All artists wear pajamas until two o’clock in the afternoon. This is definitely a false statement. Jeff Bye, an artist and current professor at Elizabethtown College, is starting his morning a lot earlier than that. Bye is a dedicated businessman who has a passion for art and painting. It all started when he was nine years old. He has been surrounded by art and a strong support system his whole life. After living in New York City for fifteen years, Bye has come to Elizabethtown College to teach painting.
Bye was raised in New York City and has always been fascinated with the lifestyle and edge that the city gave him. His parents put him in art classes when he was nine, while exposing him to various types of art museums, operas, galleries and bookstores. They appreciated the history of art just as much as Bye. He studied in Italy for a year, seeing artwork firsthand, in its own setting, instead of just in a textbook. He explained, “Getting that type of exposure is fascinating.” Being exposed to this type of artwork and being proactive abroad was definitely the highlight of his trip to Italy. He received his master’s in painting with a focus on the human figure.
After graduation, Bye spent fifteen years in New York working for decorative companies such as Evergreen. He has worked on design for Hard Rock Café, the Russian Tea Room, and casinos in Las Vegas. While spending time in New York City, Bye was also an art assistant for two different artists. At the same time, he worked with the Metropolitan Opera, designing sets. Bye also worked on the sets of movies such as The Good Sheperd, El Cantante, and I Am Legend.
Bye truly loved living in New York City, not only because of the hustle and bustle, but also because of the many scenic views that were provided for him everywhere he went. Bye describes New York City as the “heart of the art world.” His system involves going through the city, taking snapshots of different scenes and then creating paintings was Bye’s system. New York City has changed so much in Bye’s eyes. He believes that New York has become too clean, and he misses the edginess and graffiti on old buildings. Looking back at paintings, Bye notices that now all his favorite places to draw in the city have changed completely. Old buildings with graffiti on them are now being bought by CVS and Starbucks. This amazes and upsets Bye at the same time. He wanted to capture New York in the early 90s to get that edge that he loves the most before it all changed. He made sure to paint parking lots in a few of his works, because he knew that one day these would be disappearing and architecture would take over. New York, in Bye’s opinion, has lost charm and character, but he is glad that he could capture the city before it was too overdeveloped.
If Bye were to explain his art in one word, it would be “expressionistic.” After looking at his artwork, this is basically the definition of his work. One of Bye’s works is a painting called “Sunday.” This painting was painted on a Sunday in August. Bye loves being in the city in August because a lot of people depart from the city, leaving a quiet and unusual environment, creating an “easy feeling.” Painting the Brooklyn Bridge on a rooftop was another one of Bye’s achievements. Bye was able to express his feelings through the painting, and the end result is quite amazing.
One of my personal favorites of Bye’s works is a painting of the Gowanus Canal. He lived there and described his view as a “toxic sight.” He said the scenes were scary, but they have a lot of history. Bye made a beautiful painting from the scene and this work will be displayed in the Hess Gallery.
Not all of Bye’s work is of New York City, though. He has painted Coney Island, along with HersheyPark. His painting of Coney Island may not be recognized by many, because everything he painted is now destroyed and replaced by buildings. HersheyPark was a favorite of Bye’s to capture because there was so much activity of figures and different people than he usually drew in New York. There were an overwhelming number of families moving throughout the water, which created an obstacle for Bye, but he was able to overcome this.
Bye’s paintings are definitely snapshots of his life. Painting on top of rooftops, out his window, and from all different angles are just a few of his points of view. He loves to capture the old feel of New York City buildings, because history is disappearing and he wants to expose his paintings to people, including Etown students and faculty. He enjoys seeing students grasp information and teaching them interesting life lessons and painting techniques. Bye is more than an artist; he is also a mentor and professor who does what he loves for a living. Bye’s artwork will be showcased in the Hess Gallery in Zug, Memorial Hall on September 14th at 5:00 p.m. Stop by to see some amazing and memorable pieces of art!