along with the desire to commemorate this Picton fixture.
To commemorate Jones, the annual trash bash was named after him along with a bench on Picton Main Street.
While Jones was a seemingly humble, private man, he could often be seen donning an intricate, colourful patchwork coat. Until the end of March 2023, this coat will be on display at the Royal Hotel, after which it will be displayed at 2 Gallery in Picton and then, various galleries around the world.
Speaking with the Gazette was Terri Lipman. Lipman acquired the jacket from Jones’ sisters who support the art display.
“I’ve always loved this jacket,” enthused Lipman. “I should start by saying, I would see Owen around town, and I knew this jacket was very special. You could never get close to him, so I just saw it from afar. I know, as a collector-I collect textiles and many different works- that this jacket was really something.”
Lipman continued that when she heard of Owen’s passing and connected with his sisters, she explained to them her plan to show the jacket locally and elsewhere.
“When I heard Owen had passed, I reached out to his family because I really was quite smitten and obsessed with this piece. I wanted to get close to it. His sisters were wonderful, we got together, had tea and they showed me the jacket and some other things he’d made,” said Lipman. “So, I explained to the sisters that I would love to show this jacket off and get it out there into the community and even further, into the world, if I could.”
The current exhibit at the Royal, which includes several personal items belonging to Jones, including a billfold, banner, change purse and the Jacket, was the result of Lipman reaching out to Sol Korngold, General Manager at the Royal.
“I told him I had some pictures in my phone to show him and he thought that was amazing. Owen had lived at the Royal for many years…I think he was the last to leave,” said Lipman. “The jacket really is a marvel. It’s something very special.”
Lipman noted she sent pictures of the jacket to museums and galleries around the world, especially those that specialize in “outsider art”-self-taught artists who often work in isolation, such as Jones.
“I sent pictures of the jacket to various museums and galleries around the world and especially museums that concentrate on outsider art i.e. art done in isolation, self-taught, no formal training. Usually, no one knows about the work that these artists do,” Lipman noted. “There’s an outsider art fair every year in New York and a beautiful gallery in Manhattan that specializes in outsider work. I’ve spoken with a lot of people already. The jacket, I think, will travel. People think it’s very special.”
For now, explained Lipman, she can be certain the jacket will be exhibited at the New York Folk Art Museum from 2025-2026 as well as a gallery in Denmark. This is, of course, after its local run at the Royal and, subsequently, 2 Gallery.
“No one knew that he had made this jacket. But, I think a lot of people had seen it and, like me, were very curious about it. It’s almost like a stream of consciousness piece. All the objects and images I guess held meaning for him,” Lipman commented.
When asked if she might take a guess as to what Jones would think of his jacket-among other personal items-being on display Lipman was unsure, but suggested he might think it was excessive.
“I think he probably would think it was a lot of fuss. He seemed to go about his business. What he did was without any expectation of any public recognition or accolades,” said Lipman. “I think for us it’s sort of a very interesting and enlightening to look at what he made. No one really knew anything about it. There’s a beauty that comes out of isolation.”